Bathed in Golden Light

I can’t afford to hate anyone. I don’t have that kind of time.”

— Akira Kurosawa

There is Always Something Left to Love

When you drink water, remember its source.”

— Chinese proverb


Yesterday, the most wonderful person in my world became no more.

We were thick as thieves. Two peas in a pod.

I saw God in her. She was the definition of the superlatives: kindest, most compassionate, most generous, most warm. She loved my grandfather, her childhood neighbour, passionately and all-consumingly. They made a pact that she would go first, which he broke. She loved us entirely and with great ferocity; without expectation or judgement. She was a mother to my motherless father. She was my greatest fan.

She lived life with such joie de vivre. She could tango and foxtrot. She secretly kept a stash of Danish butter cookies by her bed (something my brother laughed at as he found them last week. I immediately thought of the packet of Mint Milanos on my nightstand). She obsessively documented every time we visited her; dates and our names, birthdays, written over and over like some Gabriel Garcia Marquez character, everywhere – milk bottles, scraps of paper by her head as if they had some magical powers to tether us to her.

She expertly drew her eyebrows every day, even when she was ill. She was a killer Nyonya chef who never felt hungry enough to eat her own cooking. I think she was more satisfied watching us eat. One time she taught me how to make ondeh ondeh. I remember her always waving to us from her wet kitchen as we’d pull up to the house. Most times, she never let me wash up. “You don’t know how!” She wore perfume to bed and sniffed our cheeks instead of kissing us; these are tell-tale clues to how I became this way. At night, we’d sit together in front of the TV. Me, massaging her feet. And until I was a young adult, I would sleep in her bedroom, next to her whenever I visited. For the nearness of her. I stopped the year they industrialised her neighbourhood which encouraged giant lorries to speed past the rickety house at 200km/h. In my sleep, I imagined being run over by trucks. Being deaf in one ear, she slept like a baby.

And for all her inner and most certainly outer beauty, she laughed with an un-ladylike hur hur hur, sometimes until tears rolled out her eyes. When recounting stories of her romance with my Ahkong, she’d sometimes slip in a racy detail. Again, we’d laugh at her double entendres till tears wet our cheeks.

She was so proud of us till it became embarrassing. “This is my granddaughter from Australia,” she’d repeat to anyone – whether they were relatives or complete strangers. She’d repeat it over the years, every year, every visit.

She made hot milo with runny eggs and toast for breakfast when I visited on school holidays. I never liked it growing up but didn’t have the heart to tell her, so I ate it anyway. Now I go to Toastbox to remember her.

She took in stray dogs. She was amused when the 10-year-old me was so annoyed she had one tied up, I wrote on placards and picketed her front yard. “Free the dogs! Free the dogs!”

When it was time to leave after our long summer holidays, I’d cry. She’d cry. My mother would cry. My aunt would cry. She’d always take the base of her palm to wipe away my tears. Her entire hand would disperse tears on my face. “Don’t cry! Your dad will be angry.”

We sung for her in her final days. And, because there was no more that could be done, I took out my oils – frankincense, lavender (which she loved), myrrh and would massage it into her feet. We would gently brush her hair back with our palms. We repeated our I love yous over and over. I whispered in her ear I would see her again, knowing it would not be in this body, this lifetime.

I remember the warmth of her skin and her baby scent. I am pausing as I type, to wipe away the hears and play with the ring she left me. She did so, wordlessly and with one simple gesture: her right thumb tapping on her ring finger, motioning towards me.

I used to hold my grandma’s hand a lot. We all did. Helping her walk at restaurants, at the dinner table, watching tv. Once, many years ago, she and I both discovered while comparing palm sizes (they turned out exactly the same) that we also had the same identical beauty spots, mirrored on both hands. We both loved this cheeky wink by Mother Nature and had many little charming secrets like this which are all rushing back to me now.

We didn’t need magic; she was magic.

Honey Now

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

— John 1:4-5

I choked back the tears a little during Christmas lunch today while saying grace. Being my second Christmas ever away from my family in Melbourne, I thought of my partner’s parents currently in Bangkok, my siblings who now live in New York, parents at home in Melbourne and couldn’t get the words out.

So my sticky date pudding had an especially briney taste to it this afternoon but nonetheless, I am so grateful for everything we’ve experienced together as a family this year. Weddings, new jobs, you name it, it’s been huge year of change. The only constant is love and the commitment we have toward each other. And the best thing, as I always remind my mother, is that we don’t always need to be near each other to know how deep our love is. You can live right around the corner from a family member but feel absolutely nothing for them. For me today especially that it’s Christmas, I’m just so thankful I have an incredible family. And that’s the biggest blessing in itself.

Unlike other Christmases, this one was spent having a quiet cup of tea on the balcony to start the day. We might be slow to respond to emails over the next few days as we’re taking time to regroup, get grounded and look ahead to 2015 but the store is still open nonetheless.

We hope you had an equally special time with your loved ones this holiday season. Hold them tight and tell them how much they mean to you. x


This happens from time to time. A part of me, mid-laugh, steps out of my body. As if the moment is on pause. And I’m watching us laugh hysterically. I’m looking at the grin of my handsome best friend, the way he covers his mouth with his hand, shoulders shaking, when he laughs.

I can feel my head throw back a smile. I can hear my laugh, ridiculous and sharp. Ha! Hur hur. Then I accidentally snort and he’s set off in fresh peals of laughter.

In that moment, I am thinking that life cannot get any better than this. Wherever we are.

And I think how sublime it is that we will never be as young or unburdened than in this moment.

But just as I start to feel melancholy that moments like these dissolve too quickly, I think, this is our happiness... who’s going to take that away from us? Nobody. Not even me.

Love Advice

1. Date a boy who makes you happy, but marry him only if he makes you laugh deep-belly rumbles that hurt your ribs as they expand outwards. Date him when he sees that you’re hurting and he gives you a moment to feel that pain like a handprint spreading across your consciousness, marry him only if he can make you smile even while you’re gross sobbing. The world is not a kind place. You will feel a lot of pain. Make sure you are with someone who makes it all bearable. Humor is an excellent gauge of intelligence. Life gets boring. Find someone who makes the banal interesting.

2. Make sure he has scars on the back of his hands, it’s a good sign he has experience either fighting or making things – creation is an act of selflessness and bruised knuckles are a good sign he knows how to defend himself. You’ve got too much soul to be handled by someone who has never been passionate. If he’s never thrown a punch, let him at least have tasted the insanity of bringing an idea into existence. Rough palms are better than soft ones, they have been salted by this earth and made into leather. Callouses are evidence he has lived, that he has broken skin and been in pain over and over and over again and still came back to the source of it. People rub against each other. Don’t marry him if he can’t handle even a little blister.

3. Before you say yes, get him angry. See him scared, see him wanting, see him sick. Stress changes a person. Find out if he drinks and if he does, get him drunk – you’ll learn more about his sober thoughts. Discover his addictions. See if he puts you in front of them. You can’t change people, baby girl. If they are made one way, it doesn’t just wear off. If you hate how he acts when he’s out of it now, you’re going to hate it much worse eight years down the road. You might love him to bits but it doesn’t change that some people just don’t fit.

4. Trust your instincts. If he ever makes you feel unsafe, don’t make excuses, just get up and leave. That’s all there is to it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

5. If he puts money before you, he’ll keep pushing you to the bottom of the pile until you become his last priority. It’s one thing if he can’t afford what you want, it’s another if he has the cash but won’t spring for a box of chicken mcnuggets. Money and love are arch enemies. 62% of divorces occur due to economic strain. Make sure keeping you is more important than his 401k.

6. How a man treats animals is a good indicator of how he treats children. If you see him raise a hand to a dog, pack your things into a little black bag. Animals at their worst are only half as annoying as a toddler on their best behaviour. Your kids will be beautiful, but they will also misbehave. Same goes for waiters and hotel maids – if he’s rude to those who are working for minimum wage, it says a lot about how he sees himself. Patience is rare and so important. If he’s not forgiving to a dog, he’s not good for your kids.

7. If he isn’t in awe of you, he doesn’t deserve you. You are my little girl and you were born perfect. If he can’t see that, it’s his loss. There is someone who thinks your flaws power his heart. Be strong. If he asks you to change, be like like rock of your birthstone, do not waver. You are wondrous just the way that you are.

Taken from My father’s recipe for the man I should marry (part 1/2 of a series)
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