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A week before my birthday, Val asked me, “How do you want to celebrate your birthday?”
Without even thinking, I (Tay) said, “No need to celebrate. It’s just another day, which is no different from any other day.”
Val insisted and the night before my birthday, she gave me an instruction, “We have to wake up early tomorrow, leave the Casa latest by 8:15am. I have a surprise for you.”
First of all, I am not a person who likes surprises. Secondly, I am 33 years old already, a bit too old for birthday surprises. But I know Val will be disappointed if she did not get to spring a surprise for me, so I dutifully jumped out of bed the next morning when the alarm went off at 7am.
We took a local collectivo (the mini-vans driven by local F1-wannabes), went on a ride to hell and arrived at this mysterious place that Val had planned my surprise.
At 8:45 in the morning, we were standing outside closed shutters waiting for a shop to open. There were already people waiting outside the shop. I became curious. What kind of a shop is this?
Val said, “We had to come early because this shop opens only on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is always a long queue before the shop opens. If you come late, there will be nothing left.” And then she added, “Be patient.”
I started counting down the seconds to 9am.
9am. The closed shutters rolled up to reveal…
Val handed me a basket and announced, “Everything here is handmade, homemade and all natural. It is your birthday, you can choose anything that you want, and as many as you want.”
I took the basket, beamed and trottered off, like a child let loose in a warehouse full of toys. I even had a jingle singing in my head:
I can choose anything I want.
I can choose as many as I want.
After the sweet treat in the morning, this was what we had for lunch:
My dear Val busied herself the whole morning in the kitchen, repeating these actions: Stirring the pot of soup, tasting it, adding something more to it, stirring the pot, tasting it, adding something more to it…
Why is this entry about food? All the people who knew me before this journey knew that I could never be associated with food. I was known as the Producer who was extremely low maintenance in life because I hardly, if ever eat anything, at all. Many of my friends live to eat. I eat to live.
For my friends who knew me as someone without taste buds, with this entry, I am proud to announce that times have changed. The day my appetite for life came alive, I came alive, and the food in front me came alive.
For those of you who did not know me before this journey, this entry is about the celebration of life.
The day we started this journey, we knew we had limited funds. I always see celebrations as something that zap our funding and I would always feel guilty after spending the money on a little treat for us. It frustrates the hell out of Val every time I ask her, “Are you sure this is not too expensive?”
“They say money can’t buy happiness. Yet if a sweet bun that costs 6Q (SGD1) can buy an awfully silly grin that radiates from a very happy heart, I say we buy the bun. We can afford this happiness.” – Val
This birthday I realized, life is about celebrations. We are never too old to have birthday surprises. My Grandmother is 86 years old this year and she still celebrates her birthday. She never fails to laugh whenever I jumped in front of her face to shout, “Ah-ma Happy Birthday!!!” to her. When The Bake Shop opened its doors in the morning, I realized I was happy. I liked my surprise. I was happy I was going to have a celebration. I felt special. I felt loved.
Celebrations keep us going. They keep us alive.
So to top up the celebrations, I asked for a sinful indulgence for dinner. I asked for Fried Chicken:
Be nice to yourself.
Find something to celebrate.