Top Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo
“Thank you for being such a clean freak when I was growing up. I never outgrew the habits you instilled in me since young. Don’t worry, I still head straight to the shower once I’m home. My ‘outside’ clothes will never touch my bed, sofa, or any ‘indoor’ surface. I never bring any food into my bedroom. I don’t think I’ve seen a single ant in there.”
“I always told my friends that I would die first in an apocalypse because our storeroom was almost dysfunctional as a bomb shelter. Instead, the small space serves as a museum of your past hobbies and interests. Paraphernalia fills the shelves, precariously balancing on each other like some sort of Decathlon jenga. Old equipment gets shoved in once you find a new passion, never to see the light of day again.
You never threw them away. ‘Just in case,’ you said.
It was never a problem for me until I realised the storeroom only had space for one hoarder. My collection began competing for space with yours.
At least the next time someone wants to play badminton—or bowling, or tennis, or rollerskate—I know I’ve got the rackets.”
“I used to be so embarrassed when you always whip out your digital camera to take multiple pictures of every single thing we do together, even for something as uneventful as us eating McDonald’s breakfast. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised that you were just trying to catch these fleeting moments because you need them when your memories started getting fuzzy.
Now I don’t care if I get groans from friends when I take out my phone to record something for Instagram Stories.”
“When I was younger, I never understood why you would make us all wake up so we could be at the airport four hours before our flight every family holiday. We would breeze past all the duty-free shops just to sit for hours, waiting for the boarding gate to open.
But I learned that a little buffer time won’t hurt anyone. I’m never late for anything now.”
“I used to hate it when people would say that I looked like you. It made me self-conscious. But I grew to love my short and stubby fingers and hairy limbs.
In a weird way, I’m also glad to have inherited your BO. In the moments that I miss you since you’ve passed, a sweaty afternoon reminds me of you, and that I’m still your daughter. It’s oddly comforting.”
“You always had such a charismatic way about you. It made people feel comfortable. I’d turn my back for a second and you’d suddenly be engaged in conversation with the auntie queuing behind us in the supermarket. I’ve seen you share a quick laugh with cashiers, wet market stall owners, and restaurant staff. You’d play peekaboo with random babies on the MRT.
While I want to claim to be the life of the party, I’m pretty sure my friends prefer you over me sometimes. You can’t outdo the original.”
“You were always the household’s sole defender from cockroaches. I still remember the stare-down I had with one that was particularly bold. All I could do was keep my eye on it, feet planted to the ground frozen, while you ran to my rescue with your weapon of choice—your bare hands. I just prayed it wouldn’t fly at me.
When you passed the baton to me and taught me the art of the kill, it became my responsibility. I still can’t do it with my hands like you do.”
“You taught me how to reward myself. I remember very clearly when you made instant noodles for me after I bravely let you pull out my loose tooth. I remember when you bought me a Game Boy Colour when I did well in my examinations in Primary 4.
I’ve taken over your responsibility and started treating myself. Although it may have led to overspending on ‘reward meals’ for getting through every week.”
“While I pored over my textbooks in school, you pored over newspapers and flyers, on the lookout for sales and discounts. Trips to the supermarket would always be interjected with comments like, ‘You want Oreo? Is on discount.’ If I had a dollar for every item you bought on sale, I would follow in your footsteps, and put every cent in the bank.
“Breakfast was a pivotal part of my mornings in secondary school because of you. No matter how much I complained that I wasn’t hungry, you insisted on us having three meals a day. Now it’s thanks to you that I don’t skip my meals.”