Birthday Cakes and Secrets

On the first family trip to England, Mum had us pose in front of Buckingham Palace while she attempted to take a picture of Dad, Sister and me against the backdrop of the Changing of the Guards.  

The guards had changed and gone their way by the time the picture focused to satisfaction. Sister and I  teased her about it for years to come.

Smile please …                        

Everyone was using pocket cameras.  Sis and I were embarrassed by the ghastly contraption Mum still wielded with pride!

We flew on to Singapore where Dad bought us girls a Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash bulbs.  

Colour pictures … yay, finally!

Shudder to think of the environmental impact from all the used  flash bulbs we gleefully dumped in the trash can.

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“Smile please,” for the Yashica, at the Trevi Fountain, Rome.  Me with Dad and Sister (centre).  Have to check if Sis has the Palace picture (without the guards!)
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Dad, Mum, me (in rising order) on moving escalator in Zurich, Switzerland.  Instant focus with the new Instamatic captured moving subjects.  A new era in family photography.

Mum discovered the joys of photography around age 12 when she got a gift of a Brownie camera

She still had it when Sis and I were kids …       

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Kodak Brownie.  A later version of Mum’s camera. (Courtesy Google images)

Mum’s crisp black-and-white photos display an instinct for capturing the ‘moment’ and an unerring eye for placing and composition.

When sister and I were little, Mum acquired the Yashica, also sort of box-camera-ish

Sleeker, less ‘primitive’,  more sophisticated  …

It took ages to focus with Mum staring into the open Yashica ‘box’ in her hands, at an upside down image. 

She’d  murmur, “Smile, smile” through fixed grin and puckered brow, our features remaining in frozen limbo until we heard the click and a cheerful ‘thank you’!

Felt like forever!                                                                   

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Mum’s Yashica (courtesy Google images)
Latest in modern technology! Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash, wrist strap and film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum often said she wanted to get an ‘unawares’ shot.

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Preoccupied with underwear. What Sis and I thought we heard Mum say.  We’d go into hysterics! 

Sister and I heard … underwears! 

We hadn’t the foggiest notion what she meant.

 

 

 

 

 

She caught us unawares all right.  The delightful album-memories bear testimony to the fact.

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Puzzled.  “Okay, so what IS it?”  Little sister and me with oldest cousin, Sri. 
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“Did you hear that?”  Sister (right) and me
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Sheer joy, unawares.  Sister (left) and me with Dad.

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Mum’s was the era of stay-at-home mothers. Those who were in the professions were nevertheless the proud masters of the housewifely arts.  They cooked, sewed, hung for hours on the telephone with other women, shared recipes, discussed the current price of important commodities like sugar, rice and eggs, wrote lengthy, polite letters and never forgot birthdays and anniversaries.

At family concerts we kids ‘did’ Mum and aunties talking on the phone …

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Me pretending to be Mum on the phone with one of her sisters 

When Sister and I got married, we each received a special gift from Mum.    An album of photographs – mostly black and white photos and some washed out Kodak and Polariod colour pictures – each one tailored to document our lives from birth to early adulthood.

All meticulously labelled …

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A gallery of our early lives, with love from Mum.

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 With Mum’s unexpected passing two years ago, I lost my best friend and discovered a treasure trove of old pictures while cleaning out cupboards and putting things in order for Dad. 

Eyes popped out of my head as a pictorial record of family history unfolded …

Who ARE these folks? (Dad has no idea. Dying to know!)

Entered a new realm.  Memories of bygone days surfaced from boxes, dusty files and disintegrating albums.

Mum’s voice recounting fragments of family legends echoing in the recesses of my mind …

The past came alive in a way that didn’t seem possible.  Moments in time frozen on faded bits of glossy paper,  pictures worth  thousands of words.

Family.  Grandpas, grannies, aunties, uncles, cousins …                                                      

Cousins might not necessarily be immediate ‘first’ cousins.  Sometimes you might not be quite sure how you’re related!
Me (left) and Sister on a play date with Mali (centre), our THIRD cousin.  Her grandpa and ours were first cousins.
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Birthday parties – just the cousins were crowd enough. (Me, a baby in cousin Chris’ arms, far left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weddings were a huge deal, grand affairs.  Guest lists could run into the hundreds.  Your parents’ friends and business associates and in-laws’ in-laws might be invited. And the neighbours, of course.

No fib. Honest!

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The workers from Mum’s family’s firm at her wedding.  They arrive bearing a gift-wrapped china dinner set  (I own it now and use it on special occasions)
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Dad and Mum’s wedding

Little girls were dressed to the nines in scratchy, organdy dresses often ‘smocked’ by hand,  with stiff  ‘can can’ skirts underneath.  A nightmare to sit down in.  

Detested those cancans …

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Cancans and bows for Aunty Elizabeth’s engagement party.  Sister (left) and me outside Westholme, Kinross Avenue, Mum’s family home.

Engagements were solemn, formal family affairs, with a priest/ minister to officiate.

Pretty much as  binding as the marriage ceremony itself …

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All the cousins, uncles and aunts on Mum’s side at Aunty Elizabeth and Uncle Selva’s engagement.  Toddler Sister seated between the couple.  Cousin Shiro the only one still to be born.

You were as important to the aunties and uncles as their own offspring –

The aunties even cared enough to tell  you off as if you were their own!      

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She does!

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Sister (left) and me with Babby (Mum’s younger sister, Elizabeth), my godmother.  I lived with her family for two years while Dad worked in West Africa.  She sewed some of my clothes and treated me as her own. 
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Uncle Prince, my godfather, recently celebrated his 95th birthday.  (Mum’s sister Ruby’s husband).  He’d always visit, very late in the evening after work at his clinic,for as long as we were laid up in bed with sundry ailments.  He never billed patients who were financially in a bad way.  Treatment was free for clergy of all religions.

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Sister and me with Uncle Peter (Mum’s older brother) who lived with us for some of his bachelor years after Westholme, the old family home, was sold.  Sis and I hung around in his room whenever we got into trouble, until the situation cooled, knowing he would intervene if Mum hunted us down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chances are your best friend was a cousin, the one closest in age to you  –

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Me (lying on mat) and cousin Dileeni.  Besties since we were babes.
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Gotta have a sun hat!  Rarely apart.  Dileen (left) and me.

Such secrets you’d share!

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And she whispers in mine …
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I whisper in her ear …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You both could be flower girls together, several times over –

Two for the price of one!

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Little flower girls.  Dileeni (to bride’s right) and me at Babby and Uncle Selva’s wedding.
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Flowers girls again!  Me (left) and cousin Dileeni at Aunty Betty’s (Mum’s cousin’s) wedding
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… and again!  Dileeni (left) and me, experienced flower girls at our oldest cousin Sri’s wedding.

No need to wonder why Getting Married and Having A Baby used to be our favourite dress up games!

We created our own entertainment, inspired by the Enid Blyton books we devoured. An active imagination and a bunch of henchmen was all a handful of cousins required. 

We all loved to read.

No one called you a nerd or geek.  It’s what kids did …

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This little girl reminded me of myself as a kid. 
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Puppy posing with some favourites from my childhood
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Sister and me with my doll, Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless doll’s tea parties – 

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Dileeni (right) and me
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Sis and me With Baby Cousin Shiro and my dolls Cynthia, Diana and Minerva (Mum named them, probably)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never seemed to outgrow the toys and board games.  Played with them for years.

Those were the days …

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Me with cousins’ toys.  We all shared.

Don’t recall ever being bored as a child.

Two cousins, Sister and I once crawled into our pretend kitchen, a curtained alcove under a desk space, to melt squares of chocolate over a burning candle.

Melted  chocolate is delicious spread over Marie biscuits …

We could have set the house on fire.

When best friend/ cousin set up a lab at home, you  followed suit. 

My lab sat on a rickety table in a corner of the kitchen …

Best friend/ cousin obtained test tubes from her dad’s clinic.  Litmus paper too.  And needle-less syringes.  She always shared.

We performed acid/base watch-the-colour-change litmus experiments with vinegar and lime juice …

There were those school-holiday cousin sleepovers, Monopoly games that went on for days, birthday parties and breathtaking birthday cakes –

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Sister and Me with my 7th birthday Humpty Dumpty cake made by Mum.  She handcrafted Humpty Dumpty out of parchment icing and painted him in with food colouring.

Rocking horses and fluffy pets –

Piano lessons and picnics, seaside frolics, Sunday School.  And cousins, cousins, cousins –

A kinder, gentler time, a different world.  No TV.  

Innocent and enchanted …

Though a late bloomer, I think I’ve inherited Mum’s love of photography and her desire to record the precious, never-to-be-replicated moments. 

And like Mum, I’m in less than a handful of photographs in my immense digital library!

So thankful for this gift of photo-memories from the past. 

Much to remember, much to write about.   That’s what next times are for.

So until next time,

sincerely

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Cousin Dileeni (left) and me.  Still close friends though we live at opposite ends of the world.

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That Corner Chair

Ever paused to check out what folks are doing at bus stops, or observed  parents with kids in restaurants, in the park?

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Eyes on phone.  Caregiver of disabled children. In local mall.
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In the mall at Christmastime.  Not interested in atmosphere, decorations,  festive music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The forty-something-and-under phenomenon.  Hunched over phones …

Shook my head head in disbelief as I took this one –

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Youngster manning Salvation Army Christmas Kettle – crouched over phone and halfheartedly ringing bell with free hand.  Guess why kettle’s almost empty.
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As it should be.  Smiling Kettle Person happy to pose at WalMart.  Couldn’t help emptying  my purse of all its spare change.

Times have changed. Sad.

Life’s blazing flicker moments come and go.  In plain sight.

So easy to miss …

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Happened to look out of window as sun rose last week.    Picked up phone and clicked.   

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Sunrise over neighbour’s home

Minutes later –                                                     

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Brighter, more gold

Stark contrast in brightness of light and sharpness of shadow.  Parable for the day –

Only a matter of time before things get brighter …      

Might have missed the golden moments in morning haste, if I hadn’t happened to look.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….     Objects have such power to transport me back to associated moments.

 When I look at these – 

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The moment I stand at this bay window, I’m back in assorted paradise climes where I found the shells and starfish
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Enormous bathroom collage of shells from  shores around the world.  Daily I re-live the joy of beach-combing.  The sense of remembered joy never fades.

                                                                                                        

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Ah, to be a dewdrop in lush, humid rain forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s Chair-In-The-Corner .

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Husband’s maternal grandpa’s chair.  Over a century old, from Kopay, Jaffna.  

Hansi putuwa in the vernacular.  Translated: resting chair

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Infant Husband with grandfather on said Corner Chair .

Miracle child, my husband.  Survived despite all odds.

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Cutie Pie- now mine!

Parents who dared to believe.  Mother with dogged faith –

He’s going to be okay …

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Husband with parents after christening at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Borella.  (Left) Maternal grandparents, (right) Paternal grandparents
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“Hi there!”.  Dad, Mom and precious first born (two brothers to follow)

– and Maternal Granny who pretty much slept with head in his crib at night that first year.

Just in case …            

Grew to be strong as an ox, that babe, healthy as a horse.                     

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A deep, strong bond to the very end of her life. Husband and Ammamma (His mom’s mom). 

And married me …  

Testimony to power of prayer, faith,  love, positive thinking.

 

 

 

 

………………………………………………………………………………….

Visually struck by the obvious.  See how reflection in mirror changes.

Depending on where I stand,  angle I look from …

Another parable?  Sort of.

How do I perceive situations that arise?

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It will, but can it hold you?
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Need more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider, ponder on definition of joy.  An inner grace, un-dependent on circumstances.  Ability to be thankful.  To see the glass  half full, not half empty.  To look back with gratitude.    

And embrace even the unbearable uglies …

To be able to evoke music from within –     

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Music from within??

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Determined to believe the best is yet to come.      

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“The best is yet to come”.  Caption on van zipping past on Saturday morning.

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Thankful husband’s life was spared to marry me.  Thankful for our daughters.

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He and Me.  Post-cancer treatment cruise.  Sketched Antigua, West Indies. (Bears passing resemblance to Husband, None at all to me.)
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New York City artist.  Striking reproduction of the twins’ ‘inner essence’ 

    

 

 

 

Thankful for nine cancer-free years.       

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Pink ribbons for breast cancer.  Holy Spirit Dove.  Mother-in-law’s handiwork.  A gift to celebrate the end of chemo.  Always grateful for in-laws’ loving care and support.

 

 

 

 

Wordless gratitude …  

Wishing you thankful joy today.   May it sidle sweetly in and entice you to come out and play –

In spite of yourself …

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Until next time,   

sincerely

They Called Her Mrs B

So Mrs Clinton doesn’t make it.

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All trumped up.  (A photo-shopped Donald?)
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          Hilary Clinton (Pants Suit Lady)                    
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A woman in the White House – ah when, oh, when?

American dreams of woman shattering glass ceiling are … shattered.  

 

 

 

 

 

Glass ceiling on international stage is shattered in 1960 when simple housewife steps into defunct husband’s shoes, becomes world’s first woman premier –

Old enough to remember?

Sirimavo Bandaranaike,  Madam Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), island home of world’s best tea  …

They called her Mrs B.

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                         Sirimavo Bandaranaike with Soviet Union Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin

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Way to go,  little Boy Scout! (Husband receives award from Mrs B at school prize giving)

Perplexing time in history of the  US of A. 

Glad to be Canadian  

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Begins with you and me … little drops of water, little grains of sand.
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The new reality.  Must it be this way?

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House renovations are finally done.  Just in time for house guests –

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My snoozing spots are gone, Mama! 
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   Relieved Puppy.  Hip hip hurrah!

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“If you love me, let me be … ” (Puppy and weekend Guest-let)
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Three hearty cheers. No place like home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arduous weeks prior –

Never again …

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Scrubber, that’s me!  Couldn’t wait to get mop and pail out … 
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Scary without railings, Mama!
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Much better, but slippery now. Carry me up, please …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next job: Duct cleaning –

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Quick phone call 
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 Connected up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff comes rumbling through vents into humongous tube.

Me to Duct Guy:  “Unearthed anything interesting over the years?”

Duct Guy:  “A Penthouse magazine once, dead ferret,  mouldy submarine sandwich.” 

Macabre Me: “Never any human body parts?”

Duct Guy (chuckling): “No!”

Boring …

Unseen toxic stuff all gone.   Household breathes so much easier.  

Literally …

Almost as wide as me. Gigantic tubing.

Feels like a parable –

Just because I can’t see what’s inside, doesn’t mean it’s not there and affecting who I am, how I function … 

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Sobering food for thought

 Do I need emotional housecleaning? Any residual gunk and uglies clogging me up?

Hmm …  

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Supermoon last week.  Crazy camera lady checks out rise/set times,  goes moon chasing.  Runs, walks.  Chilly, hungry, determined. 

Won’t to go home without pictures.  Thankful for unseasonably mild weather …

 Sun sets.  Ginormous blood-red orange slips into view above trees.  Bright as sun. 

Gasp!

Ipad and phone won’t do justice to immensity, colour and breathtaking grandeur. 

Pictures don’t record as eye sees. So disappointed.

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Reddish setting moon.  (In the park just before dawn)

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 Summer-like weather most of last week.   Snap pictures of burning, brilliant gardens.

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Ankle-deep 

Neighbours’ leaves all raked, ready for pick up –

Mostly naked trees –

Some still stubbornly clothed –

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Squirrel-y busy-ness –

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In Wai Ling’s front yard

Half chewed apples all over Garden, stalwart summer blooms clinging on for dear life –

Delighted to find last, late (scrawny) strawberry –

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                                                    “Goodbye, my darling.  See you next spring!”

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Seen him a couple of times –

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View from rear.  Glazed eyes.  Unshaven, unwashed.

Looks scruffy and lost. 

Homeless man?                   img_20161121_141352

Wish I could pluck up courage to say hello. 

Fear of rejection …

On my to do list: Talk to him.

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Found this on fly leaf of an old book of Mum’s  –

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Mum’s handwriting.  Miss her gentle wisdom.

Material things were never a big deal with her –

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She said this a lot

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This week’s assignment –

Deal with useless emotional junk.

May take some work …

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Open the doors.  Let it go.
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Mum once told me, “To have hurt feelings is pride.”

 

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… just a willing heart

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Weather’s changed dramatically.

Trying ignore perpetually chilly toes.

At least I have toes  …

Thankful for toes!

Until next time,

sincerely

PS:  The photos in this post are moments captured on my Ipad and phone.  

Please support a local author – like this page on Facebook and follow.  Thanks for dropping in.

Good Morning Colombo!

”So what do you do with your time, Mom?” Daughter asks.

“You know me,” I reply.  “I find things to do.”

Daughter’s voice, all the way down the line from Toronto to Colombo, is as clear as a bell.  It’s a free call, thanks to Viber, What’s Ap and Magic Jack.

The suitcases come out of storage four weeks before.  I pack in spite of an unhappy Puppy

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and head for the airport and a month in Sri Lanka, to visit my Dad in the Land of Dreams.

Dad turned eighty on March 23rd. March 28th marked the first anniversary of Mum’s passing.

This is my dad, a good-looking octogenarian –

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                                             He’s adjusted remarkably well to  being alone.   I miss Mum.  


April is the hottest month in Sri Lanka, with soaring temperatures and stifling humidity.  A perpetual film of moisture clings to the skin. 

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It’s snowing  in Toronto. 

“Aren’t you bored, Mom?”  Other Daughter enquires a week later.

Me bored?  Never!

Meet the aunties who are not really my aunts.  (In the Land of Dreams everyone is your aunty or uncle.  It’s respectful.)  Aunty Romola lives on the third floor,  Aunty Amitha – her friend from Australia -lives  round the corner. 

The aunties and I walk every morning, just after dawn.

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Romola de Mel (left) and, Amitha Fernando

The Ipad and camera phone are an established part of my anatomy.  The aunties are very forebearing.

Pause.  Click.  Pause again.  Click.  Aunties shrug and move on.  Catch up at a trot …

“Stop!”

Aunties halt.

“Our shadows.  Look!  Don’t move.”

Aunties strike a pose.  Aim and tap.

“No backsides, please!”  Aunty Romola warns.garagedoorback

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The aunties and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the routine down pat –

“Excuse me!” (That’s me in one of three languages) “May I take your picture?” …

“They probably agree just because you’re a woman,” my friend Suresh says when I show him my cache of pictures.

I never thought of that. 

Aunty Romola squeaks when she sees this one –

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“That’s my friend Sharmini’s maid!” she says. “Where did you find her?”

I e-mail the picture to Aunty Rom, who sends it on to her friend, who chides the sweet old lady for posing for a stranger.  “Don’t you know they do terrible things on the internet?”

The poor thing is horrified.


Aunty Rom looks over her shoulder.  “Did you get that?”

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Picking flowers

“I did!”    

Aunty Romola is beginning to see with my eyes

She points again. “Get that!”

That  is a line of tiny clothing hanging out to dry between a lamp post and a tree. 

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Not far away, a  beggar family is asleep on the tiled threshold of an upscale  store.

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More Colomber 3-at-dawn moments –

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Drink up, baby, it’s good for you!
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You want my picture?  Why?
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Friday,  it’s mosque day.
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Hope for another day
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A sound night’s sleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All dressed up.  Tuk-tuk awaits
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Off to temple with mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On duty
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No school today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yep.  Just woke up.
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Early to school
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Before breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more pictures go to Colombo Faces and Kollupitiya Places & Other Spaces)

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The city landscape is changing rapidy.  A handful of remembered landmarks from my girlhood remain –

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Lovely old colonial homes –

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Are being torn down –

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to make way for more high-rises-

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View from Dad’s condo

 

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This is Mr C.R. de Silva, a friendly retiree from Washington, DC.  We often pass him and his wife on their morning stroll.  Today he’s pruning the greenery hanging over his garden wall.

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Chanaka Richard de Silva 

 

This charming gent delights and intrigues me with his impeccable English and private school accent –  

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(It must be over 40 degrees celsius inside the lottery ticket booth.) I ask about his family.  He tells me he’s single and lives alone.  He’s inclined to chat and I’d love to linger.  The lights change,  time to cross Duplication Road. The aunties urge me on.


I ask Dad about Dr Chinniah, who was my dentist when I was a girl (too long ago).   Is he still in practice? 

Aunty Romola and I bump into Dr.  Chinniah on Galle Road.  

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Dr Nithi Chinniah (left) with Aunty Romola

Only in Sri Lanka!

Doyne and Sunitha are my neighbours in Canada –

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Doyne and Sunitha Seneviratne

They

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during the cold months,

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La dolce vita …                

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Kiri bath and all the accompaniments, fresh mango for dessert

I partake of a sumptuous breakfast and warm Sri Lankan hospitality in their fabulous home.


This year Sri Lanka celebrates the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on April 13th and 14th.   It’s all about the astrologically pre-determined auspicious time.

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For days the metropolis of Colombo becomes a ghost-town.  I stand in the middle of Galle Road, the capital’s normally traffic-choked main thoroughfare, to take pictures.

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Overnight showers have done nothing to ease the stickiness.  The streets glisten with pretty puddles.

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Aunty Romola suggests we pop in at Aunty Christine-and-Uncle Chandi’s for a quick visit.  Their home is along our route.    

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Chandi and Christine Chanmugam

Aunty Christine is my cousin Dileeni’s mother-in-law and Aunty Rom’s cousin (and not my aunt at all!). It’s 7:15 am. They are a charming couple, gracious and welcoming, notwithstanding the early hour.  They’ve been married for sixty plus years.  I meet them for the first time. We stay for fifteen minutes.  

Aunty Romola and I walk home holding cinnamon branches from Uncle Chandi’s well tended garden. They’ll serve as plant-props on Aunty ‘s balcony.

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Cinnamon branch shadows

Dad sometimes takes an evening stroll at Independence Square.

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and I accompany him.  Dusk is falling when  I happen upon this sweet old lady and her son.

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Mom and her boy

She beams when he tells me her age.  She’s ninety something years old.

This young family is happy to pose –

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Chip off the old block

I click and I head towards the walking track to get this one –

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Evening prayers (zoomed in from a distance)

and  collide into my once-upon-a-time friend, Piyali.  Piyali and I met (too many) years ago at a cooking class for young ladies.  I’ve often wondered where she was.

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Piyali Dissanayake 

We recognize each other instantly. I puff and pant to keep up as, never pausing, she sends me a friend request on Facebook and enters all my contact details into her phone.  It’s boiling hot,  I’m wilting.  

I find out that Piyali’s in Colombo for a few days.  She shuttles between Sri Lanka and Abu Dhabi, where her husband works. The timing of our meeting is amazing.  She hasn’t changed one bit. She’s a mother-in-law now.    


Dad shows me a copy of the family tree on his mother’s side.  It dates back to 1670.  I find Aunty Romola on it, so I guess she’s sort of an aunt after all!


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That’s me!

                         

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Morning Glory

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At Katunayake International Airport
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Katunayake International Airport

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Aunty Amitha messages me on Facebook .  She’s back in Melbourne.  

It’s spring again in Toronto.  The suitcases are unpacked.  I’m home.  

Puppy is pleased.

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I close my eyes and dream of Paradise.  It’s such a long plane ride away.

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There’s something about Sri Lanka.  It’s …

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To Paradise Island, land of endless summer, land of my birth –

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sincerely

 

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