Friday, August 10, 2012

Flowers: Heliconia,

This Heliconia is yellow, a very unusual flower, as most of them I see in Singapore, New Zealand and Australia are red. But the lovely woman I am dedicating this post is no ordinary woman. 

She is a very very special woman, Mrs. Chew Tien Kui aka Mdm Ang Siok Cheng. My Kai Ma. With her youngest daughter, Ah Lee, Mag Yaw Lee Chia.This photo was taken by my cousin Chien . It was sent by my cousin Yaw in Vicksburg, USA: Lee.

This natural but fake flower made of a snow fungus Tremella fuciformis was used to decorate a dish at the high class Sarawak Club. It is naturally white but dyed red, is elegant. White fungus is very healthful for middle and old aged people, especially for people with lung disorders. Some of the quality white fungus in China is very expensive and young people give it to older people as a present on special occasions. I see it as what my Kai Ma is, High class and elegant and good for you.

 We had arranged among my Kai Sisters and brother, Jenny, Lynn, Benson, Kinberley and Mag, who will always be my Ah Peng, Ah Leng, Ah King, Ah Lee and Ah Hui as these names are my terms of endearment, to meet at the Heliconia room of the Banquet Restaurant to give Mum a surprised Birthday party and a reunion of the cousins.
 I wore my Nyonya Kebaya because it is a formal dress of some of the Hokkiens and arrived at the restaurant amidst a heavy tropical storm. My Kai siblings were no where to be seen. My Kai aunties and uncles made me comfortable. Mdm Ong, and her husband the second Uncle and I chatted a lot. She told with her siblings that this was the Kai daughter that the sister had made in New Zealand. Initially I felt I had crashed their party, but soon I felt at home.
 Here with my Kai Ma. Many people, including my siblings, have asked why is a Hokkien woman married to a Henghua man my Kai Ma?  Me, a Cantonese woman married to a Hakka man?  Here is the long story. In early 1974, my dad, the DEO who was living in the divisional capital Sarikei arranged for me to teach in Binatang. Feeling rather worrisome, as a 19 year old, I caught a motor boat aka as express, that Sunday. The principal Mr. Tang Chok King met me at the wharf and took me to their apartment which was 3 storeys on top of their shop.

We made small talk, and there was no reference of where I was to stay that evening. We talked and talked and talked.  Mrs. Chew offered a bed for me that night. A very relieved Mr. Tang quickly accepted the offer. I stayed that night and found a room to rent the next day.

The rest is History. I often went to their house when I wanted some family comfort. I called her Ah Yee, meaning aunty as was the custom  in Sarawak. Mrs. Chew cooked wonderful food and cakes. Just before I went to Canada, I went and shared Ah Peng's room for a month.

It wasn't until my visit to Christchurch in August 2011 that Mrs. Chew mentioned about that unusual offer for me to stay the night in her apartment. She said for over 35 years, she had always thought that her husband Mr. Chew had arranged with Mr. Tang and my dad. There was no such arrangement. Mr. Tang knew that the Chews were a very hospitable family and would not turn me out to sleep in the street.

Before the trip, I had planned to make her my Kai Ma. Kai Ma is a Chinese Concept, we call as a term of affection. It is not God mother. There is no religious connotation. I gave her a plaque.  She had a photo taken after I left. The kids teased her that she was proudly showing her Kai Ma badge.

For her 82th birthday, I gave her a New Zealand bracelet. I was so happy to see her wear it.
 With Jenny/Ah Peng whom I spent a lot of time with in Binatang aka Bintangnor.
 With the grand children and why was I there?
 Here is one photo for the birthday girl's siblings.
 Happy sisters and sister in law.
 Always cheerful and laughing with her children.

Her with some of her grand children. I call Benson's kids as Ah Hui Kia, and they know I am calling them, Ah Peng's daughter Adrian as Ang Mo Kia, I met her in Christchurch, and she lived all her life there, Sorry Ah Lee Kia Gabby and Ambrose, photo didn't do you justice. You came back all the way from Canada. And Ah Hsiang Kia, I did tell you I like your beautiful hair style. Kia means child.

 This is the  Kai Children photo. I found out she had so many Kai children. Some came all the way from America and Kuala Lumpur, Maryann and Diana. Mrs. Chew is such a special woman. Grown adults have found her affection and want to be her Kai children.

 By coincidence, Kai Ma wore the colours of the yellow Heliconia flower. This photo is not perfect, it is very blurry. I deliverately chose this photo. Many of you would know, Kai Mai and I share something very personal and sad. We both are bereaved mothers.  Kai Ma's loss is close to my heart. There is a child absent in the children's photo. That is Yaw Kok. My Kai Dad died on 19 June 1989, and Ah Kok died less than a year later on 2 March 2000. Unless you are bereaved,  you  are unlikely to miss your loved ones on special days like birthdays.

Yaw Kok is the only child of the family that I had taught. Yaw Kok died, and it broke my heart and I needed to look for the family. I didn't find them in bloggerland. Then Ah Peng found me in Facebook. You can't imagine how happy I was.
Happy Birthday, Kai Ma, you are a wonderful woman.


Unknown said...

a lovely flower arrangement for this remarkable woman. thanks for sharing the heartwarming story, Ann.

Live in the Moment

magchewchia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
magchewchia said...

Thanks Ann Chin, for writing such a lovely blog on mom. She will be so proud....I totally agree she is the most wonderful, elegant and charming woman that everyone adores. ;-)

Joyful said...

You have a lot of memories tied up in this special woman. I'm glad to see you were able to celebrate with her.

Unknown said...

Back here, yellow is common. I see a lot of this variety around here.

My entry.

Melbourne Australia Photos said...

Lovely post, Ann.

Thank you for participating in Floral Friday Fotos!