Thursday, August 23, 2012

Small Figurines

As a kid in Geylang, I couldn't wait to grow up quickly enough. I wanted to be 'big' enough to play basketball with the older kids in our backlane, ride a motorbike, drive my dad's ridiculously long Volvo station-wagon, and to walk into one of the many cabaret bars in Geylang to see for myself what the fuss was all about.

The very pale ladies in silky robes that emerged from the bars in the morning with a cigarette or glass of brandy in hand also added to the mystery. Why did my mom say these places were bad? Were these pale ladies vampires? Did vampires also smoked and drank?

Christopher Lee's vampire was sometimes on TV. The only thing he drank was blood. Maybe the brownish stuff in the ladies' drink was diluted blood, not brandy. After all, the police would know if anybody drank blood, right? Folks would go missing. Folks like that vagabond who lived on our neighbour's staircase landing and who would disappear for weeks on end. We seldom saw him in the day too!

Now that I am older and not so vampire-frightened, my worries come in a different form and shadow. I worry about my continued good health; I worry about how long my aging mom would still be with us. I know it is a topic all growing-up children worry about at some point in their lives. We all want our parents to be with us forever in good health and in good humour. Not ravaged by illness or a nasty temper. Nor bewrapped in stinky diaper.

I also wonder what I should do with my mom's beautiful collections of figurines when she goes. They are in showcase cupboards which I do not have space in my apartment for. Unless I throw something out. My housemate?

My mom has this habit of collecting and arranging stuff in a glass cupboard for display. She has a particular fondness for jade and tiny figurines.

I don't know when this habit began but when I was very young, I remember we having a longish display case full of preserved exotic insects. There were stick insects, dung beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, butterflies, etc. All were placed with deliberate thought in a setting made of driftwood, twigs, dried leaves and ferns. Though the insects were all dead and preserved, they looked very much alive. Only the pin through their thorax gave any indication that they would be stuck there for eternity.

Come to think of it, my mom's hobby could have begun when she started helping a neighbour paint some plastic bendy toys for extra money. I remember the Pink Panther and Snaggle Puss ones. They were just thin rubber toys with a flexible, wire skeleton. A simple construction, but you can pose them anyhow you want!

When we moved to our new home in the north, we had a huge display shelf running the width of our living room. On it my mom would place stuff to exhibit. Among the items was a Chinese scenery scene carved out of cork. I'm sure you have seen these before. She would also have those small Chinese display racks that held miniature porcelain plates or cups.

When my mom again moved to a bigger home later, her hobby grew too. This time, she purposely made cupboards with see-through glass fronts. They were tinted a little to help protect the things inside from UV light.

Her collection soon consisted of popular toys from MacDonald Happy Meals and KFC. She also had collections of small cat figurines, small vases, assorted animals, miniature deities, etc. All in all, they would take up some three to four standalone cabinets.

In one new cupboard, there's a piece of driftwood especially painted in gold for a flower arrangement. I like this piece. It hints of Japanese ikebana kado but is all-Chinese. It says in sum what my mom is all about: She might have had little formal schooling but she's all wit, humour and artist rolled into one. Even the art of preserving insects she experimented and learnt on her own. Not bad for someone who had to look after six kids full-time at the time.

I have also picked up the habit. I think this kind of thing is part of one's DNA. I remember once reading about a set of identical twins separated at birth. They grew up in separate countries but both liked to wear flannel shirts and chose wives with the same first names. What's even more amazing is that both had built a bench around a tree in their respective gardens.

So I guess my mom's habit of building collections is in my blood, only that I like to display things that I've picked up from my travels only. -That and good quality miniature cars. I don't do flower arrangement but used to give my girlfriends handpicked and self-arranged ones. I like to sculpt but only in my head. I don't have living space for the real thing!

Previous story: Meeting Dai Ma; Next story: My Mom's Story I

Habits die hard. My mom still displayed miniature stuff on
on her shelves after moving to a smaller, more manageable
apartment. Previously, the figures were in display cabinets.  

Another thing my mom liked collecting were these airline
wine sample bottles. Some still sporting old MAS logos.

Vintage and new. I did own a Mini Sport once. ;-)

An assemblage of knicknacks. ;-)

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