Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons.
“The older I grow the more earnestly I feel that the few joys of childhood are the best that life has to give.” ~Ellen Glasgow
As a child, I was truly blessed growing up in a big family surrounded by paternal grandmother, uncles, aunts, my parents, cousins, one younger sister, two younger brothers, cats Bimbo, Snowy, Blue-Eye, Cartoon and a dog I remembered named Russian. We had the luxury of traveling on a plane yearly at a young age, way before Air Asia was born, before the days when ‘now everyone can fly’. My maternal grandmother lived in Singapore. We were exposed to the sights and sounds of a shopping haven as well as visits to another Malaysian city, Johor Baru due to its close proximity to Singapore so life as a child was not just confined to Kuching. I wish I could say that I still live in two countries ideally Kuching (in winter) and Auckland (in summer) but in reality, I am stuck in Auckland at the moment having to witness another winter. Strangely enough everytime I returned to Kuching, I wished I was back in Auckland as Kuching was often ‘too hot, too humid’. Well, I guess in life, one is never contended so when I pened my feelings in writing, I can only begin to appreciate how blessed I truly am.
In a nutshell since we cannot get what we like, let us like what we can get.
(Snap ! If you are feeling cold now, keep warm, turn the heater on or put on warmer clothes.)
Besides my two elder male cousins who were many years older than me, I was the older of the other cousins of about the same age group. These cousins, my sisters and my brothers were my playmates. We must have lived in an imaginative world of fairies and goddesses. Our favorite game was ‘Pathway to Heaven’. The bigger the group, the more fun it was. It was a game that could last for hours. Being the creator of the game and the older cousin, my role in the game was always the Goddess who ranked the peasants. These peasants were tested on their skills (singing, mathematics, story telling, leadership skills and good behavior) and could be promoted or downgraded. It now sounded to me like a mini talent quest or X Factor of today. They were awarded points and the game ended when one peasant gained his or her way to ‘heaven’. ‘Heaven’ was represented by the winner climbing and standing on the table looking glorified while other peasants bowed and kneeled to represent they were still on earth. The game started by having everyone seated on the floor, then on the chair and final stage was on the table ! In those days, our games were interactive and creative. It was people relation, looking at each other eye to eye unlike playing X box where the eye contact is on the computer or TV screen even when two people were playing against each other.
We celebrated “Zhong Qui Jie” (Mid-Autumn) or Mooncake festival every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its maximum brightness for the entire year. Mooncake festival celebration in the 1960s was so different from today’s celebration. My aunt would lay an altar in the garden, displayed mooncakes as offering to the Moon Goddess. In the Hokkien dialect, this worship was known as ‘Pai Guet Neo’ and the Moon Goddess was ‘Guet Neo Mah’. We played with lighted lanterns and spend time outdoor in the moonlight, occasionally gazed at the moon, socializing with family and friends sipping tea and eating mooncakes. We were told a fairy lived in the moon and she stood looking down on earth holding a magic wand and her disciple was a rabbit. We were also told never to point at the moon because that was disrespectful. If we did, the punishment was we will get a cut in our ear. I thought it was true, honestly because one day I put this to test, pointed at the moon and indeed I got a cut in my ear!
The legend surrounding the “lady living in the moon” dates back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, his wife found the pill, took it, and was banished to the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival. Today, Mooncake festive is celebrated with mooncakes and brightly lighted lanterns, no longer focused on altar worship of the Moon Goddess, perhaps after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969 and failed in his quest to find the Moon Goddess.
Life as a child in the 1960s and 1970s was so innocent and carefree that I would not want to trade that to be a child of today. I would rather live in an imaginative world of fairies, goddesses and princesses than a world of computer and electronics. I would rather play make-believe games and interact with the neighbors kids than playing candy crush with facebook friends. I would rather write to my pen pal on my pink flowery writing pad, stick a stamp, post my letter and wait a month before the postman comes back with a reply than receive a forwarded email from this friend whom otherwise would not have bothered writing to me. I would rather read Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ or ‘Secret Seven’ rather than bury my head in ‘Twilight Saga.’
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