Monday, January 01, 2018
My Childhood Friends
Life was very simple when growing up in the 60s. Our house was a no-frills type that came with no rooms and the common corridor was shared by rows of other households. Our family of seven somehow managed to squeeze into this tiny house. Our door was always open and so too for some of our neighbours. As kids, the common corridor was our playground. We chased after each other, we shouted at the top of our voice, we played 'masak masak' with the girls and we even managed to cycle along the narrow corridor without major collision. Yep, some adults did not like our noise decibels and we were sometimes chased away.
Dialects like Hokkien and Cantonese were commonly spoken and 'cursing' from the grown-ups was a common thingy. We spoke Cantonese at home though we are Hokkien. Communication with the other children was mostly in Hokkien too.
I have had few childhood friends but we have lost contact completely when we moved out in the late 70s. I was already a teenager by then. Tong lived next door to us. They are Teochew and both his parents spoke Teochew to us. I think I picked up smattering Teochew from them. Tong is one year older than me. He was good in sports and he was also quite good in his studies too. I heard he is a teacher now. I was just an average Joe in everything. Sometimes, he will 'jio' me to play basketball in his house. Yes, in his tiny house. He will use wire mess to carve out a net and secured at the corner of the door. The ball is the hard plastic type which was best for football than for basketball. It was a miracle that the neighbour who lived directly below had never complained the running and the bouncing of ball from above. Somehow, we got away scot-free each time. 😄
Liang Heng lived a door away from Tong's family. He has few siblings and he is the second in the family. I was closer to him than his other siblings as our age gap is quite close. Like Tong, Liang Heng is one year older than me. Liang Heng is always taller and bigger than me. Not quite the studious type like Tong but we enjoyed each other company too. I remember Liang Heng has muscular legs that I hoped I can own his pair of legs. We played high jump using bamboo pole. We also played football in the playground with other kids after school. Skill-wise, we were quite equal. In short, we were never the skillful type of players lah. Sometimes, our ball will go into this household nearest to the playground. One of us will have to pick up the ball but each time, we had a lashing from the house owner. Not to be deterred, we still continued to play at the playground and the 'lashing' too. 😉
Chye has an older brother and sister and his widowed mother raised them up single-handedly. Chye is of the same age as me and we can click well. We used to emulate 'kung-fu' moves in slow motion. He will hit me and I will return the blow back but all in slow motion. Ya, Bruce Lee was a big thing for us then. In fact, Chye and I met again some years later. We were posted to the same army camp but different companies though. When we met, we can only muster few words to each other and never stay connected again. The 'brotherly sparks' in us just didn't take off. Years later, I heard from my mother that he has some mental issues. I hope he is alright now.
Of all my childhood pals, Pok Meng was probably my best buddy but it was short-lived only. We are of the same age too. He is a Hainanese and he has a younger brother called Pok Kok. His mother and my mother got on well initially. I remember we used to catch houseflies near the rubbish bin area. We drifted apart when our mothers had a big quarrel that almost came to blows. Over what? I really don't know. Since then, they were always locked at home and not long later, they moved out. I was still in primary school. 😔
Now we are already in our mid-50s and more and I hope they are living well. Some could have become grandparents, I believe. Looking back, we were not rich but we do have our happy moments growing up with the simplest of things we got to enjoy then.