Memories of my maternal grandmother (IV): My grandmother’s “treasure” chests.

16 02 2010

My grandmother came over to Singapore on the deck of a ship with all her possessions in three steel trunks, two of which she would later keep on top of the cabinet and another under her bed. My grandmother never seem to have opened the trunks, and for a while, I had imagined the old rusting trunks to hide a mystery. Later when I was exposed to tales of Black Beard and the pirates that roamed the seas, harbouring ambitions to fly the Jolly Roger with my eye-patch and a replica Chinese opera (wayang) sword and scabbard (one that my grandmother bought from the night market that accompanied the travelling Chinese opera troupes), the trunks resembled treasure chests, and I had imagined them to be filled with a wealth of treasures. Imagine the disappointment I got when I finally got to watch my grandmother opening the trunk under her bed, only to find that it was filled with her bedlinen – oh well, at least I had solved the mystery of where she had kept her bedlinen!

One of my grandmother's steel trunks sitting in the storeroom as if hiding a mystery, as I had always imagined.




3 responses

19 06 2010
Evelyn Ng

Hi, I enjoyed wondering through your blog and enjoyed it immensely, both joyful and pensively.
I started by looking up the Haw Par Villa this morning because I wanted to visit it since the mid 80’s but found it closed an abandoned (it seemed). This lead on to information on the Aw brothers and and dissatisfied with the info on these famous overseas chinese of yore, I dug and dug until I came to your pictures of the Tiger Balm headquarters of the Selegie Road Headquarters. I used to love the Tiger Balm as a kid. In fact my nickname was Tiger Balm being never without my little hexagonal bottle. I admired what I read of the great old man.
I moved around your blog and remembered the nursery rhymes, saw in my minds eye my childhood and the buildings that where there in Penang, my hometown.
When I saw the picture of your grandmothers trunk, I had to write something. I remember trunks like that too. The bedlinen was probably her trousseau, they did such fine embriodery then.

Great kudos to you for keeping these memories alive in ‘cyber celluloid’. Kudos to the remaining remaining great overses chinese families of days past. I hope they will survive the 21st century. My grandfathers’ clan did not survive the Japanese Occupation. Them banana notes killed him.
Nice to have met you. PLEASE keep these up!!!
When I read your blog, i feel such kindred with people who are caught in a culture neither chines nor malay nor caucasian.

All the best to you!

20 06 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks so much for you kind feedback Evelyn. I really appreciate it. Tiger Balm was my grandmother’s favourite as well – besides Minyak Kayu Putih! She always carried a bottle with her! :). I think Hwa Par Villa is opened these days … it was one of my favourite places as well and I have a lot of fond memories of the gardens – especially the ten courts of hell. I have just not got down to reliving those memories yet. Gosh, you are from Penang! I love Penang – it was actually during a short stint in Penang that I got the motivation for the blog … walking around the streets – it reminded me of the wonderful Singapore that I grew up in and brought with a a flood of memories of the eventful and enjoyable childhood that I had and of the way in which I had seen the people, places and events around me. I suppose we all have our own unique way of looking at things around us – and I thought this blog would be a good way of capturing how I saw things and the eventful life that I have had. I think what you mentioned about being caught up in a culture that is not Chinese, Malay or Caucasian hits the nail right on the head … there many especially in the former Straits Settlements that grew up with that … and unfortunately, the Singapore that we have become doesn’t seem to have a place for what was a uniquely Singaporean experience. 🙂

8 08 2011

I just purchased two trunks with the same hardware as your grandmother’s. We were told that they were from the 1920s and made in India. Do know any history about this style of trunk?

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