Oct 1, 2012

Yours Truly,...

Yesterday I attended a wedding dinner hosted by my ex-boss, Miss Ong Su-Chzeng. Her only daughter, Mirai was married in USA on 24 March 2012. A special dinner just for her and her friends, family from the region. 

Su send me an e-card invitation in mid July and her personal request was to ask if I could baked some wedding cupcakes for the reception. How could I say no? And I told her if she didn't ask me to bake the cakes, I would not talk to her for a long time. 

Su came to our shop together with her friend, Aileen to pick and choose the kind of boxes they would like to have as favour boxes. And since it was also Mirai's wish to have mooncakes for her wedding, Su picked a Love mooncake mould. I decided on flavours and a new flavour of lavendar lotus paste for it.

The dinner was like most of the ordinary of all wedding banquets. But this one was different from the others I have gone to. Su has invited some of our colleagues from my days in Jardine Fleming where I used to work at. There was laughter and joy as we chatted over good food and good wine..in a company of old pals and new ones too. 

Then Su went up to the stage and talked about dedications she wants to make ...for all the people who stood by her all these years. From the days when she was still in Tokyo, Japan right down to the years she came to Singapore to work and raised Mirai. And as usual, she has to talk about me again. About me doing the cakes, about  me being her "Forever Staff" and she was my "Forever Boss".  Then she made a surprise announcement about something she wanted to do for a very long time..some 20 years she said. A book she wanted to publish for Mirai. And there and then, I knew what she was talking about. It was her late husband's short stories he used to write for a Japanese magazine. She wanted so much to collect these stories and publish it into a book. She knew what she wanted. But however, she never found the courage to do it until now.

When she spoke about the book, tears welled up in my tears because I knew the story behind it. All the years I have worked with Su, for Su, knowing her, I saw the hurt, the pain she had to go through whenever we touch base on this book. She had the book printed in Singapore, with the help of a friend we all knew, Miss Eleanor Fong, from Xpress Print. It was not meant for sale, and she had limited copies printed. And it was to be given to a fair few. 

After her speech, I went up to see Su privately and I told her a bit of how the book was collected..and Su wanted me to go up and tell Mirai and everyone else how important this book was to all.

ok, why should we get so emotional over a book? Why is this book so important? Are the stories in there happy or sad? This I can tell you, its a happy book with happy stories. Of course, Mirai was too young to write, much less express her thoughts. Seeing the world at large through the eyes of a loving father of  his little girl growing up in Japan from the age of 3 years old till she was 5 years old. 

This was totally unprepared, un-rehearsed and I didn't expect myself to be up there holding the microphone to talk. So I ask that Mirai stood next to me, to hold my hand because as I spoke, tears will flowing freely from my eyes. And I said :

"Su came to Singapore more than a decade ago, to start life anew here. She came with many things, one thing was always in the back of her mind was this book that she wanted to publish somehow, somewhere in time. A book she said will be called "My Name is Mirai". However, the soft copy of the book was all typed out in single document files. And its all kept in a laptop. Su gave me the laptop for safekeeping, she says. 

And she tells me "Gina, if you can, backup all the files from it and copy it into a diskette for me."

I tried to access the computer, boot it up and it just won't start. Through a series of hardware diagnostic, tests etc, I managed to retrieve all the files. But when I try to open the files, many appeared gibberish. And there was folder which had more gibberish name to it. In there were 15 data files. Of which 10 files were read-able. The rest were corrupted.

I asked Su about it..I remembered it so clearly..she went silent for several minutes. And then I knew.. I just knew what it was.

So Su asked me to go to her house to pick up some books. I thought it was some children story books she wants to give to Natasha. But when I was there, Su just said :

"All the books are in that brown box. Please bring it home to read."

And I ask Su which is Chapter 1 or 2 or 3. And she said "Gina, there is no chapters. Just a story each month for 15 months."

I couldn't retrieve the digital copies for some of the stories. And I knew that Su wanted it to  be re-printed. And printers wants soft copies for layout, etc.

So I took it upon myself to re typed the lost 'chapters' from the computer. When Su found out that I did, she stop me from doing it. 

I encouraged Su to get it printed and I asked her back then how she wants it to be done. She says:

"It has to be a book that is black and white. The front cover must also be in Black n White. And maybe it has a picture or photo or something..something about Mirai. And the book will be titled as 'My Name is Mirai' "

It was always my intention to draw using just a 2B lead pencil, what I think Mirai would be liked. Drawing just silhouettes of a little girl, in all her curiousity about every day things and the things that made her happy. 

But I got worn down by work and life at home. And with my late father-in-law's long illness and my pregnancy with Melody was difficult, I never took time to do the drawings. But in my heart, I remembered all the things that Su used to tell me about Alan Booth, her late husband. Of how she was 'romantically challenged'..that's the words she used instead of "courted". She would tell me of things that she was happy about, or unhappy about. 

One of the saddest thing I have known Su for was to talk about Alan openly, freely in any way. It took like forever to hear her spoke of him fondly to us or even to Mirai. How she buried herself in work, how she never find courage to step into any hospital to visit anyone because she is plagued with unhappy memories of visiting Alan in his last days of suffering.

Falaq was at the wedding last night..and we both cried and we kept wiping our tears. Seeing the book gone to print was like seeing a miracle in the life of someone with whom we loved so dearly, coming into grips to reality and with life.

So Su, you have done it. You finally did. And I am so darn proud of you. We all are. All the people who stood by you, behind you, all these years. We are still here..especially me.. Yes, me. Your Forever Staff, forever here.

One last thing I said yesterday on stage for everyone was :

You never get to choose the people you meet each day, but those who left behind, left footprints in your heart, and stays with you forever..

And I know that many of the guests shed silent tears...


how to climb said...

thanks for the great read. nice blog.

Dean Karasinski said...

Hi Gina,

This is Mirai's husband Dean. Thank you for these kind words about my new Mum and all of the hard work you have put into the book over the years. It is an amazing accomplishment and an amazing tale to boot.

Also thank you for the cupcakes they were gorgeous and the lavender mooncakes were my favorite mooncakes I have EVER HAD!! So Delicious.

hadashi said...

It was wonderful to read your blog post, and to learn about what happened to Alan Booth's family throughout the years. Although they had a hard time, I'm glad that they received such wonderful support from many people.

I am a Dutch New Zealander who has moved to live permanently in Japan. I first heard about Alan Booth in a BBC Japanese language series just before I first visited Japan in 1994. I read his book, The Roads to Sata then, and have recently read it again. No doubt it contributed to my own adventures of traveling the lengths of New Zealand and Japan on foot (but without shoes).

Once again, thank you for your wonderful story about having the book of stories for Mirai finally published.

Gina Choong said...

Thank you Hadashi, Su would be delighted to hear that after so many years, people still find joy and adventure reading Alan's books. I have forwarded what you have written to her. Thank you..!