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Thread: My Windfall of Memories

  1. #1
    DrMinority Guest

    Default My Windfall of Memories

    The Straits Times (Singapore)
    July 6, 2008 Sunday
    My windfall of memories
    Teo Cheng Wee

    If you had asked me a year ago whether it was possible to condense 22 years of memories into a single instance, I would have said no.

    Now I know you can. In fact, if you live in Farrer Court, you can even crunch it into a single number: $2 million.

    At least that's what everyone else seems to be reducing my home of 22 years to.

    In case you were wondering, $2 million is the amount of money each household in my estate received when Farrer Court was sold en bloc for a record $1.3 billion last year.

    Previously, people would only ask me where it was or remark that they know someone there (everyone seems to know someone who lives in Farrer Court).

    But since the sale, I get only one standard reaction: 'Wow, you are so rich.'

    The questions I get asked have become so routine that I have developed an FAQ in my head.

    'Yes, that's the estate that went en bloc.'

    'No, it's not at Farrer Park.'

    'Yes, we were paid $2 million.'

    'No, it's my parents' house so I'm not getting the money.' (This is often followed by the very crass 'well, it'll be yours sooner or later' remark.)

    Initially I greeted this with some modesty and good humour. But I have found it increasingly difficult to hide my irritation at this line of questioning.

    Sure enough, when a colleague overheard that I wanted to write about this topic, she flailed her arms and asked: 'Didn't your family get $2 million for your house? What are you complaining about?'

    I'm not complaining about the sale. I'm however upset that outsiders make it sound so cold.

    I liken it to people carelessly remarking 'Wow, you are so rich' after they find out that a loved one who has just died has willed you all his money.

    While my family have often described the $2 million as a godsend, the money will not make it less wrenching when we say goodbye.

    My Mum told me that I ran with wild abandon around the house when I first saw the apartment as an eight-year-old boy in 1986.

    Not only was it much bigger than our previous flat in Telok Blangah, the rooms and the balcony are linked in a loop, allowing me to do lap sprints like Carl Lewis.

    She said I collapsed in a heap in the living room only when I finally tired myself out from all that running.

    Then there are the people we will miss. Not just our long-time neighbours, but those who have become friends under unlikely circumstances.

    One of them is Ah Sor, the fishball noodle seller at our market who has taken to me after many years of eating at her stall at least twice a week.

    When I was a kid, Ah Sor was just a 40-something woman who took my orders in a business-like manner while her husband cooked up a storm selling their popular noodles for breakfast and lunch.

    I always ordered my food in Mandarin but one day - I don't know why - I decided to do it in Teochew instead.

    Her eyes lit up when I asked for dry mee pok with extra vinegar and for the first time, she cracked a smile. A few more orders later, she became really chatty.

    'What will I do without all my old customers and friends?' she asked me a few months ago.

    My family will also say goodbye to Auntie, our cleaning lady who has tirelessly kept our house spick and span for 10 years.

    It didn't seem that long ago when she came into our lives, taking care of our household chores because my mum was recovering at home from cancer surgery.

    Auntie was always one to do more and talk less, so I was surprised when she came up to me last week and said softly: 'Auntie is going to miss your family.'

    With the new house having a space for a maid's room and my sister-in-law recently becoming pregnant, my brother hired a maid - which unfortunately meant that we no longer had any need for Auntie's meticulous service.

    'No, we're the ones who will miss you,' I replied.

    I have no intention to sound ungrateful by saying that I wish we didn't get the money - especially when my parents willingly signed the house away.

    Yet I hope, after the bulldozers have come and gone, that my home won't be remembered merely as a transaction.

    Because for its many residents who have come and gone - and even for those like Ah Sor and Auntie who merely pass by - I'm sure there will be two million other more meaningful ways to remember Farrer Court.

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  2. #2
    Dee Tan Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by DrMinority
    While my family have often described the $2 million as a godsend
    at least some ppl know how to count their blessings...
    when you only count the sour encounters, soon thats all that you will remember your life's worth at the end of the road. its sad really..

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