Thursday, January 22, 2004
My mom told me a while back about her friend's daughter, who after her own wedding dinner, went up to her mother and asked, with tears in her eyes, if she could go home with her. Mom's friend asked her if I was like that when I got married and my mom laughed in her face. That was then.
Last night was the first real night that I was actually homesick and wanted to go home. Let me explain. It wasn't a delayed reaction of any sort. Last night was Chinese New Year's Eve and I had my first reunion dinner with Packrat's
family. It's not like I've never had dinner with them before, but last night, it was different. I wasn't at home, I wasn't having steamboat and the people round the table weren't the same as the ones I've had dinner with for the last 27 years, 23 of which, I remember quite vividly. I sat at the table with my husband's family, eating roasted beasts and fowls, partaking of shark appendages and bird spit. It was all very good, but it just wasn't the same.
Things took a deeper sense of surreality when we discussed what was to be done today- the first day of the new year. It is a tradition in the Tan family to visit the grave stones of their deceased elders. It's a tradition I totally respect and I understand the meaning behind it. Yet, it was never an Ng tradition. The rude person in me wanted to know why I had to go and pay respects to someone I didn't even know. The one with common sense and reverence reminded me that this wasn't just somebody but a grandmother that meant the world to Packrat and therefore, I should go and give thanks for the life she had and the love she showered upon him.
We were to do that first thing in the morning. This morning, the first day of the Chinese New Year. The first thing I usually did on CNY was find some appropriately red piece of clothing to put on. But for the first time, this year was going to be different. And it dawned upon me late last night. It gave me a deep sense of sadness and loneliness, even with Daniel by my side. All I wanted to do, was to be in my bed again in my parents' home, so that when I woke up on New Year's morning, I could do the above and bound downstairs to my parents, brandishing mandarins at them in exchange for some loot. It never occurred to me till last night that it meant so much to me.
It is only now that I realised that I can never do that again. I will visit the house, occasionally stay the night there, but I will never live in that house again. They sure were right, when they said, you leave your parents' house when you get married. I still go there, but it will always be a visit. And on Chinese New Year, I will see them, but it will not be the first thing I do. I will always have to visit them second. It doesn't matter that the time I get there is about the same time that the festivities usually begin. It does matter that I have to GO to visit them.
It's seven months late but finally the enormity has hit me. I HAVE married out of the family. The family is still mine, but my allegiance is no longer primarily to them. They come second now, unfortunately. I felt this acutely yesterday. It didn't begin with the reunion dinner, it just culminated with that. It began with my mother driving straight into a truck and wrecking the entire bonnet of the car. I happened to be there when it was found that she had to make a report, so that she could claim the damages under insurance. K volunteered to do that, despite being hungry, having a bad back and having to work in the afternoon. All I was designated to do was to send the maid to his house since I had a long drive home and had the aforementioned dinner in the evening with my in-laws. By the time I got home, I found out that my brother had been in an accident as well. Probably because he had so much on his mind and was rushing to get home so as to get to work on time.
This was when the guilty pangs hit me hard. Didn't he have enough on his plate? Why couldn't this happen to someone else? Why him? If I had taken Mom to make the report, this wouldn't have happened. But no.... I was on the wrong end of the island and I was helpless to my brother. What makes me all the sadder is that my family's accepted that I live on the other side of the island and often I am unable to lend a hand. They understand that, they accept it. In an unconscious way, they've given me away and I am no longer an "Ng" but have become a "Tan". I am now, only an "Ng" by virtue of birth and the status that marriage has conferred upon me supersedes that.
Perhaps, that's why I fight so hard on remaining "Ms Ng". I am reluctant to be Mrs Tan, not because I am not proud to be married to Packrat but because that would mean that the transition is over and the bridge has been burnt. The sentimental part of me that fiercely loves and is protective over my family cannot bear that to ever happen. We keep being told that we can go home anytime, but the truth of the matter is, in the ways that matter most, we can never go home. And it is in those ways that I am so terribly homesick.
Ondine tossed this thought in at 22:16
" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"