Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remembering the silly stuff

I usually can’t even remember what I ate yesterday and where I parked my car at the mall. I have to constantly write notes to remind myself what items to pick up at the supermarket and when my scheduled appointments are. While most of my friends are in the same boat when it comes to short term memory loss, they’re absolute encyclopedias about events that happened to us decades ago. Like who scored how many As in our school exam and who dated whom. I wish I could recall some of those things that they insist happened to us all, but the truth is that I simply can’t remember most of it.

What stands out in my memory are the silly things that I did with family and friends, events that until today can still make me howl with laughter till tears roll down, and ask myself, “What on earth were we thinking?" All the stupid things that happened in the past now make up a history that's as evocative as it is hilarious.

College was a special time for me, being halfway around the world from home and spreading my wings for the very first time. Adjusting to life in the Big Apple, learning how to take the subway,  celebrating new holidays like Thanksgiving and most of all, making new friends. Four of us shared an apartment in my second year of college and got up to all kinds of hijinks. Once we strung a pulley across the whole of Broadway to another dorm room and passed items back and forth ten storeys up, which now sounds totally juvenile. I almost killed a flatmate when I cooked chicken and cashews one night. We knew she had a peanut allergy but assumed that cashews would be okay. All four of us had to rush her to hospital but luckily she was fine.

I was also up for shenanigans at work, with like-minded colleagues who wanted to have a little fun. We went to the movies way past lunchtime and sauntered back to the office in the late afternoon, nonchalantly pretending that we had been to a meeting. We drank ourselves silly at office parties but even worse were office trips when all hell broke loose. Now when I do meet up with these ex-colleagues, we will usually indulge in a little “do you remember when we …” and regale each other with these anecdotes.

I’m sure my son, B, won’t remember much of what happened when he was little although a few events stand out in memory. He almost set his bed on fire once running an experiment that involved a flashlight and magnifying glass, resulting in a black burnt mark on the mattress.

He’ll remember a more recent event when we took a boat out to sea to scatter my mother’s ashes which were stored in an urn. B was holding the urn but nobody told him that you had tip the urn to let some water enter in so that it would sink. When the boatman gave the signal to let go of the urn, B just set it on the surface of the water. To our collective horror, it remained bobbing on the sea while the boatman had already set off back to shore. We had to yell at him to turn the boat around again, with B crying out, “Nenek! Nenek!” (Malay for grandmother, which is what B called her.)

He’ll also remember when I sliced off the middle finger of my left while making dinner. Blood was all over the place and fortunately he was around to drive me to the doctor. The wound wouldn’t heal and required micro-surgery, after which the finger was heavily bandaged and placed in a splint. Although the whole thing was an ordeal which lasted several weeks, I did get a kick out of displaying my finger at the office, literally giving the finger to colleagues and bosses when I felt like it!

B recently shared a story with his girlfriend about the time I tried to open a bottle of fermented shrimp sauce in the kitchen. The fermentation must have caused tremendous pressure to build up within the bottle because when I opened it, the shrimp sauce shot up like a geyser, coating the ceiling and everything within sight (including me) in the it. The pungent smell lingered for days and weeks. Believe me, after a few days, when I was still cleaning it off some hidden crevice,  it smelled like something died.

Sure, there are significant moments in my life that I can remember. Milestones in my life stand out, most memorably the day I gave birth to B. But I also cherish the silly, goofy things that I’ve done through the years. Funnily enough, they stand out much more than more somber moments, mainly because they make me smile and even chortle. Some of them happened to me only and I relish them privately. But more often than not, they were events that happened to me and friends and family. Remembering them together now that we’re approaching our senior years makes them all the more precious. It's true that laughter is really the best preventive medicine.

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