My family has a tradition. Actually I think most families have the same tradition. They are big fans of birthday cards and birthday cakes. The only tradition I have is to take leave on my birthday. That’s about it. I can’t remember the last time I bought someone a birthday cake, or a birthday card for that matter. I am just not that good at expressing myself. Perhaps I shall start doing something on my sister’s upcoming birthday this August. Something more than buying her a birthday meal. Like every year since she has moved to Singapore.
A birthday card from my 4-year-old niece Bethany. “Kau Fu” means uncle in Cantonese. That’s how she addresses me. Lydia is her younger sister’s name. I think she has signed this card on behalf of her sister. It is probably the sweetest birthday card I have received. Bethany loves to draw with me. In this card, from right to left: me, my wife Cynthia, Bethany (the one with long hair), his daddy Benny, my sister Lora who is holding the young Lydia. So sweet she is.
My sister and I often celebrate our birthdays on the weekend, ahead of the actual date as it is kind of strange to celebrate a belated birthday. Finally, after one long year of renovation – all because her contractor failed to extend working visas for his workers – if I may repeat, one-long-year, her new home is ready for moving in. Not that they really need the place right now because she is staying with her in-laws. But it is always good to have a home of our own. Besides, I would feel more inclined to drop by my sister’s place as and when I like. Right now, I feel as though I would be disturbing her in-laws. The future is bright and shiny. I would imagine spending a morning taking my nieces to the playground downstairs. And then sip morning coffee in a food court nearby. Or just lying on my sister’s sofa doing nothing, enjoying the large living room and their brand new hi-fi. Right now, this new home of their is more like a weekend ‘resort’. It could be my weekend getaway too. At least in my wildest imagination, it would appear to be so.
My sister’s new home was far from ready to receive guests. Yet, she has organized a birthday party for me. I am very touched of course. And there was birthday song. On the actual date of my birthday, my wife and I drove to the west side of the country and met my sister at her work area for a dim sum lunch. It was like an excursion because Jurong seems so out-of-town!
Ever since my buddy TK is on a date with his gorgeous girlfriend Norra, Cynthia and I have hardly seen him. We were used to meet every week for movies. Now he has Norra and we have Netflix. It is all cool of course. For many years, Cynthia and I have been wishing our friend to find true love. They seem to be happy together and that’s all that matters.
What does it take to have a double date with our buddy TK? As it turns out, my birthday is the wild card.
We often celebrate each other’s birthday. He would buy us birthday meals and we would buy his. This year, as always, we took cue from him on where to dine. He has picked a pretty exquisite Italian restaurant. That was like … fine dining. The food was delicious. That piece of lamb. So very tender and tasty.
The best was that my buddy TK has ordered the dessert for everybody in advance, in secret. On my plate, there was a special message written with chocolate. The waitresses (read: plural) as they delivered our the dessert sang the birthday song out loud. I blushed like a red lobster. Seriously, that was my first time experiencing this. I was and still am moved.
Pat and I have gone a long way. She was introduced to me after I have decided one day I should get a life insurance. So I knocked on Prudential’s door and she was assigned to my case. Over the years, she is more than an insurance agent to me and I a client to her. We take turn to buy each other lunch, catch up on our family and work life. She lives a healthy lifestyle and has inspired me to live one. I often joke with her that it is of her best interest that I live long and healthy. A day after my birthday, when I returned to work, she drove by and deliver me a box of Royce’ chocolate. So kind of her. I am not a chocolate eater per se. According to my wife, that is good chocolate. I shall take the less bitter ones and leave the bitter ones to her. My wife loves bitter chocolate.
Then there are a whole bunch of warm wishes streaming from my favorite social media Google+. My mother-in-law who is now visiting Singapore together with my wife bought me a beautiful pair of Swarovski cufflinks, with two very pretty large blue crystals. I wear cufflinks on a daily basis. A perfect gift it is.
I am forgetful when it comes to sending money home for my parents in Hong Kong. At times I wish that they were in Singapore so that I can help to manage their expenses. To help me to remember, my mother once said to me, “Son, on your birthday, remember your mother. That’s the time to send money home.”
It is good to ponder upon that. Not the part about money. But the part about remembering my parents as I celebrate my birthday.