Summer’s done. Trees begin to burn with autumn angst.
Backyard bursts with bloom. Garden glows.
A shaft or sunlight swoops down on Kneeling Angel. She shines against an emerald veil of vines. My heartbeat halts for a fraction of a stunned second and I’m all awash with the delight of summer past, the fascinating fragrance of my Secret Garden.
Such a summer of serendipity it has been. Such finds …
Like I’m pushed to pass by just when this stuff is outside, begging to be taken and pleading for a new destiny.
Click on the arrow below to savour 30 seconds of my Secret Summer Sweetness …
Which brings me to my Last Summer Serendipity …
Saturday morning, off to the mall. Spy something intriguing as we drive by. Little vintage school desks. The kind with a bench attached to the front of it. There’s a pair of them. In front of the old house that has a pile of stuff out each week, ancient things, free for the taking. Sometimes there’s a handwritten sign on a large white board: For Sale.
I have an image in my head. Of a chronic hoarder, who’s amassed stuff for years, urgently requiring to rid himself of a huge pile of junk.
“Could we check them out on our way back?” I ask.
So shopping done and happy hubby holding the first new suit he’s acquired in years, we head homewards.
The desks are gone.
It’s only been an hour …
“Maybe they took them back inside,” he suggests.
“Why would they? There must be someone like me on the prowl! We should have stopped right away!”
“But there was no room in the car.”
I feel forlorn.
I remember from time to time in a sad kind of way and when I do, I whisper, “Please, if he’s right and the owner took them back in, let me pass by when they’re out again …”
A fortnight goes by. Then one day, on my way to the dentist, my gaze strays to my left … and …
… they’re back.
U-turn, park in a by-lane and trot over to inspect. These are not from the ’50s as I’d guessed … the two darling desks are relics from the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century.
Straight out of a late-Victorian era classroom or Anne of Green Gables novel. There are holes for the inkwells and circular openings in the ornate cast-iron legs to bolt them down to a wooden floor.
Be still, my heart!
The munchkin school furniture is chained together on the grass by the kerb. The chains are solid. Rusty. I waltz up the driveway. There’s an elderly gent sitting on an aged white garden chair, staring out into space by his garage door.
Waiting for customers …
“Are these for sale?”
He’s all I imagined he’d be.
Self-confessed hoarder. Eighty eight years old.
The house is hidden behind the trees. Possibly the last of the original homes on the avenue.
“I have a garage full of things,” he mumbles. “I’m tired now. Just want to get rid of them and go.”
He shrugs. “Found them downtown. They were tearing down an old schoolhouse, I think. Don’t remember. I pick things up. They’ve sat in my garage for over 30 years. ”
We agree on a price. For one of them. I’d like to have both, but the other one’s already taken.
I ask if he’s got old books. He shows me. A load in the entrance-way, tidily packed in boxes for donation, awaiting pick up.
“Help yourself,” he says. “They belonged to my wife. I never had time for books. But was she ever a reader!”
Mustn’t be greedy. I’m running out of shelf space at home.
I pick 20 hardcover copies — many from the fifties — several first editions and a 100 year-old beauty. The books are in marvellous condition. Most of them in vinyl cover-protectors. They look brand new.
Cared for by a woman who delighted in her books …
He invites me inside and I enter a rabbit warren of rooms in the Land that Time Forgot.
There’s some medical equipment, fine china and a collection of miniature cars. I take pictures and promise to put the items on Kiji on his behalf.
We sit at the kitchen table and chat awhile.
“My wife had a computer. She was an accountant. She did all that kind of stuff. Now she’s at the nursing home and that’s all I have …” He points to an old wall phone from the seventies, looking lost on the kitchen table.
“I live like a hobo, I’m sorry,” he adds.
“Don’t be,” I reply. “I’m amazed at how you’re coping. I’d love to help. Could I bring you some meals – dinner once a week, maybe?”
“No. Food is not a problem. I take those.” He shows me a crate of protein shakes.
“And there’s a collection of china teacups and stuff … my wife used to have tea parties. People don’t do that kind of thing anymore …”
“I do, actually!”
He mentions the wife a lot. I admire the faded cross-stitch pictures on the walls — her handiwork, he tells me. “But no one does that kind of stuff anymore.”
I do, actually!
“Could I take a photo of you with the desk?”
“But I’m honest,” he protests.
I smile. “Not because I don’t trust you. I’d like to record this moment.”
“Oh … okay!”
He sits and strikes a pose. I click.
He picks the desk up with effortless ease. It’s heavy.
“You’re strong,” I comment.
“You don’t know what I had to do for my wife until two years ago,” he replies airily.
There’s something endearing about him.
“It’s hard to dispose of your entire life,” he adds.
I see desolation in his eyes.
“I can only imagine,” I sympathize softly.
His sadness reaches me.
Goodbye Lifetime of Yesterdays …
I remember that I’m not as young as I used to be and reaffirm my resolve to squeeze every last precious drop out of the rest of my life.
I’ve been back to visit a couple of times. Bought more stuff for myself and on behalf of a friend.
His name is Albert. I call him Mr. A.
It’s kind of a privilege to have met him.
As I said … such a summer it has been, of delightful discoveries and intriguing encounters.
Sweet, surreal serendipity …
Until next time,
PS: Pause to breathe and linger in this year’s Secret Garden. Take a stroll in the Garden of Dreaming 2019 and savour the splendour of this summer past …
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“Tell me about Singapore,” I said. “During the war. When you were a child.”Dad set his fork down, a rush of memories spilling into his eyes.
“My father was a radio communications officer. He worked for the British government in Singapore …”
“He was a highly intelligent man, but he had a volatile temper! He was my hero, though it was frightening to live with someone like that. He flew into a rage one day and struck me with the radio wires he was working with. My mother had to apply a hot fomentation on my back for days until the marks subsided.I don’t remember my mother ever cuddling or kissing me. But there was plenty of food. A laden table. She was a good cook. My father was a hospitable man. The house was always filled with people and she fed them gladly.
“We lived in a sprawling home on Mount Rosie, surrounded by a large compound. I remember climbing fruit trees and playing for hours outside.”
“The Japanese considered their monarch a god. They worshipped him as such.
The West was distracted by Hitler and Stalin. It was the perfect time for the Japanese to leap in with their own agenda. They worked their way through the East, carving out an empire …”
“When the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, the Americans got involved. This was the beginning of the Pacific War.”
“The tanks rolled into Singapore.
It was one of the worst defeats in British military history …
“Pretty much everyone was labelled a traitor. They shipped them off to POW camps. By the thousands.”
“So how did Grandpa survive, Dad?” I asked.Dad’s tone was matter-of-fact. “My father worked for the Japanese,” he said.My jaw dropped.
“After the surrender of Singapore, the Japanese generals stood at our doorstep with drawn swords. They threatened to cut off his head if he didn’t work for them. There was no other option.
On our way to school, we’d see rows of traitors’ heads impaled on the walls.”
“The Japs began losing ground after America entered the war with a powerful fleet of fighter planes and bombers. I remember them. There were the B-27s, B-23s, B-24s and B-26s.”
The Chinese and Japanese were hostile to each other. If the Chinese had been for the Japanese, the Americans would never have won the war.”
“I remember watching the Japanese bombers flying overhead in formation with anti-aircraft units hot in pursuit.”“The air raid sirens could go off at any time of day and you were supposed to seek shelter immediately in the bunker, under a staircase, or under furniture. Our bunker was in the basement of the house.”
“I remember the dog fights in the air, when the Japanese bombers came in V-formation and the American fighter planes went after them.”
“I stood outside one day and watched as a Japanese plane got shot down. It caught fire and made a nose-dive to the ground. It crashed into our compound, its tail pointing upwards. There was a huge crater in the ground.
After the flames burned out, the gardener ran up. He was an eccentric Indian man. We were all convinced he was mad. He dragged the dead airman out, pulled off his boots and pillaged the corpse. He pocketed the wrist watch and searched for gold fillings in the teeth.
Then I saw the allied planes pass overhead – massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun. You could hear them from miles away.”
“One day my father was shaving upstairs, when a shell came flying in through the bathroom window and rolled down the staircase. Thank God it didn’t explode. Our home was like a refugee camp for the Ceylon Tamil community – injured boys and girls were brought there. Providentially, Mount Rosie was never bombed.”
“We attended an Anglo-Chinese school. There was a Tamil priest on the teaching staff. The Singaporean teachers were compelled to learn Japanese and then teach it to their students.
Our formal schooling was sporadic through the war years. English was forbidden.
My father taught us in the basement bunker at night.
We had to memorize poetry and I was able to read far beyond my years.
I remember reciting The boy
stood on the burning deck …
The Japanese soldiers had funny uniforms – long, long khaki shorts and hats with elongations at the back from the brims, covering their necks.”
“The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots.I remember coming down the hill, one particular day, where the school was situated. There were steps going up the hill to the school building. The students were all lined up on either side of the road to greet and wave flags at visiting Japanese army dignitaries. They came in a convoy of lorries and military vehicles. A boy standing across the street called out to me. Without thinking, I dashed across the road to reach him, cutting through the oncoming parade. A lorry hit me and I was knocked unconscious. They drove on. They didn’t stop. The entire convoy passed over me.
When the parade was done, the Tamil priest — the teacher from my school – picked me up and took me to the government hospital. Miraculously, there was no serious injury and I recovered.”“How old were you, Dad?” I queried.“I must have been about 7 or 8.”“That was nothing short of divine providence,” I commented.Dad nodded. “Yes,” he said. “And I used to collect all the shells and metal fragments I found lying around. That was my hobby.”
“My mother carried her jewellery in a pouch tied around her waist, under her saree. She finally buried it all outside in the garden. When the war was over she wasn’t able to find the spot to dig it back up.”“You mean she lost all her jewellery?” I asked.Dad shrugged. “Many people buried their valuables and never found them again.”“The Americans bombed Singapore before the Japs surrendered. I remember Singapore harbour up in flames.”
D-Day came and the Germans surrendered, but the Japanese hung on until the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. That was when they finally gave in.
“Japan would never had surrendered if not for the atom bomb. America was the only nuclear power in the world at the time. The bombs were dropped two days apart.”
My father had a radio hidden in the basement. He tuned in at night to listen to the BBC news. There was no other way of knowing how the war was progressing. Suddenly one day, the war was over. Everything fell silent. The Japanese forces vanished.
“A Ceylonese Burgher gentleman who was a friend of my father’s – his name was Mr. Garth, an educated man, slightly brownish in complexion — ended up in a Japanese POW camp. After we knew for sure that the war was over, my father took me with him to the POW camp. I remember sitting in the car as we drove there. The camp was a place of the living dead. Men, women and children had been starved and made to do hard labour. We found Mr. Garth. He had been a prisoner for four years. He was plain skin and bones. We brought him back home. My mother had cooked a good meal and set it on the table. Mr. Garth sat and stared at the food for quite awhile. Then he ate slowly, savouring every mouthful. He saved the boiled egg for the last.”
The war ended in September 1945.
“The British returned.Many Ceylon Tamils who lived in Burma had walked to South India to escape the invasion. They were found and rescued.Everything was in a mess. A new administrative system had to be set up. All residents of Singapore had to get their British citizenship renewed. Those who were not originally from Singapore were given the option of staying or receiving a free passage back to the country of their birth. Mother wanted to stay, but Father had no choice. He had worked for the Japanese during the war years and was declared a traitor to the British Empire. His name was on a formal list of Traitors To The Empire that appeared in the newspapers directly after the war ended.The British arranged for our repatriation. We travelled in a massive ship which had been used as a troop carrier during the war. It was called the SS Arundel Castle.”
Our passage was paid and they provided us with clothing and food. With a load of over one thousand passengers – all Ceylon Tamils – the vessel set sail soon after the war was over. The voyage lasted five to six days before we docked at Colombo harbour. I remember being loaded onto a boat and coming ashore, where there was a big reception committee awaiting the home-comers.
My mother’s sister’s daughter — my cousin, Mabel — came to meet us at the dock. We slept the night at her home in Maradana and caught the train to Batticoloa the next day.”
At breakfast the next morning, a heavy-eyed Dad informed me that he hadn’t had much sleep the previous night. “The horrible scenes kept playing in my head,” he said. I picked another subject for that evening’s conversation.
A year and a half in later, after the birth of his youngest child — a son — Grandpa James returned to Singapore. He approached the British authorities in anticipation of being reinstated into his former civil service post. Representatives of His Majesty’s government grimly reminded my grandfather that his name was etched on the infamous traitor list. They concurred that Grandpa’s only other choice would have led to the instant annihilation of himself and his young family. They graciously granted him a pension for his service to the British Empire. Then they showed him the door.Grandpa sailed back to his native Ceylon. He disembarked at the port of Colombo and rode the railway back to Batticoloa in the east, where his wife had inherited extensive acreages of profitable paddy land.
The new baby symbolized the end of an era in their lives.Old dreams dead and buried, life commenced anew and in earnest. The three youngsters, foreigners in the land of their parents’ birth, were constrained to learn a fifth language. English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and now … Tamil.
If Grandpa was granted his pardon, if Granny obtained her heart’s desire, Dad wouldn’t have met Mum and allied himself with a new country and people. And I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.
An interesting thought which strengthens my conviction in the knowledge that life is directed by an unseen hand that masterfully orchestrates circumstances in such a manner as to bring an undeniable destiny to pass.
Until next time,
P.S. Dad meets his bride in Matchmaker, Matchaker! (click here)
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Fascinated by the art of decoupage as portrayed on Pinterest, I began to look for forlorn bits of this and that at garage sales and thrift stores. Ideas for their transformation simmered and stewed until the magic moment arrived some weeks ago.
The relentless force of it carried me through a fortnight of sanding, painting, gluing, lacquering.
Exhibit One –
A handcrafted stool lurking on a pile of junk in a country thrift store. One word: hideous. The darling drawer with the dangly handle was my undoing.
A coat of Dollarama paint, two favourite hymns on the top and all around …
Et voila ! A quirky stool to tuck into a corner. For occasional extra seating …
Exhibits 2 & 3 – Plain brown wood straight-backed chair and child’s rocking chair –
Forgot to take pre-painted ‘before’ pictures …
There’s a story to tell …
I’d hunted fruitlessly for wrapping paper or paper napkins with an old fashioned sort of rose design.
Months go by …
A week before Easter my friend, Gail presented me with a bouquet of lilies. The bridal blooms were done up in a layer of tissue paper printed all over with … red roses. The exact kind I was looking for. The attached card was from the florist at the mall up the street.
Woo hoo! Can’t wait to get going. Transformation time. Decoupage, here I come …
Pleasing finale. Tissue paper roses on garage sale salvage …
That old flip-top table could do with a matching makeover.
Rose-covered table to set off the seats. Lovely …
Gail’s tissue paper yielded just enough for the two chairs – nothing left over.
Flash of inspiration. The mall florist might have a sheet or two to spare.
So I went.
Me: I received a bouquet of flowers from your store some days back. It was wrapped in an unusual tissue paper with a beautiful rose print on it …
Pretty straight forward, huh?
Florist guy: Yeah. I know the one you mean. You know what’s weird, though?
…. We never ordered that kind. We never have. Don’t know why they came here.
Opens drawer and fishes around …
…They’re all gone. Guess the girls used them up. And we won’t …
Me: … be getting anymore.
Florist Guy: Weird, huh? As I said, we never ordered it. We only use the plain kind.
Weird all right …
Roses on two chairs AND a table would have been overkill anyway.
So I covered the table top with white lace, edged with baby ribbon.
Love the finished effect …
I paused to ponder on theTale of the Florist and the Tissue Paper
A light went on –
There’s a dream waiting to come alive in every rejected thing and there’s a dream-bringer who makes it happen. At the top of the chain is the Dreamgiver who creates the dream, orchestrates and manipulates events to make it all come true …
This poor monstrosity has lived in the basement since forever –
Just had another idea for a fabulous furniture facelift.
Watch out for the next Cinderella table-metamorphosis story coming to this blog!
I love breathing new life into dull, dead things. Adore the thought of being prompted by a dream-giver.
So there’s really no such thing as junk …
Thankful for beauty-basking-beneath-ugly-if-you-only-choose-to-look.
Thankful for dreams.
There’s always another dream. And then the next one.And the next.
Can’t stop dreaming, no matter what!
Until next time,
P.s. ‘Crafty’ weekend guests offer invaluable input. Thank you Roshini!
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“Don’t want to hurt your feelings and all, but nobody reads that kind of poetry anymore!”
“You mean with rhyme and stuff?”
“But the world’s a stage”, my eyes pleaded. “It’s teeming with actors. They beckon and beg for someone to observe, pick up a pen and weave tall tales.”
Which is how Chronicles of Archie-Baldia came into being.
Meet Uncle Archibald …
Archie loves life. Harriet is his stoic spouse, unwitting co-star of hilarious hubby’s boisterous adventures. Aunty H is also on her own matchmaking mission to marry off her spinster pals, the Greying Gals.
So no one reads ‘that kind of poem’ anymore. Would you listen to one dramatized and spoken aloud, costume and all?
Here it is — first in the series. Old fashioned music hall-type farce. Slapstick comedy-in-rhyme … narrated for your listening pleasure.
An experiment to titillate the tired literary palate of the jaded twenty-first century non-reader of poetry. Archibald makes his debut at the Marriott Hotel in –
Uncle’s Rollicking Rumba!
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So what’s the verdict?
“Laugh and the world laughs with you”, as Mum used say …
Thankful for the folks I find. Fabulous fodder to feed this frenzied imagination!
Until next time,
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The sun glowed orange during rush hour this morning. My heart sagged under a weight of joy and I slowed down to take pictures –
I almost sent them off to you.
Then I remembered …
I recalled a recent dialogue we had.
Me: Could I use these pictures of you, please? There’s such a beauty about you that’s riveting.
You: You can use every picture you want. You don’t have to ask. Surprise me!
So I’m surprising you today …
You: How long was your fight with cancer?
Me: The cancer battle was over a year and a half. My oncologist calls me a success case (I prefer miracle patient). I don’t look like myself in the picture, do I? Within two weeks of your first chemo, the hair starts falling out and you mutate into someone else. I began to practice intentional thankfulness. When gratitude seeps in, joy is not too far behind. Those were beautiful, dark, lovely, intense and precious times. God sends angels, as you know, in many shapes and forms.
You: I don’t look like myself anymore, either. I was always on the go. Now it is my mind that is on fast.
The aircraft commenced its descent into Halifax last Thursday afternoon and my thoughts overflowed with vignettes from your heart –
My mum sent the pink rose to me today … just because. The Ford Escape is on the lawn because Cam wanted me to see it. He just bought it yesterday as a second vehicle. My wheelchair van rides low so it’s not practical for snowy days ahead. I always loved a Ford Escape and Cam would drive a van.
We have a cottage on the Bay of Fundy and watch the tides go in and the tides go out. Nature at its best. September is a special time. Most cottagers are only there on weekends, so the solitude and beauty is magnified. My paradise …
Your beloved Cameron –
Cam and our brother-in-law are re-shingling the back of the cottage. It has been a busy day. For me, the moments when I can look out the window and see the eagle fly, sandpipers having their last meals before heading to South America and the magnificent clouds being reflected in both water and wet mud are highlights of my soul.
Today it was 29 degrees and sunny, so I went out in my wheelchair to enjoy. On impulse I drove on my lawn around to my gardens to see the tulips and bleeding heart. I felt free until my wheelchair got stuck in soggy lawn. Resourceful Cam got blocks of wood and we managed to get out. BUT my tires were full of mud. Cam cleaned as much as he could off and them I wheeled myself in. A flashback hit me. How many times had I told the boys NOT to wear their dirty boots in the house? Cam, patient Cam, has been working at getting the wheels clean ever since!!!
JOY was your three-letter codeword –
Went to the Festival of Lights today in Wolfville, where Cam and I met while going to Acadia University. At the farmer’s market, it was all about Indian food and entertainment. I got a dragonfly and the word JOY done with henna and several Indian silk scarves for Christmas gifts.
I am waking up immediately to JOY in the morning for the next couple of weeks.
What made my day? My careworker this morning for 4 hours was Holly. Someone that previously had only been there for my half hour tuck-ins at night. We were sitting at my kitchen table in the sun, when I asked her about her heart-shaped ring … and that was my further joy for the day.
You infused JOY into every moment, Judy, distilled, savoured, sipped on it, then infected the air you breathed and intoxicated those around you.
You: There is no such thing as coincidence.
Absolutely. I agree …
You: Maybe I came into your life to show you the other side of ALS. The joyful side.
You did just that. And you did it so well …
Your boys: your pride and JOY –
Tim is home. Happy heart.
Just got back from taking Tim to the airport. What a lovely visit and a wonderful son. He left such wonderful memories behind.
Andrew came home on Friday and stays till this Friday. Check him out on You Tube in the Hot Fireman ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Click here to watch Judy standing at Andrew’s side as he takes up the challenge.)
Matthew was home from Wednesday to Saturday. Shared the big news that Laura is pregnant! Be still my heart. We are so blessed.
Those grandbabies –
Got a wonderful card in the mail today, with an ultrasound picture on the front and the announcement inside saying “It’s a boy!” Our third grandson is due the end of October. The Starrit genes were working again. OverJOYed!!!!
He was born yesterday and all is right with the world. 8lb 11 0z of pure JOY! Yesterday was such an emotional day. Waiting, wondering, wishing, praying. And then the phone call came. Rejoicing, heart exploding, celebrating our new JOY! And then by 10.00 at night, emotional breakdown. Thinking about what I will be missing in his future, but being so overjoyed he is here. A part of me.
He’s Henry now. Named after Cam’s dad. We are still on our baby high. Will be for quite a while.
Cam just stenciled a picture of him onto a pillowcase.
Tomorrow Andrew, Findlay and Eamon are coming for Thanksgiving weekend. I am beyond excited!!!
I have arranged for the pilot, Debbie, of the only plane that travels to Sable Island, to come and speak about her experiences.
I took pictures, but my hands were unsteady with excitement.
Eamon just messaged me. Andrew is taking them to a movie. He likes to keep me informed.
Your sister —
Tonight Linda comes. Any minute now.
Linda is here and we are going to listen to the sixth CD of the Book Of Joy, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. This is our sixth Monday night doing it …
… and the whacky, wonderful friends –
My friend, Mary, and sister are coming out to play a card game called Quiddler. A weekly event. I am on a winning streak.
Mary brings muffins for Cam
My tree is trimmed and …
… the Wild and Woolies are coming at 4.00. Laughter will abound.
The Wild and Woolies have been getting together for over thirty years
Don’t forget the goats …
Andrew and Cam have just taken the goats up the hill for a walk. If we let them loose too close to the house, they would eat all the flowers coming up …
I always have flowers in my view. I even got flowers for Father’s Day!
Gotta be kid-ding – goats at a wedding?(The “kids” are included in Andrew and Shantel’s backyard nuptials) …
… and the chickens (of course) —
Just had the chickens playing the xylophone at my window.
Homecare just arrived, but chickens come first!
On living with ALS –
I have a whole new view on listening. My boogie board is my voice now. People don’t wait until I finish writing and assume what I’m going to say and rush off to do their own thing. Also, they read it wrong, and I have to get their attention and underline a word or words.
It cost less than $30 at Costco.
I WAS a talker!
I do most of my writing on my phone now.
I am using my BiPAP for about 20 hours a day. It gives me the freedom of not having to think every time I take a breath. The strength in my hands has diminished as well. I will NOT let that keep me from living a full life but it has put limitations on what I can do. ALS sucks sometimes.
Success. Beyond resounding! My mind is still going. Still walking. Still enjoying yesterday. There were 59 people, including care-workers, friends and family on Judy’s Joys. I am blessed Truly blessed.
Took 5-6 days to get over the walk. SO worth it!
We shared our rainbows, you and I —
In your home …
… in mine –
You: We are definitely sisters from another mother.
There’s no doubt about that!
You: The physical meeting somehow eludes us, but we are so much beyond that. We are so much closer than that. What we have done for each other is beyond friendship.
Me: Can’t wait to meet you, Judy. It will be odd, though. Kind of like having a first date after being married for a year!
You:I, too, want to meet you! If I could, I would be on a plane now. But the other side of reality is that I know I won’t be travelling by plane anymore. Too many uncertainties.
You: Wish, wish you lived nearby. Always thinking about you.
Me: Me too. I love how Cam cares for you, love the chickens, love the red bike. I even love your ghastly puns!
You: Our friendship goes much deeper. I needed you as much as you needed me. You took me outside of myself.
By the way, Cam is going to mail a parcel to you tomorrow. No parcel from you yet. Tomorrow.
Your parcel arrived by express post on December 23rd. Icicles dripped off the eaves as the mailman hopped from one foot to the other and blew on his hands, while I hastily inscribed a signature on the electronic board he held out to me.
Such a treasure trove of thoughtful things inside …
Me: Did you make the Scrabble ornament? Love it!
You: Bought it at the ALS sale.
Me: It was meant for me.
You: I found your DREAMS, didn’t I?
You sure did!
We called onChristmas Eve, before heading out to church. Husband, Daughters and I sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas on speakerphone. Cam said you raised your arms in delight and crossed your hands over your heart.
On Christmas day we shared cameo moments.
You sent me –
and I sent these –
Isn’t this fun?
Our house was always the ‘go to’ house at Christmas. I used to make rolls and shape them in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees. Decorate them, of course, and wrap them in clear, cellophane with fancy ribbons. That is a thing of the past now, but Christmas still comes and goes!
Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.
Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.
A resounding emptiness, though. A sort of hollow ache as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the living room TV.
Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air. I struggled to keep awake.
This is my Dad, Judy.
He was a strikingly handsome man in his day.
Independence Square is a great place for people-watching. I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.
A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park). An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.
There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —
… it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!
For as far as the eye can see …
Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —
Tongue in cheek, of course …
Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.
Don’t laugh, Judy. I’m not fibbing – honest!
Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts. They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —
So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?
Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself. A wild ride. Kids find it a hoot.
Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …
I was up all night for the first ten days, Jet lag kills me. It gets worse with the passage of time.
The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight.
In spite of these urgings –
and the necessary tools left lying around —
… and these willing workers
— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.
A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.
The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.
Animal rights activists or government cutbacks. Don’t recall …
The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.
I remember this woman from last year —
The homeless slumber on –
… and the dogs —
Vigorously cleaning business premises —
At the bus stop. To school and work –
And so the day begins –
Early morning moments –
Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –
The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –
Business is brisk at the food truck –
Aunty Rom and I pass these two every morning –
Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –
From time to time she suprised me with a detour. Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.
I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year.
Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.
Only in Sri Lanka …
Newest aunt, Sharmini,invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over. We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.
Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …
Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curryand spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.
So good …
She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!
New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.
The sun rode high in the sky. Too sticky to walk. Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.
The next week, Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new auntySharmini’s home.
Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …
Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes. Many of them are commercial buildings now.
The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.
A handful old mansions still remain private residences –
… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.
Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —
Destructive love language along the sidewalk …
Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –
The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —
… or not!
Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –
to make way for yet another highrise.
Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store –
This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.
I’ve just discovered the beauty of the old memorial monuments. Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones. Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.
China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo.
This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –
The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone. The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore. What’s left of it is all withered and brown.
Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …
Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –
The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful. And less dirt, I suppose.
The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –
The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …
Umbrellas, come rain or sun —
Tried my hand at rainy day photography. Quite pleased with the outcome –
The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.
Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.
A highrise is under construction on the premises of #13 where my old home used to be located —
I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day. Latha excelled herself –
I miss the leisured simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.
Change is inevitable of course. It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …
Judy, have I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a book on Mum’s ancestry? I chased clues all over the city.
Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code –
I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –
Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos. A mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!
So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures. There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”
The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together. This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from.
With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.
Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.
I’m thankful for you, Judy. You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.
Love always and thinking of you, my friend,
p.s Woke up to our first snowfall this morning. Oh Canada …
Just got a text from Aunty Rom. She wrote: A few days ago, I met the dog lady. She said the puppy had been run over. I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!