I was looking for a familiar face as I entered the porch of the house.
“Where’s Mushu?” My mind and voice spoke in unison.
I greeted my grandparents, my aunt, my uncle and my cousins and headed straight to the backyard.
Ah, here you are buddy! My my, how you’ve grown! Granny must be feeding you well.
“Nah, we feed him this everyday, Ah Yau brings this back from work.” My grandma was holding something that looked pretty much like a doggy bag.
Wah… Nando’s chicken bones.
My cousin has been in Penang for awhile now, working part time at Nando’s as he awaits his SPM results and his turn for National Service. This is the family from my father’s side. Being the only granddaughter, I was not very close to my cousin brothers back then. After one of them passed away, we grew up a little bit more and started to make an effort to get to know one another. Now, we talk and joke like old friends, mainly poking fun at the older generation.
I was glad Mushu could still recognize me, as he still responds to my voice. After the usual eat-and-talk reunion dinner, I asked my youngest cousin if we wanted to take the dog for a walk. Mind you, my youngest cousin is taller than me.
“He wouldn’t go out. I tried taking him out for a walk but he just wouldn’t get past the gate.”
I laughed. For his size and type, Mushu has abnormally been an indoor dog, since he grew up in our little apartment. At granny’s he would only run about the compound and inside the house. The outside world was much too scary for him.
“Let’s try again.” I smiled.
We walked him towards the gate, and he started to show a little hesitance. I snapped my fingers a few times and said what I used to say, “Here, Mushu, come here.” He followed. My cousin was pretty much amazed and excited at the same time that he was actually going to take Mushu for a walk! It wasn’t a completely smooth journey. Mushu would sniff every nook and corner, and I would have to call him a few times to get him moving. He would walk a little and then sit for 5 seconds before he starts walking again. He repeated that routine a few times until we were halfway past the neighborhood. And then he ran out of steam.
My buddy was homesick already.
We went towards the opposite direction and boy, was he eager to run home! No sitting breaks this time, just a nice straight route home. Of course, at first he wanted to enter the house next to ours, which was a nice double-storey corner house. This boy knew his stuff. My cousin and I were proud of his brave attempt to finish half the journey, and we think he would go further next time. For now, he’s a good boy.
As we caught up with one another while watching TV, I felt an urge to take a walk outside. Where my granny lives, it’s quite a peaceful neighborhood and the stars were just shining brightly tonight.
I walked towards the end of the road where I saw a familiar house. A house I spent most my childhood years in. A house that was once my second home. My former babysitter. I stood outside the house for awhile, and then I saw another cute four-legged pal greeting me at the door.
Long time no see.
I rang the doorbell, and Uncle came to the door. He stared at me for awhile, possibly found it hard to recognize me from afar under the dim streetlights.
“Uncle! Happy New Year!!”
“Aaaaahhh! It’s you, Munn! Come in, come in!”
Then I saw everyone. My babysitter, and her two children who were like brothers and sisters to me. We had our share of laughters, blood (no, really) and tears together. And we’re all in our 20’s now. My babysitter and her husband suddenly looked much older to me.
They were playing mahjong, a tradition at every New Year’s Eve, and I was sitting next to my babysitter, just talking and catching up. Her garden looks fabulous like before, she still has dogs, wears the same kind of pajamas and still possesses her sense of humor.
“Wah, your Mandarin has improved a lot!” My babysitter noticed.
“Yeah, change of environment can do that to a person. Adapt or suffer.” Yes, change has been such a constant I hardly feel it anymore. We continued to update one another about our lives and spoke about the old times, such as the incident where her son and I were playing a game of checkers, and I cheated, he got mad, banged the glass table with his fist and it (the table) shattered, and how we both went into hiding when we heard her come home. It was embarrassing then, but it’s just so funny now.
“Eh? Why suddenly you’re the one winning all the money?” Her daughter asked as my babysitter collected her “wins” from the other players.
“Because I’m sitting right next to her mah!” I kiddingly replied.
“Yes! You’re my lucky star! You’re not going home tonight, sleep here like you used to!” The house was filled with roars of laughter, just like before. I guess some things are best left unchanged.
My phone rang, and at the end of the line was my brother, asking me where I was. They were on their way to pick me up.
To be honest, I’m not an avid fan of Chinese New Year. It’s a season where it’s too hot, too red and too noisy (and nosy, for some). But I like the Eve. There’s something in the air during the Eve that brings everyone together. A prompt to say hello again. Exclusively for family only.
And tonight, I reunited with not one, but two families that hold a very dear place in my heart.
Ah, I hear the fireworks now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wish my parents a Happy Chinese New Year.
Same goes for you too. =)