i came to be at 21 Idris Road (off Lavender Street)..in a Peranakan house (my granddad’s)…it housed them, their 4 sons and us kids (only my Dad, the 2nd son was married and with kids). 1st uncle remained a bachelor, 3rd uncle no kids, 4th uncle moved out when he got married later on, there was a daughter (married and moved out). Across the road was another row of terrace houses, a little more modern, each with a lawn. Now, it is HDB flats standing where we used to be!
Ours was the 1st house on a row of true blue Peranakan terrace houses, bat wing windows with stained glass, half swing doors, air well in the centre of the house, stairs with banisters (we kids used to slide down them 🙂 ) that lead up to the 2nd level which housed the bedrooms, spiral escape stairs at the back, open backyard where the mass communal cooking took place, helmed by this lady, “Lau Puah” (the concubine of my great-grandfather) from China. My mother told me many a time that she died a virgin!! Why? Because my great-grandmother refused to let my great grandfather go call on her on the 1st night and this feisty lady refused to henceforth and settled down to being the keeper (like a matriarch) of the house for 3 generations!
i came cheap, only $5 paid to the midwife who came by the house…my mum said that if i were not born at home, she’d never have agreed to me as being her baby coz i was dark-skinned, bald and not too pretty..was a total opposite of my brother who came a few years earlier, he was waxy, fair with a full head of hair.. a lovely baby..he was born in the KK Hospital..those were busy years for the hospital, my mum said she was left at some passageway, forgotten and unattended to for a long time after birth, hence, she’d rather have me at home.
My brother was the 1st grandson of the family (that was a big deal), being the 2nd and quite an ugly baby and also a girl, was not too cool in one of these big extended families, my mom told me Lau Puah would give my brother the best snacks eg chicken drumstick, and if he couldn’t finish it…it would be passed to me, strangely enough, my mom, an early feminist i suppose, would snatch this ugly fat greedy baby (me) away, refusing to allow me to get my grubby hands on the leftovers…i would bawl of course..
then already, i had an insatiable appetite, my brother was weaned off when i came along, i took over and apparently her milk was just not enough for me, i’d be hysterical for more milk, in the end my parents had no choice but to feed me with supplementary formula milk..expensive..on my dad’s meagre salary..
err.. and i was destructive as well, to my parents dismay, i’d toss my glass milk bottle out of my crib every time i was done, i broke them so many times they had to succumb to plastic bottles for me..sigh..BPA in my system 😦