On the eve of Mother’s Day, I thought of two little girls in Adelaide who lost their mother to cancer seven years ago. I remembered finding out about Mary’s cancer, her pregnancy and reconnecting with her as adults, chatting about our lives in the intervening years since we first met in high school.
This post is my first attempt at a short story and it was a no-brainer that it would be a dedication to my friend, taken from us too soon.
“Hey darl, you want me to pick up some bread and milk on my way home?” Kyle asked over a crackling line.
“Mila?” Kyle asked, concerned. “You there? Can you hear me? Hello?”
“I’m here,” Mila replied. Her voice was barely audible. “Just come straight home, darl.”
“Is everything all right? I’m sorry I couldn’t come with you for the scan today. Bruno’s got me by the nuts at the minute. It’s just…”
“Just come home,” Mila cut him off mid-sentence.
“Okay, I’m about half an hour away if there’s no traffic.”
“Love you,” Kyle said but Mila had already hung up.
2016 is over. Finally. While most of us usually approach December with “I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone by already”, it seemed as the year was drawing to a close, everyone was happy to just get through the year and hope for a better start in 2017.
Twelve months ago, the world mourned collectively for the loss of music icon, David Bowie. Whether you were a Bowie fan or not, you knew the words to at least one of his songs. His final album was released only a week before his death, so the news of his passing came as a huge shock to everyone except for his family.
A mere four days later, we bade farewell to Alan Rickman – the thespian with the voice that could at once seduce, threaten and command you. Kids grew up knowing Rickman as Professor Snape in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series while their parents loved him as terrorist-thief Hans Gruber in Die Hard or the cheating husband in that “other” popular Christmas movie, Love Actually.
December 1995: my first visit to New York City. The Big Apple. So much to see. The famous World Trade Centre was definitely on my “must-see” list. However, I never got past the lobby. Being holiday season, the queue to go up to the observation deck snaked through the lobby and I was short on time. “You can always come back next time,” my friends suggested. So we left. There was never a “next time” for the Twin Towers.
After the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, “Ground Zero” became almost sacred ground. It was the resting place of almost three thousand people. When the dust settled (literally), discussions began about the best way to honour the victims, including the First Respondents who perished during the rescue efforts.
One thing was agreed – that new towers would not be rebuilt where the old towers stood. Instead, a 9/11 Memorial with two reflecting pools featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, would take the place of where the original towers were.
April 2013, construction in progress behind the reflecting pools
Many of us take our schools for granted. It was a place we had to go to as children, similar to our parents having to get up to get to their work places. It was just something we did – no questions asked. We never had to actively think about it. School is a different experience for each person, and as they say, it is what you make of it.
I went to school in two countries: Hong Kong for my early education and then Australia after fifth grade. The two education systems were like chalk and cheese back then. I can’t say for sure that I enjoyed school very much in Hong Kong. I was not a very good student, owed largely to my laziness in a system where studying hard was considered better than studying smart. I got “in trouble” more often than was considered acceptable which was not hard because we were not allowed to talk in class and if you were caught speaking Cantonese during English class, that was automatically a reportable offense.
Looking back now, I can laugh about those incidents. I was caught chatting with my classmate more than once but that hasn’t turned me into a serial killer. I received detention a couple of times (I cannot even remember the reasons but most likely for talking in class – again – or forgetting to do my homework or some such), a secret that I managed to hide from my parents for about twenty years. I remember very clearly my second grade maths teacher making the whole class repeat the word “quotient” about fifty times because we had forgotten what it meant.
When my family left Hong Kong to come to Australia, it was to offer my sister and I a better future. School could not have been more different from what I had known for the previous seven years. Our teachers encouraged creativity – we painted and wove baskets and made ridiculous keyholders (which I needed Dad’s help with). We ran in the playground (I fell over because I have two left feet) and played handball (challenging the boys). In sixth grade, I was part of the school radio broadcast where we read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the PA system to the entire school. It was magical. Grades mattered but were not the most important part of our school-life.