A Special Day of My Life

Mid-Autumn Festival has been always a special day in my life.
Like Christmas, it has a special place in my heart.

Mid-Autmn Festival used to be a big and important gathering at my late-granny’s place – when all the adults and children gathered. The elders played many rounds of mahjong and the children (my cousins) roamed the dark streets with their own lighted lanterns. It was the only "official" day of the year when children were allowed to play with matches and fire. (My elders were very strict with us back then – they allowed us to hold joss-sticks but never allow us to lit up a candle.)

The streets where my late-granny stayed were dark and deserted. Once the sun set, a group of us will gathered and planned our "adventure". We will explored the "unknown" back alleys of the neighbourhood. We will purposely avoid all the main roads where they were brightly lit (our excuse: too dangerous, got cars). The fun and exciting part about Mid-Autumn Festival isn’t about the awful unhealthy oily and sticky mooncake – but the "exploration of the dark alley" with our humble candles and paper-lantern. (Haaa…rule of the night – must bring extra candles – those cheapo candles lasted only like 10 minutes max).

Of course, the adults will never knew where their little rascals have gone to. I remember one year when I led a few neighbourhood kids to explore the dark, smelly and rat-infested drain system. We walked and walked…along the algae-banks of the canals.. (Singapore has a very extensive underground canal system – like the underground CTE expressway – it cut across streets above us. Most of the time, we were very amazed at the exit point. Our expressions were typically like this "Ooooh…so this is a short cut to the Parkway Parade" or "this is the hidden passage to our school".

Of couse, these "shortcuts" and underground routes stayed deep in our heads. When we needed a quick escape from any neighbourhood rich brats or when we were running late, we will ran and jumped into these "system". Pretty safe and smooth. And no ERP for sure.

Sadly, during my late-granny’s final years (between 1994-1999), the gathering got smaller. Only the 4 of us (my parents, my sister and I) came to spent this day with granny. The kids in the neighbourhood had grown up..and many of their grandparents had passed away (gone were their gatherings too). The street of Koon Seng was deserted and quiet. There was hardly any sign of festive mood – even my cousins weren’t there anymore.

Granny and dad (as usual) took out the foldable table out from the storeroom. Both of them placed the table just right outside the gate. Under the dim yellow lights, granny setup simple offerings for the Gods. (A red cup of joss sticks, a plate of mooncake, a plate of green pomelo and some cups of rice wine.) My sister and myself will light up "old lanterns" (recycled from past years) around the compound – ground-floor, 2nd floor, gate, swing, barb-wire fence…

No, my sister and I were young adults then… No more running the streets or drainage with lanterns. Just seating there, enjoying the peaceful night with many beautiful lanterns illuminating the dark quiet sky. Very nostaglic, I would say. Very fond memories.

Granny, mum and dad said nothing those nights. Year after year, it became an unspoken custom for my family. Our family and my granny will spent this night, sitting by the swing, enjoying the floating lights. It was beautiful and special. Even till this very day.

1999 Mid-Autumn Festival was the last night we spent at her house. (Still remember I dragged the wahbiang clan along with me.)

It is this kind of night when I miss my family, my granny and my childhood. Now, I am spending this special night with my wife and boy in Hong Kong. Yes. It is a very special festival for me and my family. It was also the day we chose to register our marriage.

Happy Mooncake Festival to all. Miss you again, granny.

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