Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Ritual

I thought it was not too long ago that I had stood here, in this same spot in front of the gleaming monochrome iron gates of Aunt Susie’s house, yet it was time again for the Ritual. One last check to confirm I had meticulously disassociated my attire with any remnants of the much dreaded colour Black (sometimes even shades of gray), and then I twisted the lock that duly let out a deafening squeal, signaling my arrival to the occupants inside.

A glorious glare of Gold and Red blinded my vision as soon as the living room came into sight, but I already knew what to come. Like a clockwork toy that had just been freshly wound, my hands immediately curled together in an auspicious embrace, and age-old proverbs that conveyed wishes of longevity, prosperity, beauty, health and wealth starting flowing out of my mouth. My expressions had cooperated well in a harmonious act, I believe, for I was rewarded with red packets and the satisfied looks of both Mum and Aunt Susie, who were just now gleaming from ear to ear, wrist to wrist, ring and chain. Senseless pleasantries soon erupted. In this auspicious day, one had to be generous in dispensing compliments and greetings of the sweetest form that seemed fit only for the Gods.

Amidst piles of brightly-coloured toys, half empty drinking glasses and packet drinks, stray ang pow packets, pineapple tarts and peanut cookie crumbs and different crumbled sections of the New Straits Times, I embarked on a laborious act to create a space to land my butt on. Cousin Elaine was totally occupied with the task at hand - ensuring that a little bowl of porridge would disappear down the throat of two-year-old Neng Neng, and thus looked like the least harmful place for me to spend these long hours in, hopefully too far a distance for prying questions about my singlehood to traverse.

A splat of hot porridge erupted and landed on my jeans. Neng Neng, just over thirty seconds since my arrival, had decided that it was time to declare war on her Mum, denying any further consumption of the (tasteless) nutritious porridge that she was being forced down with. A scene of disbelief, anger, struggle and panic, packed with enough dramatic effects the likes of Chinese Opera, immediately ensued, as Cousin Elaine evaluated the damage of the overturned porridge bowl, its content hitting the farthest end of the living room. Cousin Hwa passed the phone from his brother who had called from the States over to Uncle Frankie and rushed over for damage control, only to increase the volume of screams from Neng Neng. Joining the scene were praises from Aunt Susie, pleasantly amazed by the strength of her adorable grand daughter, followed by lectures by Cousin Julie about the importance of early childhood disciplining.

Obviously unimpressed by the act of his little sister, Jern Jern grabbed the remote and decided to share a Chinese New Year variety show with everyone in the room. With tunes played to death since time immemorial blasting in the background, the hostesses were dispensing feng shui tips and the new year’s insights with folks who were either too naïve or lazy to decide fate on their own. Uncle Frankie struggled to hear his beloved son on the phone, and launched a tug of war with this grandson for the remote. Of course, he forgot entirely about a similar set of buttons on the TV unit itself.

Grand-cousin Yang Li lay motionless on the single seater sofa, slumped on top of a pile of teddy bears and other soft toys, seemingly unamused or disinterested by the happenings around her. Her eyelids slowly drew close, then suddenly jerked ajar, conscious of the resulting displeasures from her Mum who had warned her about the effects of staying up late to finish her long overdue home assignment, and of course, the dreaded comparison she would make with younger sister Yang Min, who seemed more organized and academically gifted.

I couldn’t seem to piece together the events that followed, yet somehow amidst the chaos were laughter and sharing, and admist the senseless pleasantries were a stronger force of family ties and undeniable emotional connections that had persistently brought us back here together, on this first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar year.

The Ritual, age-old and disconnected from modern times as it may be, had yet again served its purpose.


2 comments:

XMOCHA! said...

love your entry, vivid!

bravingkl said...

thanks, your pic's pretty vivid too. :D