Silver is gold
“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold”
— Carole King
I think describing myself as part of the Silver Generation is quite apt, even if those of my age have yet to be bestowed with a label by the Gahmen (Singlish for “Government”).
So, born in 1961, I am now 59 years old. Young. Whatever. Not exactly decrepit, in fact fairly tech-savvy and well-traveled, still got all my marbles and “unternehmungslustig*“, but an “auntie” nonetheless.
*Another of those German words which I think lose something in translation. It can be translated as adventurous, enterprising, sporting, adventuresome. I would add “gung ho”.
It’s been quite a ride. I grew up in a kampong by East Coast Road in 1960s Singapore which had no proper plumbing, and flooded when it rained and the tide was high. When we were sick, we waited for the mobile clinic that came around once a week, as we were all too poor to visit a doctor. The mobile clinic dispensed medicine for the ailments that plagued kampong folks, especially kids, living in less than sanitary conditions: cough mixtures, de-licers for getting rid of lice in our hair (I recall once having my hair and scalp doused in kerosene to get rid of lice – don’t quite recall why we didn’t get the de-licing lotion from the mobile dispensary), syrup for getting rid of tapeworm (oh how we looked forward with anticipation when going to the toilet the next day, to see what would come out….).
Thanks to my parents, I was privileged to enjoy an education up to secondary level. And with special thanks to my mother, I was sent to an English school, instead of a Chinese one as some of my father’s friends thought we should. Being Chinese and all. Fortunately, my mother put her foot down. Referring to some of the neighbours, she simply said, “See, those who graduated from Chinese school can’t find a job after graduating.”
The English-language education up to secondary level gifted to me by my parents set a firm foundation for me to build on. I went on to upgrade myself over many years, by attending night classes while holding full-time jobs, and went on to get my GCE ‘A’ levels, an advanced German language diploma, and then a bachelor’s degree, Much as I disdained those weaving their paper qualifications about, the bits of paper opened doors to new job opportunities, and I know there were jobs that I had been weeded out from the outset due to my lack of the required paper quals.
My life has indeed been very colourful. Many memories linger of my happy childhood, blissfully oblivious of how hard life was. We didn’t know we were poor, because all our neighbours lived just like us. We spent carefree days roaming freely within the perimeters of the kampong, and at the nearby beach, before land reclamation to build condos moved the beach further out, and we had to move when our landlord sold their land.
Also my life after the kampong. The places I’ve been to, the experiences I’ve had.
In my silver years, I hope to make time to tell the stories. Their stories, and mine.