Tuesday, September 15, 2020

PA, MIE & Us

My papa and Mie - Mr. & Mrs. Tan Teck Haw (29.8.1950).
We had food on the table, clothes and shoes to wear but no fancy cars or holidays. We were a HAPPY FAMILY.
My papa was from a large Peranakan family. 

My grandmother, Lye Beng Heoh (seated 3rd row, 2nd from left), and the flowered people are my papa’s brothers and sisters, except for Lim Kim Eng who was the match maker for my parents. Many were originally Buddhist or Taoist but later converted to Christianity. Gerard Lim (1st row, 2nd from right)’s son is currently Monsignor Daniel Lim.

   My mum was from a Hakka family, my “gong gong” came from China when he was just a young boy.  

My great grandmother in China.

   We always called our mummy, Mie. Mie was just BEE-U-TI-FUL, like an angel with curls who had fallen to Earth. I got my papa's straight hair and am plain from end to end (or shall I say from Anne to Anne).

  Ohh, my papa was a handsome gentleman. 

     I remember finding this picture of him  when I was little. Mie told me I proclaimed very loudy, “Who is this Hellsome man? Pa was always either whistling or singing. They were a good team.

  After Mie cooked, pa whistled as he washed up while us kids studied. When we were older, we stood on stools to wash the dishes. 

Papa and his grandkids - Savvy K in the front.

      Pa spoilt his two girls rotten. He always put 20 cents knotted into our hanky, and a sweet in our school uniform pocket every day. We would untie the knot and safely take the coin out to buy snacks during recess.  Mie was the dragon who spewed fire. Us four kids were like St. George slaying the dragon. Alas, this dragon was way too powerful!

   My parents' firstborn child gravitated towards trouble like insects to light. He was the "run-away Sun," (opps, run-away son, his name is Jin Sun). Ohh, I remember the catastrophes – he rode on the top tube of a bicycle downhill and returned home with a broken arm, played truant from school and returned home with 2 slaps from the disciplinary master. 

He ran away with his 4 years-old brother to “popo” ’s house in their pyjamas early one morning, ran away again  from KL to 'popo"'s house just becos' us siblings dared him to. He hitched a ride from a stranger for the 197 km to Ipoh, and then walked the rest of the way.   He finally ran away to join the Singapore Army, and then ran away home without an official discharge. What a rascal? My parents must have been exasperated. 

Thankfully their second born child was more academic than problematic!  Mie was a devout Catholic and her only ghost was the Holy Ghost. We were sent to Catholic schools. Once when Mie told him to walk to the shops to buy bread, he refused and promptly quoted, “Man does not live by bread alone, Matthew 4:4.” Mie was surprised and amused. 

This second son LOVED Mie. He would buy ice cream cones after school and run like lightning all the way HOME to give Mie before they melted, in contrast to Big Brother who ran all the way AWAY from HOME! Genetic oddity certainly runs in my family.

     The youngest in the family was artistic. But, like Vincent Van Gogh, she lived a life others could not understand. I drew flowers, she drew scary cactus, I sewed, she painted, I studied, she painted. Mooi (little girl)  was so gifted, she was asked to paint a large mural on the school wall when she was only 16. Her imagination was limitless. She created a piece on time with the real insides of clocks. But, sometimes things happen to people and they are not equipped to deal with them, and Mooi passed on too early. 

And then there's ME, I was thoroughly boring.  My school shoes were always snow white and if they got dirty, I used the blackboard chalk to whiten them, and my homework was always done. I was an irritating goody two shoes PAIN in the you know where.
Gizmo Man and Savvy K delight in asking me, “How many friends do you have?” “HELLOO, if I was more interesting with a multitude of friends to hang out with, I won’t be home blogging, der!”

     Pa, Mie and Mooi have passed on. Only my brothers and I are left with memories. We keep them private. Some memories live on our tongues like the taste of a familiar dish, or in our eyes with the sight of a forgotten flower, and with a certain smile or a song from a bygone era, we are brought fleetingly to revisit our past.    

Monica Lee Swee Sim: 4 June 1921 - 15 September 1992


  1. Precious memories of a beautiful family. Memories to be treasured.
    At least one of my brothers was a hellion. He was brought home by the police when he was four. He had been throwing stones through the windows of houses under construction - because he liked the sound. Later (quite a bit later) he changed his ways.
    We too were not rich. We had food, we had clothing (hand made), we had shelter. We had everything we needed and some of what we wanted.

    1. I think that was our generation with food, shelter and love. Anything else was considered luxury. We had a good life.

  2. What wonderful family. All families have store and needs to never die off.

  3. Thank you, my parents like many others gave us the BEST with whatever resources they could find

  4. Your family photo documentation amazes me. All the photos are stored properly.

    I am surprised to know that your family surname is Tan .... the same as my family surname.

  5. Wow, that is amazing, I would little expect a Tan in Indonesia although in Msia it is common! Welcome to my family 👍

    1. Thanks for your big welcome, my friend.

      Yes, my extended family is named Tan. And my father is of mixed Javanese blood, but his grandparents still put the clan name Tan.

      I myself was born to coincide with Chinese New Year.

  6. Now that a big family. My mom is middle child of 12.