Monday, October 01, 2007

Death, Art, Knots and Poor Quality Guides

There I was in the office bright and early (for once), my management updates all handed up in time, smugly anticipating (rather than dreading) the management meeting.

And then my phone went off. When I saw it was Mum trying to call, my stomach took a dive. Thing is she never calls in the morning unless there's bad news. Like last week when she called to tell me that my crazy aunt (known elsewhere in this blog as Old Lady) had been attacked by parang-wielding Indian hooligans who tried to push her in the house and rape her.

Old Lady's nearly 70.

It was not an edifying story.

Mum: Jenny ah?

Me: Hi Mum.

Mum: You at home ah?

Me: No, at the office.

Mum: Oh, I just called to tell you that Elizabeth Chew died.

Wham! I goldfished in shock for a while. Elizabeth Chew was my old art teacher at the Convent. She was a cantankerous old biddy who yelled at the girls, slapping a few (and what's more getting away with it). But still. She was one of those people you sort of forget after school, but who form part of the landscape of people who continue to exist until it's time for them to die.

It was not time for her die. Not to my mind at least.

An early disappointment in love had turned her into an angry bitter woman who could spew venom with the best. But there were flashes of colour. She was a very good art teacher. She was the only one who made me take that "free period" class seriously. And, when not in temper, she could be pretty inspirational.

She was also our Girl Guide mistress. My most poignant memory of her in that role is of me failing my knots exam and of her saying in front of a class of strange (meaning I didn't know them) girls: "We don't want poor quality Guides like Jennifer!"

Why are my thoughts of the dearly departed so uncharitable? Anyway, back to my conversation with Mum:

Me(in strangled whisper): How?

Mum: Snatch thief.

Visions of her being dragged by those blasted motorbikes swirled in my brain. Oh dear. Not what I wanted to hear or think about or imagine, first thing Monday morning.

Me: Really? You mean they...?

Mum: After church she went to Holiday Plaza for dinner. As she was getting out of her car, three men jumped her and took her handbag. She fell and her head hit the car. Went to the hospital to get stitches. Then when she got home, she started vomiting. And then she died.

(As you can see, Mum doesn't believe in beating around the bush)


Mum: Yeah, so be careful OK? First day of the month and all. Some more Hari Raya holidays coming up.

Me: Yeah, OK.

Goodbye Miss Chew.

I hope you find peace.

And I forgive you for calling me a "poor quality Guide" which translated into a belief that I was a poor quality everything for most of my high school years.


Nessa said...

Wow, I'm sorry about Miss Chew and your Aunt, too.

But you didn't need those damn knots anyway.

jackie said...

I dont mean to be uncharitable but what goes around comes around.

Jenn said...

Nessa: I used some of the knots, you know...I wish I hadn't forgotten my nice piece of string that day. It would have changed the course of my life. NOT!

Jack: Aiya, don't like thatlar...