Suddenly remember how I spent Sundays in my childhood.
My paternal grandmother used to stay over some Saturdays, and would take me out to the hawker centre for breakfast - nasi lemak was my fave; I had kway chap but just the noodles and soup; I had tea in a saucer. Then we spent some time in the swing before heading home for Sunday morning cartoons!
Usually, we left the house at about 10 am, going to my paternal grandmother's place and Grams' place every alternate Sunday.
My paternal grandmother lived in a big house around the Paya Lebar area. It was not her house; she was the housekeeper for a clan association that owned the house. I remember a hall with a huge table and big chairs, surrounded by many grandfather clocks; I used to sit on the table and run around the hall. I remember a front yard with a rambutan tree and a jackfruit tree; I climbed one of them before. I remember a huge back yard - more like a field! - with a stone mill that I had pushed at least once; clan dinners were cooked there in mega pots and woks, served to tables set in the rest of the yard, as I had once witnessed.
I remember this big area with a sky well - more like a hall without a roof! - that she used to cook in, using a charcoal stove. I remember a small room with a telephone that connected the big hall and the living quarters of the house. I remember sleeping over a few times, and being scared of creepy crawlies. I remember playing on the floor in a small part of the house - there was only a small motorcar that I didn't like but it was that or nothing; sometimes I would get dough to play with. I remember there were three dogs and a parrot, and even some chickens. I remember seeing an aunt with a tumour lying in her deathbed. I remember being scolded once by her daughter, whom I liked a lot.
Most of the time, it was boring to be in the big house with so few people send even fewer kids and toys. But we kept going until some time in primary school - can't remember exactly when now. I thought it was when 家变 happened hoho! But I seem to recall visits after that.. In any case, I much prefer the other Sundays when we went to 大巴窑 - a tradition that stopped only when Grams passed away, or perhaps it had already stopped during the sad days after her stroke.
When we were kids, we spent the morning in the family provision shop and around. We ate tidbits and played in the shop, played games at the balcony, played hide-and-seek in the dark storeroom, ran around the empty ground in front of the shophouse and visited the stationery shop next door. Lunch was in the kitchen upstairs, before the shop closed at about 1 pm. Often, I would stay back with an aunt who was closing up to leave for the residential flat in the next block, where the fun continued in the form of hide-and-seek and catching which saw us running up and down corridors and dominating the lifts to escape from the catcher, while the adults chatted the day away and cooked dinner etc.
When we were slightly older, we helped to buy char kway teow as an afternoon snack. In the mid 1990s, my uncle closed the shop. From then, I think we got there only after lunch. When we were even older, there was less running and more chatting. I remember doing 10-year series in the utility room, with Grams sitting next to me, fanning herself.
In the evening after dinner, we sometimes went to the school nearby which was open for public access, just walking about.. Or we would watch the 7 pm drama if it was interesting. Usually we left at 8 pm, and later when we were older, 9 pm as the 7 pm drama ended then! I remember that when we were very young, we would even take a bath before leaving. Back then, the house didn't have a water heater so we had to boil water for the bath!
I really loved my time there - there were no toys at all, and there was no need because the company of my cousins made up for everything. And we had this nice grandmother who was always urging us to eat ^.^ Now, we still gather at the same house but only on special occasions - LNY, 清明节, the death anniversaries of the grandparents, and the occasional family gathering. Actually, all these are family gatherings. Even the death anniversaries, they are a great time for the extended family to catch up when the elders are no longer around.
Now, as a parent, I'm happy to continue the grandparent-Sunday tradition for my kids although it's only at the paternal grandparents' place. Even though I used to stay out all the time before we got married, I did try to make Sunday dinner a regular affair with the extended family. But I'm not terribly keen to go over to the other side too often. Perhaps when YQ has kids? See how.