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October 2010 Archives

Places We Love, by Ivan V. Lalic

Places we love exist only through us,
Space destroyed is only illusion in the constancy of time,
Places we love we can never leave,
Places we love together, together, together,

And is this really a room, or an embrace,
And what is beneath the window: a street or years?
And the window is only the imprint left by
The first rain we understood, returning endlessly,

And this wall does not define the room, but perhaps the night
Your son began to move in your sleeping blood,
A son like a butterfly of flame n your hall of mirrors,
The night you were frightened by your own light,

And this door leads into any afternoon
Which outlive it, forever peopled
With your casual movements, as you stepped,
Like fire into copper, into my only memory;

When you go, space closes over like water behind you,
Do not look back: there is nothing outside you,
Space is only time visible in a different way,
Places we love we can never leave.

(translated from the Serbo-Croat by Francis R. Jones)

The Dreaded 40

It’s amazing how fast life can make a 180-degree solid about turn. Less than 48 hours ago, we were celebrating my birthday, the kids were busy blowing out candles on cakes - one from the church choir folks (thanks Luke and Paul!) and one baked by my mother-in-law. Life was so good, especially when the kids were wonderfully well-behaved.

Then night hit and Caleb came down with a fever. Then Anne. Even now I’m constantly putting cold compresses on her head, trying desperately to keep the fever down. 39.7, 39.6…I’m fighting for every decimal point here. Trying hard to avoid the dreaded 40. For some psychological reason, the late 39’s are bad, but 40 is terrible. 40 is the “should I rush her to the hospital or empty a vat of ice on her” threshold.

In Primary school 40 was also a dreaded number. I was in a class of 44 students and my academic grades always had me solidly ranked with the back of the pack. Coming in 37 was a dream, 39 not so good, but 40 and above it became a whole new situation of having to answer for all the sins I’ve ever committed. All the television I’ve watched, hours I’ve spent playing outside instead of studying. Please, dear God, let me come in 39.

Now I am a year closer to 40. It is no longer the photos or birthday cakes that remind me - I feel the aches and pains of a body that doesn’t repair itself with the same youthful vigour anymore. It is still some way to go before the big four-oh, but it’s clearly sitting there, just at the horizon.

The ghosts of primary school haunt me, but I’ve had an awesome ride till now, and it is my intent to go out all the way guns ablazing, not letting up in doing whatever it takes to be a better neighbour, or gathering and enabling others to do the same.And in all things giving thanks to God, for whatever the future holds, in Him some things remain secure.

In the Moment

These 2 Indian ladies occupy the same bench every evening, their 2 white dogs on leashes as they observe the day-to-day routine of the neighbourhood repeat itself with little variations in each iteration. The contrast of fluffy white fur against their dark skin, their presence has become part of the coming home experience for the many families who walk this path daily.

Anne and Caleb often run up to say hi, if only to gaze curiously at the dogs for a bit, before bolting off towards the lift lobby, jumping over imaginary lava floes made up of lines of different coloured tiles on the uniform concrete floor.

The passage of time becomes apparent: when we first began walking this path, there was only Anne, and we carried her. There is now two, chatty as ever, and we beam with pride whenever they show the appropriate level of respect and cheerfulness when greeting the 2 seated aunties; it is this race-agnostic unity that I love about Singapore and want desperately to protect. The 2 little tykes also used to need help leaping over their imaginary obstacles. These days they jump over them without nary a thought. It won’t entertain them for much longer, I think to myself.

I put my arms around Faith. Life is good, I tell her. We breathe it in deep, so utterly satisfied, yet half-afraid at the inevitable: that all this too shall pass.

We have today’s blessings to be thankful for.

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