I hardly write tributes because I don’t know how they go, but I will try. I will preface this.. My mother is a 2nd-generation Singaporean Javanese. She knows some words here and there, but no way is she fluent in the language. My dad is Malay. Javanese people behave a little different from Malays, and I am saying this based on my experience being raised by a Javanese mother.
Yesterday we buried my mother’s older sister. She had diabetes, and then cancer, and after battling it for 20 months, she died on the morning of 31st May.
I am very close to my mother. I tell her most things about my life but I had a second mother in my wak (what we call our parents’ older siblings). My aunt and I shared the same Chinese zodiac sign (she was 36 years older than I am), and maybe the same fiery temper (and we like/d spending money!).
When I was really young she would borrow me for a few days. She always bought things for me. I didn’t want Reebok shoes when I was 4, but she bought them because they looked cute on me. I wanted prescription glasses for whatever reason when I was 7 and she got them for me (they were really adorable!). There was an overalls craze in the 90s when I was 8, she bought them for me and told me to stop staring at the price tag (it was super expensive).
We went on holidays a few times; a couple of times without my mother. She liked buying fabric on those trips. I’d sit and tell her I needed to shit, and fabric shopping was boring can we go nowwww (but now who’s always staring at fabric) but she’d tell me to shush while she quickly browsed.
I got excited over birthdays with her because she sometimes made my cousin bake the black eggless cake I REALLY LOVE. I still remember, and will treasure all these moments and memories.
And she loved taking pictures of me. I always complained I looked gross but she would always insist NO YOU WERE SO CUTE!
At home she always had the radio on (Malay channel 24/7 and sometimes sang along to the songs while I asked YOU KNOW THIS SONG ALSO WHERE YOU LEARN?), insisted I took a shower before breakfast, told me to please stop touching the cat while I ate whatever she had prepared for me. She was an excellent cook and always fed me. She made the best nasi ambeng (which is why I am amused whenever people want to recommend me places serving this delicacy because I really had tasted the best!). When I was a teenager she told me to help her out in the kitchen once. I’d groan and start blending stuff and whine for my mother and she would keep a watchful eye on me and I’d get stressed out. Because that’s how she was. Everything had to be just right. But she was usually nice about it and let me off the hook.
She used to tease me because I whined a lot. And always asked for Milo! Because I don’t know how to make Milo until now. I make but usually it tastes funny so I delegate this task to my mom. And dad. And sister (my sister is merciless towards me!)
When my friend Shikin turned 28, my dad chaperoned us to Batam (because my parents still think my grasp of Bahasa Indonesia is weak) and I kept reminding my dad to buy pempek for wak. My dad adored her to bits too, so he woke up early before we went back to buy whatever we could.
When I got older and started becoming increasingly busy with school we hardly saw each other but my mom made me visit her relatives and although I didn’t understand the point then, I just went along. Now I wish I’d spent more time with her. 😦
Also, when we were burying her, my mom wasn’t there, and at one point there was a confusion about flowers and I thought to myself if wak were here she’d know what to do, and I got sad because for a moment I forgot she was no longer with us.
I had her in my life for 29 years. For some people, that is plenty, but I am selfish and want her forever. Through her I learnt about love. I also always wanted to do all the things she knew how to do (like sewing! Making ketupat! Cook like pro!) I saw how she fussed over my cousins and secretly enjoyed it when she fussed over me. She always bought things and fed me (and then call me fat!) like a good old-fashioned Javanese aunt, to demonstrate all the love she had for me. I also learnt about doing things properly and trying my best because she held the belief that everything must not be short of fantastic.
When I am at work, I usually think of my mom and Ollie (my cat) but there were moments I think of my aunt.
I will miss her forever, and always. She may be gone, but she’s never over. ❤