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i was just woken by my father and brother ringing me from malaysia and now i can’t go back to sleep. they were at my grandmother’s 80th birthday party, and it sounded like the typical jee-family extravaganza in the backgound. i ended up having to yell my part of the conversation and even then i think they only got half of it.

my brother sounded pretty relaxed, although he admitted he had gotten involved in that day’s family meltdown (a regular occurrence, one that he usually stays well away from). but by the time we spoke it had blown over and he was feeling pretty good and was back onto trivia: “oh sorry for waking you up. hey you know that song that goes, [singing] ‘i love you, for sentimental reasons’? what’s that called?”

“um…i think it’s called ‘for sentimental reasons’.”

“great! thanks, you’re a great phone-a-friend. do you want to talk to mama?”

he handed me over to mama, who, as usual, was talking with her mouth full, but sounded like she was enjoying herself immensely as the focus for the whole dinner.

“hi mama, it’s rebecca. happy birthday!”

“anh…anh…hey, hey, hello, anh thank you, thank you. eating lots, very good food. why you not here?”

“i couldn’t come because of work.”

“work? ai-yoh, what’s work? no need work. just stop and come round. i save you some.” uh…ok.

“ha ha, that’s nice.”

“no, you come, you come round, okay? i save you some.”

“ok, sure.”

“so when you coming?”

“i’m too far away, mama! i’m in sydney!”

she laughs like it’s the funniest joke ever. so i just said, “well happy birthday then.”

“okay, okay, thank you.”

she handed me back to my brother and i went “okay, did she even know that was me?” he laughed and said “yeah, probably not.” oddly enough though, it wasn’t that much less comprehensible a conversation than those we would have had before she started ‘losing it’, as my dad so gently puts it.

talked briefly to dad and ended up yelling down the phone “I might have hepatitis or glandular fever! no, hepatitis! maybe!”

“oh really?” he said. “what did you do to get that?”


well he sounded suitably concerned, but i guess the context he was in made it difficult to have any sort of serious conversation.

sounds, images and smells from other massive chinese family birthday banquets won’t stop banging around in my head. at this point, i’m glad that i’m able to just go back to bed and not have to participate. must try to go back to sleep now.