Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bothell, Washington- Dec 29th 2009

Tea has always held a special place in my heart. If someone is crying..."would you like a cup of tea?"...If someone is sick..."shall I make you a cup of tea?"...it is the cureall of everything. Maybe growing up in a former British colony helped solidify my love of tea....especially the afternoon tea- but tea at any time will do!

Today, Katrina and I discovered the most delightful tea room in Bothell, Washington. "Elizabeth & Alexander's Tea Room" embodies everything you would ever want in a tea room. Those waiting on you make you feel as though you have come to their house for tea. Each item is freshly brewed, baked or cooked. Can you say, "Pampered"...there is no other word to describe the experience.

*pictures courtesy of Katrina Ong

Monday, December 28, 2009

Endings and Beginnings (copy post from my other blog)

The year is coming to a close.....but that means a new year is starting. So many changes to experience ahead.

 This morning I put my youngest daughter on a plane. Her boyfriend's parents live in North Carolina and they asked if she could come and spend ten days with them. She called me from Chicago....and then she called me when she arrived in North Carolina....she sent me a text picture of the room she is staying in. I told her I missed her....she texted me back to say she missed me. I feel my baby slipping away into a young woman. This is as it should be.

My elder daughter graduates from University in May. Then I have a summer left to spend with her before she takes off to New Zealand. Another change....another separation to swallow and keep going forward despite the distance. You'd think I've gotten used to living so far away from every member of my family- but each new family member who has to move away- it hurts all over again. I feel my baby shifting away into a her own woman. This is as it should be.

My eldest son and his wife are expecting their first child in March. How much more of a new beginning can you get than bringing a child into this world. A brand new baby with new hopes and dreams and potentials. My son and daughter in law will make magnificent parents. I already see the way they are preparing themselves for their baby's arrival. I feel my baby sliding into new parenthood. This is as it should be.

When this year ends, there will be many things which never will be the same....but that is okay....because there are new things ahead. I may not have my little babies anymore-- but I do know I enjoyed every last moment with them when they were younger....I enjoyed the bedtime stories we read....the 'un birthday' parties we had...the impromptu picnics...the unique bonfires....the travels....the laughter....even the arguing....and now I will enjoy the new grandbaby, the new son in laws, the lives they share with me via phone, email or over a cup of tea...I will enjoy every last moment of these new beginnings. This is as it should be!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Kuching- 1983

December 25th, 1983....the christmas I spent in Kuching, Sarawak. How do I describe this lovely place? Well, I probably shouldn't try because what I would be describing is the Kuching in 1983 not the Kuching today. 

In 1983 a slow paced life and big hearted people made up much of the wonderful city. No one was ever too busy to stop and chat. The chatting sometimes opened up interesting opportunities.

One such opportunity took place the day before Christmas. I hopped on a bus to go shopping at the down town market. In the midst of my shopping, I noticed a young man who looked disheveled. Maybe it was his ultra blonde hair which made him stick out like a sore thumb. He seemed upset and my nosey nature got the better of me. I went up to him and asked him if there was a problem.

It has been 26 years and I cannot remember exactly why he found himself in a destitute situation. He was unable to find a place to stay and I do believe there was a lack of finances. All I knew was he could not be alone on Christmas. The solution seemed simple: he must come home with us for Christmas. 

He was very relieved to be able to clean up and rest. On Christmas we cooked a lovely meal and he seemed so happy to be a part of the celebration. So far from home and yet he was not alone. I thought, "This is what Christmas is all about"... he stayed long enough to get back on his feet and then we all bid him a fond farewell. I wonder if he still remembers that Christmas so long ago in Kuching, Sarawak when he shared the season with complete strangers.

                          picture after our dinner

<----Our guest helping us cook for the festive meal!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Suitcase

Almost thirteen years ago, I started working on a biography of my grandmother. The book is now complete and published. In the process of researching for the book, I came across some old trunks in my parent's storage shed. There was one suitcase in particular which called out to me. Lo and behold, when I opened it -- I found it full of old pictures-- pictures from the 1800's - there were also letters, a diary of my grandmother's , some miscellaneous newspaper clippings and important documents. I didn't have time to sort through everything that day, so I just picked the suitcase up and took it with me to Africa.

The suitcase remained in the back of a closet. From time to time, I would pull it out and look through the pictures and wonder "who are all these people?" Having been born and raised in Singapore to missionary parents, I had almost no contact with my extended family. Those were the days before internet, cell phones and international phone calls were the exception not the rule....so distance was a factor in the lack of contact with the extended family.I envied others when they would talk of their cousins...uncles...grandparents...etc. Especially, growing up in Asia where extended family is a big part of life!! Now, in that suitcase, I had found a family that stretched from the West Coast of America all the way over to the East Coast.....I just didn't know who they were...yet.....

Fast forward to the summer of 2005, I visited the States to see my eldest son. My sister, Debbie, flew out from Oklahoma to meet me and I pulled out the suitcase. She was fascinated. We spent an entire night going through the suitcase.. We went from the suitcase to the internet, trying to find clues as to who the people were. There were inscriptions on the back of the pictures-- but they all seemed so cryptic. And then one single postcard, written by my g-g aunt Nellie (can't figure out- is it great great aunt? Or great grand aunt? or grand great aunt? Bigsmile...anyhow my great- grandmother's sister!)...she had written the postcard to my great-grandmother Annie Muhm Teuber ...the postcard had the picture of Neligh, Nebraska and was sent to Tacoma, Washington. It was a simple message- but it unlocked the identity of the rest of the people in the suitcase-- the Muhms...the Mayhews...the Knapps....the Teubers...suddenly I had family coming out of my ears!!

I went to work on contacting the relatives to tell them I had pictures of their relatives. I spent the next few weeks sending packages of pictures to the families that I felt were the rightful owners....a picture of someone's grandfather...should be with that person...not with me! Through these messages back and forth, I got to know a third cousin here and a fifth cousin there and a fourth cousin over there...I was delighted!!!

Now my kids get a big kick out of saying, "Mom, everyone is somehow related to you!"....What a treasure my grandmother left for me....she left me a family. What a delightful family they are!! In getting to know them, I've come to know so much more about myself-- about my mom-- about my siblings...yes, indeed, my grandmother left me a priceless treasure!!

The postcard which unlocked the mystery.

 Frederick Muhm and family


Where do I begin?

(written on March 28th 2018) For someone with so many words...words that just tumble out even when they are not wanted...words that jump h...