MEMORIES FROM MY PAST

Chapter 10 - First Year Of Marriage



What did we do on our honeymoon? House-hunting, of course! The very next day after our wedding, we looked through the rental ads in the Straits Times newspapers. We eventually found an affordable fully furnished (except for a washing machine) terraced house at 40 Metropole Drive, Opera Estate, in Siglap. The place had 3 bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, etc, and the rent was S$180 a calendar month. Although somewhat sceptical back then, I followed Mother's good luck tradition when entering a 'new home'. I made sure that the first lot of items to be brought into our 'new home' was an assortment of basic groceries (rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil and salt) to ensure that we would never be plaqued by hunger and good fortune would follow us in. Just for good measure, I also included heaps of other goodies! I practise this tradition to this very day, as do my children. After we had settled in, Rick spent S$800 on an old blue Ford Zephyr which consequently saved us a fortune in taxi fares. Before we realized it, it was time for both of us to get back to work - Rick back to Indonesia and I back to my job. It was agreed that Mother and Brother would stay with me during Rick's absence so I would not be lonesome.

The Sunday after Rick's departure, who should front up for a visit but my rich aunt (Helena's mum), Mrs. Tan T. B., who had turned down my wedding invitation and since regretted it. I only sent her an invitation out of courtesy anyway, so was quite pleased that she declined. She arrived in a taxi armed with a belated token wedding gift and lamented the fact that Rick was not around to accept her good wishes. She further added that she hoped I remember the fact that we are related and how blood is thicker than water, etc. etc. etc... Mother was naturally delighted and I know that logically speaking, she should indeed be my favourite oh-so-charitable aunt but a most hurtful incident occurred about a year before that turned me against her.

Upon receiving my very first pay-packet, Mother and I went to pay her a visit - I bought her a box of chocolates as it is our custom to never pay a visit empty-handed. We were not long into our visit when Auntie began declaring that my scholarly success that led to my "good" job was all due to her charity towards us. That if it wasn't for her kindness, the Lord only knows where I would be! I bit my tongue, out of consideration for Mother's feelings but finally lost the plot when she began asking when I intend to pay back all that she was owed! I impulsively blurted out that as far as I know, I owe my success to my brother and no one else and that if my survival had been solely dependant on her daughters' hand-me-downs, the occasional bag of rice she gave Mother and the annual Chinese New Year's $5"ang pow", I would have been long dead! She did not like that one little bit of course so she slapped and spat me in the face, called me an ungrateful brat and said I was no longer welcomed in her house. How did I react? No I didn't punch her in the face, much though I wanted to, I merely smiled and said, "Why, thank you very much Auntie, now I know the true meaning of CHRISTIAN charity! (She was a devout Roman Catholic) And as for not welcoming me into your house, I'll go to the President's palace instead - ANYONE can visit his palace on open house day!" I then fished out the handkerchief she had given me as a Christmas present the year before, which by a strange coincidence happened to be in my handbag, gently wiped her spit off my face and as calmly as possible commented, "Gee, lucky I have this handkerchief you gave me to clean your spit off!" I then turned to Mother and suggested that we leave immediately. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Mother throwing herself at Auntie's feet asking for forgiveness on my behalf! In utter disgust, I left the place, jumped on a bus and cried all the way home.

Anyway, when Auntie visited me after my marriage, again, for Mother's sake, I graciously accepted her peace-offering gesture although I can never forget how she made me feel that fateful day. She made a point of coming over once every couple of months after that initial visit but her intention was so blatantly obvious - it was merely to check on the condition of my tummy! It started out as just a surreptitious glance or two, hoping to see the tell-tale signs of impending motherhood but soon progressed to marked questions to Mother, "So when are you going to be a grandma?, she's not 'showing' yet but I'll bet she'll be having morning sickness soon..." A further few months down the track and seeing my still very flat tummy, the comments changed to, "Hummph! I'll bet you anything that Rick is impotent! Or maybe he's used up all his 'seeds' - you know what these "Ang Mohs" are like, all playboys and very "gatal" (promiscuous, horny). Poor thing, you, maybe you'll never get to be a grandmother after all!" Another good bet was, I must be a child-hater and the Lord above had therefore decided to make me barren! In the end, even Mother began to have doubts about ever becoming a grandma and sadly, she died before I eventually fell pregnant.

Socially, my so-called freedom as a married woman was not at all what I had expected it to be as I still had to answer to Mother while Rick was at work. Somehow Mother managed to make new friends in the neighbourhood and so was able to keep up with her favourite past-time, gambling! There was an incident I remember to this day, she had lost a fair bit at "che kee" and came home all repentant, vowing on her mother's grave that she would never, ever, ever gamble again. She had learnt her lesson, no one has ever gotten rich through gambling, etc. etc. etc... Should any of her gambling buddies dare to call, she would chase them away with the broom, just we wait and see!!! Brother and I knew better - we knew it was only a matter of time before she weakened. The vow she made lasted ONE day! The following afternoon I heard her friend's voice calling her, "Adek! Adek! swah siap?" ("Sis! Sis! Ready?") and in an instant Mother responded, saying that she was just about ready to go. I reminded Mother of her vow only to be told that she could feel it in her bones that her luck had changed for the better. She came home that night claiming to have come out even...

When Rick was in town, we always went out for our meals. I knew Rick was not too fond of the Asian meals that I grew up on so I did not do much cooking early in the marriage. One day, he offered to cook an evening meal. I watched with great interest as he took a couple of chicken Maryland and got to work in the kitchen. He seasoned the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and put them under the griller. Although I tried to appear impressed by his attempt, I secretly thought the result was rather disappointing. The skin on the chicken was rather dark and dry and the meat was somewhat tasteless. From then on I began experimenting with new recipes and created new ones based on the meals we had in restaurants.

It was decidedly much more fun when Rick was home - I would take a "sickie" on the next working day and we would head for the First National City Bank in Orchard Road to withdraw some cash, then go to the Pebble Bar at the Singapura Hotel where most of his mates hang out. We would spend at least a couple of hours over several drinks (Rick introduced me to Bacardi and Coke and also gave me my first cigarette very early in our marriage) before going to lunch somewhere and perhaps take in a movie afterwards. We would then go home to get changed before meeting his mates and their girlfriends/wives in town for more drinks, dinner and attend a nightclub somewhere. After a late night, I had to struggle to get out of bed and go to work the next morning. All the time I was at work, I used to get terribly jealous that Rick was having fun with his mates in the pub, killing time before picking me up after work.

A couple of months after my marriage, I got it into my head to take driving lessons after work while Rick was away. Rick used to hire his car out to his mates when they were in town for S$20 a day. They would pick the car up and return it before they leave for Indonesia. I can't quite remember why I wasn't at work that fateful day when his mate returned the car - he had parked the car at an awkward angle in the car porch, making it almost impossible to shut the gate. I had about two driving lessons at that stage and thought I would be fully capable of re-parking the car correctly. Mother decided she would direct me accordingly as I moved the car forward and then reversed it into the driveway. I felt quite smug as the car rolled back smoothly as planned. As mother's voice called me to stop, I put my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake!!! The next thing I knew, the car was parked practically in the lounge-room... I hastily got out of the car to survey the damage. Mother seemed to be over-reacting to the whole thing, I thought, seeing her sitting on the ground and crying. Upon closer inspection and much to my dismay, it appeared that I had run over her foot in my attempt to park the car in the house. Not one to panic easily, I calmly rang Brother at work and told him to grab a taxi and come home immediately as there had been a "slight emergency". I then rang the landlord up and asked him to send a workman around to replace the few bricks that I had dislodged. Brother arrived home, I helped Mother into the taxi and we left for the hospital, leaving Brother shaking his head in disbelief. At the hospital, Mother helped me out of a sticky situation by telling everyone there that she fell off a ladder. Luckily the damage wasn't serious so after she received medical attention, I brought her home with her leg all bandaged up. I paid for the repair to the wall and was greatly relieved to see that the damage to the car was very slight, only a wee dent on the side. I then proceeded to slap on some blue paint over the dent. Only after the paint had dried did I realize that "close enough" was certainly not good enough. Why are there that many different shades of light blue?

Rick was due home the following evening, so I hurried home after work, changed into my sexy "cheong-sam" (figure-hugging Chinese outfit with a slit on both sides of the 'skirt') and headed off to the airport to meet him. He greeted me with his usual, "Hi Kitten, how's everything?". Feeling ever so guilty, I stammered, "F-fine, everything's just f-fine..." Halfway home in the taxi, I casually mentioned that we would have to drive Mother home because she couldn't take the bus as her foot was injured. I explained further that I was the cause of her injury and that there had been a slight accident involving the car. I hastily assured him the dent was so small that he wouldn't even know it's there. I went on to tell him that I had paid for the repair to the front wall. Rick is definitely a man of few words as throughout the whole explanation, he kept exclaiming, "You what?", "You what?" to everything I said... When we got home, he jumped out of the taxi, (leaving me to pay the fare), raced inside, grabbed a torch and dashed back outside to check the dent in his car. He came back inside, shaking his head and muttering under his breath. After he had cooled down somewhat, we drove Mother back to Rumah Tinggi. I decided to give up on the driving lessons for the time being.

By early 1970, my conscience was bothering me big time - I mean, how many "sickies" could I possibly pull anyway? So I made a decision to quit the workforce and become a full-time wife and a lady of leisure. Mother didn't mind as long as she got her monthly "allowance", and with me living further away from my workplace, it was costing me more in public transport anyway. More importantly, Rick and I were missing out on a lot of time together during his leave from work. So it was farewell career, hello good times!

Not long after my "retirement" while Rick was home on leave, I fell violently ill with a high fever, stomach cramps and began haemorrhaging, so off to the doctor we went. I was sent straight into hospital where they performed an emergency exploratory operation, with doctors at first suspecting a botched up back street abortion despite my strong protests, then unable to diagnose the real problem, they whipped out my appendix anyway, just for the hell of it. During my hospital stay, Rick decided to spray paint his car black. Why? Well, he had to do something to take his mind off the worry, right? And besides, he wasn't pleased with my paint job on the "wee dent". Anyway, time for my discharge from hospital and I almost fainted when I saw his "work of art" - he had bought cans of black spray paint and set to work - only got it half done before he ran out of paint, didn't he? I had to put up with it until his next leave. How embarrassing that was - you should have seen the strange looks we got from fellow motorists as we drove along.

I must say that he proved to be a wonderful carer during my convalescence - he washed all our clothes by hand and developed a rather unique way of hanging out the washing, pegging all the socks and smalls together in one long loop. His explanation was quite simple and logical - so much easier when it was time to take the washing off the line, esp when it rained. He did all the cooking and waited on me hand and foot until I got back on my feet. I considered myself to be truly blessed to have him for a husband. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary with him getting drunk at work in Indonesia while I wistfully sniffed the fragrance of the bouquet of flowers he had arranged to be delivered to my door...



               


OzLadyM



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