Category Archives: Memories

Brother from Another Mother

On my wedding day, I didn’t have a bridesmaid. I had a brides butler. But although I didn’t have any of the traditional bridesmaids activities or pre-marriage rituals, I couldn’t have picked any other person to be my brides-butler. And nobody else could have been a better choice.

Simon has been in my life for as long as I’ve had any conscious awareness. Our parents worked together when we were born – infact, I wonder sometimes if the birth of Simon inspired my conception. Born in mid-February, he (and Anson – born towards the end of February) are both 9 months older than me. So it *is* possible… (*shudder*)

Throughout my life, from childish games, to massive play date sessions at each other’s houses, to school playground protection and right up to post-uni emotional crumbles, Simon has always been there. Anyone who knows him is clear that he is one of the rare breed of Good Guys. He’s a rock to many, many people. He’s easy-going, diplomatic, silent and strong. And though I have no right to, I have felt a strong claim of protection over his happiness for as long as I’ve known him. I would not be surprised if I was not the only person to feel this way.

You see, you don’t meet people like Simon very often. We click. We name the song within the first bar. We know the same cheesy 80s dance moves. We know all the lyrics from a certain era. We get the same pop cultural references. We grew up together and knew each other at our most awkward phases. There is no one in the world I feel more at ease with – with the single exception of my husband. I don’t know anybody else like him. He is, to me, my brother (from another mother) – the big brother I always wished I had.

Today, I had the privilege of witnessing his marriage to Alyson, with his best man, Anson, by his side at an intimate ceremony of family and friends. Now, I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve battled with my emotions over my connection with Simon on numerous occasions over the years since I’ve married and had children. The connection I’ve always felt for him is one that has been given diminished attention as life has developed. With dating, working, settling down – there is less and less emotional space for such a friendship. It gets put to one side, unattended. But the emotions never retire – they just wait until needed. As the day for Simon’s marriage grew closer, I had a myriad of emotions and reactions to it. Mostly confused – I wasn’t sure if I qualified for any sort of right to be there anymore. Coupled with this, there have been a number of tough life events for both Simon and Anson – beyond my life experience and ability to comprehend. Though my heart broke and I yearned to help, I was often at a loss at how best to be there for either of them as I would find myself frequently at a loss for words around them, overwhelmed by emotion.

So, today myself and my little family attended Simon’s wedding to Alyson, excited and eager to be able to share in such a special celebration for him, but also a little unsure about how I would feel about the day. Knowing very little about Alyson, I only knew to trust in Simon’s unwavering ability to make clear and even-handed decisions. He has never been one to be rushed or pressured into a wrong decision and that alone should have been reason enough to put any unease I felt to rest.

The day started with a lovely, small and intimate ceremony. Beautiful and elegant. Special. Perfectly fitting. Then moved onto the Chinese wedding banquet – noisy, busy, big and necessary for our culture. Handled with big smiles and a good natured attitude throughout, the newlyweds took it all in their stride and showed little fatigue. For all British-born Chinese people, you will be impressed to hear that the lobsters were big/plentiful and juicy, and each and every single dish was *very* generous in portions. But the real stamp of personality from the newlyweds came in the evening reception. Where the photo montage of both their childhoods brought lumps to many throats – culminating in a truly heart bursting collection of photos showing their life together so far. The pure happiness, love and joy – and memories of such special people so recently lost to us – were poignantly selected and perfectly presented. There was not a dry eye in the house as we all saw with our own eyes how wonderfully and deeply happy the new Mr and Mrs Tam are together. It was then I realised what I had been holding on to – the sense of protection over my “big brother”, the need to know that he is okay – it dissipated into thin air as the tears flowed uncontrolled. Simon is truly happy, and it made my heart sing to see it.

As if that was not enough emotion already, a tearful Simon then took to the microphone to deliver his speech. For all his strengths and amazing qualities, one of his lesser known outstanding talents, is his speech writing. As he began to read from his prepared notes, and his emotions came forth, I was reminded (as I often am at weddings nowadays) of the Father of the Bride speech he wrote for his now late father, to deliver at his eldest sister (Tessa)’s wedding in 2006. It was hands down, the best speech I had ever heard. The delivery was perfect and the emotion was true. So when Simon began his speech, he brought his father into the room. And with Anson at his side, to bolster the emotions, we all saw before us the evidence of a truly amazing friendship and brotherhood – reflecting and superceding the friendship of their late fathers before them. It was emotional, raw and authentic. They are so blessed to have each other and we were so blessed to be able to share that moment in the same room. I struggle to recall it without feeling it all over again…

And so I arrived home late tonight, with my husband and children finally tumbled into bed at midnight and find myself writing out this blogpost – to say all the things I wanted to say at the wedding but couldn’t find a way, or the words wouldn’t come… The words began for Simon… but actually are largely for Alyson.

Today I learned that my heart can burst at the sight of seeing my “big brother” finally, truly happy. Today I learned that he is in the safe hands of a wonderful woman who sees the magical qualities that are present in Simon. Today I saw him marry a woman who will also help him to grow and develop, improving together in their future as husband and wife.

To Alyson:

I know I’m not real, blood family. I know I have little claim over Simon as a sensitive surrogate “little sister” he never really chose. And I know I’m rarely in your lives as I have my own life to keep busy with. But know that you are a very welcome modification to the wonderful Simon that I know and love. His happiness has meant more to me than I realised and seeing you both happily married together has closed a chapter that I had never realised was unfinished. Any chapters from here are now for you both to write and build together and I can’t wait to hear about them whenever the opportunity arises. I wish you both a true, open, communicative and nurturing marriage together. May you always have joy in your conversations, and comfort in your silences. May your love for each other bring you strength and peace in times of trouble. And may your journeys and experiences together enrich your lives with bounty you never knew could be possible.

With much love, blessings, good health and congratulations to you both on this, your very special wedding day, and for all the days to follow.

Connie x

Mr Right: Mr Always Right

Ten years ago today I met my now-husband. The man now known as Superhubs.

It wasn’t the romantic moment that people imagine it to be. There were no eyes locked across a crowded room. There were no magical shafts of light shining down on us from above. No thunderbolt. No singing angels. No cupid. Nor was it a civilised dinner event where mutually respected parties had machinated a relaxed but contrived circumstance under which we were to be formally introduced to each other. Actually, it was at a fairly weak excuse [British-born Chinese Social Night] for a drunken episode [in a bar/club] on a school [Monday] night.

There are a few things that hubs and myself like to note about that night. They are as follows…

1) He nearly didn’t attend due to ticket price. Let it be known that the tickets were priced at £4. He had been offered a discounted ticket for £2. When a potential ticketing problem occurred, he explicitly stated that if it were to cost more than £2, he wouldn’t be attending… Yes. Two. Whole. Pounds.

2) He nearly didn’t attend due to the typically late arrival of his companions for the evening, which caused him to already be excessively drunk at a different bar – the bar at which he was to meet said companions. Yes. He was already drunk when I met him.

3) I nearly didn’t get tickets in time to attend as my godbrother hadn’t managed to find time to pick some up. I ended up buying tickets on the afternoon of the event.

4) Neither one of us had planned on meeting/hooking up with anyone for the foreseeable future. Particularly as I was scheduled to leave the country 2 months later, and he was scheduled for a year long travel break in roughly 8 months.

5) We were not overly bowled over at our first introductions to each other. He looked dodgy-as-hell (to me) with his long (!) hair and pale appearance (which happens when he drinks). I was out with my [quite built] godbrother, who to the rest of the world appeared to be my boyfriend. Therefore I was “off-the-market” with a guy who could probably flatten most.

So it was not a strong start.

The trouble began when my now-husband became stranded by his companions. He stood, somewhat lost, by the edge of the grinding mob of the dance floor, clutching three drinks in his hands, scanning the darkened noisy room for a familiar face. As it turned out, I was acquainted with his companions. I had met them before at a friend’s barbeque. She and I had chatted and we had been friendly. Her boyfriend had brought his office buddy – a long-haired Chinese guy who sits next to him. When she had introduced him, she had given me that pursed-lips, raised eyebrow ‘look’ – the unspoken signal (between women) that this guy was Not To Be Trusted. Clearly, my senses lapsed when I reached out to inform him that “the guys you came with, I think, have gone outside to chat.” That was the moment when he became part of our bystanding people-watching two-strong event.

So, there we were. Two bystanders who became three. We stood. We sipped our drinks. We watched people. Then out of desperation for conversation I began to steer my godbrother to all the apparently single-looking females in the vicinity.  I threw out encouragement along the lines of: Bite the bullet. Seize the day. Go for it. Talk to her. Just offer to buy them a drink. YOU CAN DO IT. But like the mountain of a man that he is, he would not be moved. I grew frustrated. I turned to the newbie to repeat the words of encouragement. Like my godbrother, he too declined to engage. How annoying. Loudly I declared:

“Chinese men. ARE CRAP. They NEVER make the first move. EVER.”

I eyeballed the two Chinese men in my company: Godbrother and Dodgy Newbie. They looked at me, then each other. And newbie said: “That sounds like a challenge. I will prove you wrong. Tonight.”

And so he did. And ever since then, for the last ten years, he has been my Mr Right: Mr Always Right.

Silent Sunday

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Details of Silent Sunday here

Silent Sunday

Perkle & Horm

There have been some significant changes to the Little Man’s life this year. From January, he has been given his preschool allowance. So five mornings a week he can attend a local nursery school for 15 hours a week (or something like that) for free. More actually as we wanted to pay for him to stay for a cooked lunch too.

It was a bit of a wobbly time for me too as even though I had taken him to playgroups and various baby/toddler classes, I’ve never left him for such a period of time, repeatedly. He started daycare nursery back in September, for 3 mornings, in a younger group with a better ratio of child to nursery keyworker, but since January he’s now in a room with 40 kids, and 4 staff, plus 1 to 4 childcare students, depending on the day, for 5 mornings a week.

Quite a massive change for such a small human being.

Anyway. It’s been a tough time as I’m pretty sure he’s been going through some massive milestones. One of them is emotional development.

My boy has always been strangely emotionally astute. When he was 18 months old and I was entering the 2nd trimester of my second pregnancy, I had a tearful breakdown (the first of many). My as-yet-not-talking Little Man was toddling around the room, when he turned and noticed me seeking comfort from hubs. He looked at me curiously, then toddled over to me, picked up his blue blankie and pressed it into my arms, looking at me earnestly. Then carried on playing with his toys. I still get emotional recalling it :’)

The big change in his nursery life has emotionally disrupted him quite phenomenally. By the end of February he was telling us each morning “No nursery. No thank you.” And at the drop-off, he would stand listlessly watching as his Daddy left. It broke our hearts :’(

So. Before our 2 week holiday to Hong Kong and the school half term I wrote a letter to the nursery. I had let things stew for about a week (and only putting him into nursery for 3 out of his 5 sessions anyway) so I could be sure I wasn’t acting rashly. We sat down and had a meeting with the Deputy Head and also set up a one-to-one meeting with his keyworker for our return. The focus was to go away and enjoy our holidays, and then come back to set a plan on how to proceed.

So we did.

It’s been 2 weeks since we came back from our holiday, and things have improved ten fold. The Little Man gained a newfound appreciation for time away from his parents (the holiday was very much the 4 of us together *all* the time) and was keen to get to nursery for the 3 session we had planned for him. We took him out from the lunchtime period too, so we’d pick him up just before the tiredness became overwhelming. Then the following week, we asked him if he wanted to go for an extra morning – “YES” was the resounding answer. He’s even made a little friend in his class. Relief doesnt even begin to express how we felt when we heard this…

Another of the milestones he’s been going through is communication.

Our Little Man is a bit slow in his communication skills. Not in a noticeable way. Just ever so slightly. I credit this to the fact that we speak two languages to him. Hubs and I speak Cantonese to the kids as much as possible. When the Little Man was a baby, we spoke a larger proportion of English, but as he grew bigger we realised that if we wanted him to have any understanding of Cantonese then it would be our responsibility to do something about it. Now we communicate with about 90 percent Canto, and 10 percent English. Following the holiday in Hong Kong, both kids’ Cantonese skills have improved 100%. We stayed with my parents in the house/flats we have there – where my grandparents, auntie and uncle also live. It was astonishing how much they improved and right before our eyes too. It was worth the effort and hard work (very hard work).

At nursery of course, they speak English.

Now, before the new year, his English had been coming along in leaps and bounds – beyond our vision actually. His file at the nursery was coming home with reports that he was speaking full English sentences (“Look! Ann! Cars are over there!” – we nearly fainted when we read this). Meanwhile, at home in Cantonese he was managing mostly short phrases of only 3 words on average. His strangest habit however was that whenever he was faced with something he didn’t know the word for, either in English or Cantonese, he would think for a moment. Then looking up at us with bright eyes, he’d declare emphatically: “Perkle.”

Eh?

He’d been doing it a good few months before I finally cottoned on. By early January I was able to let hubs know to look out for it happening. Hubs loved it so much, he decided he wanted to adopt the word too, for those situations when there are just no words that seem quite suitable. It tickled us so much I mentioned it to a good mummy friend who completely unflinchingly understood and told me her son (my son’s best friend in life so far)’s word is “Horm.” lol!

Where do they get these words from?? Who knows. Although. I have to say, ‘Perkle’ does magically combine some of my favourite letters/sounds. And ‘Horm’ – well, that’s pretty cool sounding too. To a certain extent, I can almost see why/how they chose these words. They do make sense. Well, ok, they don’t. But I like them. Now, of course, the Little Man is speaking full sentences both in Cantonese and English. Life is much easier as he’s able to communicate his frustrations more clearly – he’s becoming a bit of a bossy boots, quite a serious little kid. He tells us when he’s forgotten to wipe his hands and mouth after dinner. He tells me about his day at nursery (“I broke the rainbow” in Cantonese), and he can tell me about Diane (his keyworker) and his new friend, Ahsan. I’m so proud of him :)

As proud as I am though, I have to admit, I am starting to mourn the loss of the word ‘Perkle’ from his common vernacular…

And that’s just perkle :(

R.I.P Toxic Friendship

I met up with an old friend for an evening meal this week. We were “best friends” between the ages of 11 and 22. We did our homework together, we crushed on the same boys, we talked for hours on the phone about nothing, we’d complain about how unreasonable our mothers were. After college we went on to different universities – practically at opposite ends of the country (not quite, but you see what I’m saying…) during which I also spent a year abroad. We’d begun to grow apart.

Following graduation, I found myself dumped by my boyfriend of 4.5 years, jobless and living back at home with my parents. It was inevitable that my first bout of depression was about to hit – but I didn’t see it coming. That was when we had a big falling out as I was days from depression (which she admitted she prob would have seen the signs if she’d paid closer attention) and words that I’d said out of character to a 3rd person were miscontrued back to her.

Other than the odd email (which started after a very humble apology she sent after hearing I’d become engaged) and some distant Facebooking, we hadn’t spoken properly for 9 years until this week. For those 9 years where I didn’t speak to my former friend, I spent time moaning about it, obsessing over it, telling my new friends about her and constantly thinking I could have done something different to have changed the outcome.

Then one day last year, following a talk with a very good friend where I realised I have crap skills of forgiveness* (hubs enjoyed watching that penny drop!) and after looking at some of the great friendships I have around me now, I finally made the decision to let it go. And that was it. It stopped worrying me. Once the decision was made, I felt ready to meet up with her again as I was no longer scared of whatever consequences there would be.

A lot was covered during the meal we had together. We talked about old times, why we thought things went wrong, how we feel about our lives now, and so on. But there was a turning point about two thirds of the way through the meal. We went from catching up and reconnecting, to suddenly being very upset and defensive.

There were a few moments where I should have bitten my tongue instead of being outright honest with her. There were also moments when she spoke out of turn and criticised me for lack of tact – a fair point, but as it’s the one main trait that I have never managed to change despite years of agonising (coincidentally, also falling between the ages of 11 and 22), so I’ve have decided to embrace it and love it instead of getting upset over it.

The conclusion that came out of the whole evening was that truthfully we just cannot have a healthy friendship with each other. The problem is that in just being ourselves, honest without agenda, we were able to really hurt each other’s feelings – right to the core, in the heart. I honestly felt like my heart was being shredded at one point. We were both close to tears. Several times. My body language was open, pained and reaching out. Her’s was closed, pained and defensive. We couldn’t look at each other. We were both suddenly thrown back into our teenage years. Yet neither one of us had even the tiniest intention of hurting the other. It was intense.

So. I think that as far as friendships go, our’s classifies as toxic. Not saying we never had good times. We did. But I struggle to remember them. My memories of our friendship are that of heartache, tears and hours begging of her how I could better myself and be a better person. Her memories of our friendship are of laughter, jokes and a great talks. She recalls ‘a few spats’ whilst simultaneously professing that she has a terrible memory – and doesnt remember much at all. When we lost contact for 9 years, she said she missed my input and advice. But if the payoff for those good times is heartache, tears and pain, then it’s not a friendship I want to fight to maintain.

So as the evening drew to a close and we made moves to part ways, it just became clear that she misses our friendship – that I gave a lot to her. Unfortunately I never felt I received much in return. We hugged as we left – I remembered and mentioned to her, we never hugged. She told me how much she appreciated me – and I realised I never knew how much, because she never felt the need to tell me. We did know each other very well and for a very long time. But it was clear that it was never a friendship that was healthy. Even as I walked back to my car I felt drained from the contact with her. I felt like I was carrying baggage back home to my husband and kids.

Which is why I think I need to leave it behind – because it’s not just me dealing with the heartache anymore, it’ll be my hubs and my kids who will have the repercussions of Mummy/Wifey in emotional turmoil about how I need to change myself, when it’s BS. Where I am in life now, and who I have around me accept me for who I am, love me for who I am and make me a better person simply by proximity and inspiration – not by disagreement and heartache.

It’s sad, but I’m glad to be able to leave it behind tbh. It sounds like I haven’t forgiven her and I haven’t moved on. But compared to the last 9 years when I definitely was holding a grudge and unforgiving, I can say, hand on heart, it’s all water under the bridge now. It happened. It was part of my life. We’re both happy where we are now. Time to draw a line under it. The day I decided to let it go, I stopped thinking about it and that’s a huge deal given how much I used to think about it!!

So the meal was 3 evenings ago, and the effect of the closure that I gained from those intense 4 hours together has grown exponentially. Each day I’ve found myself feeling lighter, happier, less obsessed with my shortcomings. Each morning I’ve woken up with a new, fresher, more positive take on the experiences I’ve had in friendship. I’ve realised that I’ve been tarnishing all new friendships with prejudiced views formed as a result of my toxic friend. Some of which are just too ridiculous (e.g. Arians and I will inevitably not get on due to misunderstandings…!!) I’ve realised that all the times I struggle with my self image it’s because I’ve never allowed myself any limelight – because there never used to be enough to go around. I’ve realised that the little voice in my head that critcises myself has many similarities to her. But now that I’ve essentially shut the door on that friendship, the voice has lost it’s strength and weight. Who knows, one day I may find myself completely in control of it.

I wish I’d done this sooner.

*see my New Years Resolutions post!