This was originally written when I was 16. It is very much inspired by my own grandmother, although I did slip in a little a little bit of fiction and imagination.
However, this piece is an accurate reflection of what my country was like in the 1930 and 1940s.
To say that generation gap exists between my grandmother and I would be one of the last descriptions that I would use, lest I think of, to describe our grandmother and granddaughter bond. My grandmother's rare company is something I immensely enjoy.
Just recently, we had a family dinner. Being the only granddaughter, I was left alone in the kitchen to help my grandmother wash dishes while the adults engaged in serious talk outside. As always, my grandmother would tell me all kinds of stories about her childhood.
Born just before the Second World War, my grandmother experienced an entirely different childhood lifestyle from what I do now. My grandmother did not have a chance to go to school. Like in typical households, where boys were pampered and favoured much more than girls, my grandma had to stay at home to do chores and learn cooking. The only opportunity she could jump at to study was when her brother was having Chinese lessons with the family tutor. My grandmother would sit quietly at the far end of the long rectangular dining table, across her brother and tutor, listening intently. In fact, this training taught her to read and write her Chinese upside down - a skill that has turned out to be quite practical, especially whenever we share the newspaper.
On most weekends, my grandmother would, together with her bother and neighbours, go to the beach - a stone's throw away from their home in Katong( an area near the beach). There, she and her brother would wade into a deeper section, sit down cross-legged underwater and hold their breaths while they watched the all action going on around them. This is something I admire about my grandmother- her ability to open her eyes underwater and overcome the salty underwater currents and still sit comfortably on the seabed. I can't even hold my breath longer than a minute!
During the war, life came almost to a standstill. To protect her from the Japanese Soldiers who preyed on pretty young girls, my grandmother had to cut off her hair, and each time a siren went off, she would run underneath her parent's bed and the family would stuff all the luggage bags underneath the bed together with her. Many times, the Japanese soldiers would enter their home, shining their torch under the bed in their quest to make sure no able-bodied person was hiding in there. Many time, they would miss discovering her by just a few inches, which my grandma claims is the Lord's hand of protection.
These are just a few of the many stories my grandma has told me over the years. Comparing her childhood and mine, my childhood is worlds apart from hers. My childhood was quite a happy one. I am thankful that I did not need to go through the trauma of war, where life would be lived in days of fear and uncertainty.
I've never faced the problem of education, because since I was born it has been a part of life that I have been forced to accept. Sometimes I feel ashamed whenever I think of grandma who had no chance for schooling; here I am, counting down to the time when I will leave school instead of appreciating this opportunity.
When I was younger, I never really had the chance to go to the beach, sit on the sand and while away my time, or learn the art of making the Peranakan beaded slippers like my grandma did. All I remember was staying at home, playing with my piano or reading my books, something that my grandma would have herself dreamt of doing.
I guess our different childhood background is what makes my grandmother such an interesting person to talk to; her stories always make my history textbooks come alive.