Don’t Box Me In


Many, many moons ago, The Tiny Tot was presented with a 12-in-1 type of baby’s toy. You know, the type where you slot shapes, bang at 5 musical slats, twirl coloured balls, and count wooden beads? The toy was meant to be educational, stimulating, challenging and all things good for the baby’s cognitive development, coordination and such.

The Tiny Tot was having none of it. He went for the box.

He sat in the box, made appropriate noises and said it was car. He swiped his spoon alongside it and said it was a boat. He held a kitchen towel roll core in front of it and said it was a tank. He beat it with his spoon and said it was a drum.

He put the box on its side, climbed in and said it was his house. He put it upside down, sat before it and said he was at school.

He put the box on Grandpa’s back and said Grandpa was a turtle.

The toy sat neglected in the corner.

And The Tiny Tot’s parents learnt to see the world through eyes that saw out of the box.





Buffet Line ~ Act of Kindness #11

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photo credit: peter hansen

Some years ago, I sustained an injury that required walking temporarily with a cane for balance and support. With my usual impeccable sense of timing, I was booked on a cruise that would be sailing during this recovery period.

I had two obvious choices – cancel or proceed with cane. The family (and the doctor) felt a cruise was leisurely enough for me to manage, provided I was careful during embarking and disembarking. So off we went.

My movements were slower than I would have liked and stairs were unfriendly obstacle courses, but the relaxed atmosphere made mobility less of an issue than I had feared. Until the buffet line.

I don’t remember how I ended up separated from the family but there I stood before the row of serving dishes, wondering how I would hold onto my cane, my plate and dish my food.

“Did you want the chicken or the beef?”

Young Lady Passenger spoke from behind me, smiling cheerfully. “Chicken? If you pass me your plate, I’ll get it for you.”

I remember staring at her, startled into silence. She must have thought I was really, really slow. Which I was, obviously, in more ways than one.

“What else, Auntie? You want veggies? Pasta?”

I protested that I could manage and that she should get her own food but, nope. She heaped my plate, and then left the line to carry the plate all the way to my seat.

I have never forgotten that act of kindness and unselfishness. If you happen to be reading this, know that I remain extremely humbled and grateful. Thank you.



What Are We Doing?

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photo credit: esther merbt

Son: Why are we walking on these stones with no shoes on? It’s painful!

Dad: Walking barefoot on stones massages and stimulates the reflex points in our feet.

Son: Huh?

Dad: When you walk on the stones, there’s pressure on your feet, right?

Son: Totally.

Dad: That pressure is a form of massage. Massaging the different parts of your feet improves blood circulation to different parts of the body.

Son: Get real.

Dad: It’s true. Even helps with blood pressure and cholesterol problems.

Son: Says who? Ow!

Dad: Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Son: We’re not Chinese.

Dad: The stones won’t discriminate.

Son: How do you know this is good for you? Did you ask Dr K?

Dad: Dr K’s always said we need to walk more to get fit. So, if walking on stones improves health, then we’re getting double fit.

Son: Haha! Ow!

Dad: Anyway, I checked online and read up about foot reflexology.

Son: Right. So, how about running? Like regular surface running? That good?

Dad: Not so good. Bad for the knees.

Son: Then this is really bad.

Dad: Why?

Son: Because the dog’s made off with your shoes.





Reading Bug ~ Act of Kindness #10


I came across this Reading Corner at the airport, of all places.

Intrigued, I wanted to inspect the titles and savour this joyful moment of discovering such a corner in an airport. First, however, I wanted to take a photo to prove I wasn’t hallucinating.

But as I lifted my camera, a little poppet galloped towards the shelves, shrieking, “Book! Book!”

I paused. A Reading Corner in a public space with books and a poppet excited by books?

Life had more surprises for me. The father grabbed the poppet. “Meimei, wait. Let the auntie take her photo first.”

It really was too much. I snapped the photo, thanked the father, waved at the poppet and retreated.

Inspecting book titles can wait. Celebrating this little vignette cannot. I am warmed by a father’s kind understanding and gracious patience, and a tiny child’s enthusiasm for books. And by the use of potential retail space for encouraging reading.

There is hope yet.



Clothes Maketh The Man

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photo credit: braydon anderson

Son:     What’s a costume?

Dad:     An outfit we wear when we pretend to be somebody else.

Son:     Like at Halloween?

Dad:     Yes.

Son:     Like Superman?

Dad:     Yes.

Son:     Which is his costume? The cape clothes or the ordinary clothes?

Dad:     The cape clothes. He only wears that when he needs to rescue somebody. The rest of the time he’s in ordinary clothes, like us.

Son:     But doesn’t he wear cape clothes all the time? Cos when he changes, he doesn’t have a bag. So they must be under the ordinary clothes.

Dad:     Okaa-aay. You have a point.

Son:     So his ordinary clothes are his costume, right? To hide the fact he’s Superman? He’s pretending to be ordinary?

Dad:     Well, yes. He probably doesn’t want everyone to know who he really is.

Son:     Why? He’s a good guy, right? Why does a Superhero want to pretend to be ordinary?

Dad:     So that he can do his job better. And be among the people he can help.

Son:     So when you go to work in your suit, are you pretending to be somebody else? Cos you said you like your shorts.

Dad:     That’s my office attire. It’s like your school uniform – you need to wear a certain set of clothes at a certain time so people know who you are. That’s not pretending.

Son:     Huh. So, what about a birthday suit? Is that a costume too?





Where Were You?

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photo credit: shwa hall

Where were you last night?
And the night before?
What is this strange scent?
Whose glove is this by the door?

Where were you last weekend?
Why didn’t you answer my call?
Was it you that made the hinge squeak at 5?
You know, from the door in the hall?

What’s this red petal on your collar?
What’s this stain on your coat?
What have you been up to?
What’s this smudge on your throat?

You really are a wandering minstrel
You tiny rescued scoundrel
You really need to mend your ways
Because I’ll follow you out one day.





The Umbrella ~ Act of Kindness #9

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We moved into the neighbourhood about ten years ago.

For some reason, I never really got to know the neighbours. We would nod awkwardly when our paths crossed or we would politely return misdirected mail but that was it. Perhaps it was my work schedule. Perhaps it was theirs. Or, as The Munchkin suggested, perhaps it was my face, which looks even worse when I smile.

Anyway, sometime in 2016, The Munchkin and I went shopping in the neighbourhood mall. As we prepared to leave, we were confronted with relentless rain. At the edge of the covered walkway stood Mr K. He was clutching his phone and we heard him say, “I can’t come right now because it’s raining,” as we drew nearer.

I handed him my umbrella. “Take it.”

I’ve never seen greater flabbergasted relief. “I … yes … no … yes … yourself?”

The Munchkin brandished our second umbrella (nobody remembers why we had two), and I assured Mr K that we would be fine. He grabbed the umbrella like a life vest and shot off across the street. We continued home.

We had barely put away our shopping when the doorbell rang. There was Mr K, Junior K, and my umbrella. There were thanks and pleasantries all round and that was that.

But it wasn’t. Thereafter, Mr K and his family never failed to say hi or stop to chat. Then the other neighbours started saying hi. And now we pretty much know everybody, and it feels like we’re a community.

Thanks, of all things, to an umbrella.



Johnny Depp and the Five Stars

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FANBOYS, ROY B GIV, MICE … No matter what the subject, mnemonics have served learners all over the world well.

My country’s flag has five stars and a crescent moon. At school, most kids have no problems explaining what the moon represents. But the five stars? We’ve heard everything from lights to twinkles.

About a decade ago, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End reached our shores. Somewhere in the movie is a scene where Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fatt), the Pirate Lord of Singapore, says, “Welcome to Singapore,” to the merry band of sailors here to rescue Jack Sparrow.

Historically, that wasn’t even what our country was called in the 1700s. But that’s not the point. My friends and I had an epiphany: Sparrow – Johnny Depp – star – Singapore! That was it!

Justice, Democracy, Equality, Peace, Progress. Those are the ideals as depicted by the five stars on the state flag.

And thanks to J Depp, I haven’t forgotten them yet.