From Suffolk, England with love

There was an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald (published on 4 July 2009) which read:

“I live in a small rural village in Suffolk, England. Our church has a number of war graves. One belongs to a Flight Sergeant David K. Lloyd, number 402798, of the RAAF. He died April 12, 1942, aged 22. I believe he was born in Adamstown, NSW, in 1919. If any readers think they might be related to him, I would be happy to send them photographs. I make sure there are fresh flowers on the grave regularly. I don’t like the idea of him being so far from home with no one to look after him. Contact Sally Higgins…”

I could picture the scene: a church in the small village in Suffolk, and a graveyard where soldiers as well as commoners rest. Tucked away in the corner of the cemetery, is the humble gravestone of Flight Sergeant David K. Lloyd. It’s not big and flashy like the others, and there are hardly any visitors who stop by on his birthdays or anniversaries to pay their respects. David K. Lloyd has no family in England, he is an Australian soldier. But a kind lady visits the grave every Sunday morning, and puts a bunch of yellow daffodils on Sgt Lloyd’s grave.

I thought it was very touching, so I wrote an email to the kind lady:

“Dear Sally

I am writing in relation to your ad in the Sydney Morning Herald (published on 4 July 2009), regarding Flight Sergeant David K. Lloyd.

I am not related to Sgt. Lloyd, but I was extremely moved by your ad and your kind gesture towards a complete stranger. After doing some searches on the Australian War Memorial (AWM) website, I found out that Sgt. David K. Lloyd’s name is indeed located on the Roll of Honour, which is carved on the walls of the AWM. If you would like to see for yourself, the link is:

I wish you all the best, and I am certain that Sgt. Lloyd’s family will be very grateful.”

And this was the lovely reply I received:

“Hello Shirley,

Many thanks for your e-mail. I have been overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to help. It is so kind.

One of the replies I have received was from a close family friend, who has put me in touch with Flight Sergeant Lloyds sister. I am now able to send her photographs of her brothers grave and the churchyard where he rests.

Once again, many thanks.”

My Mum

If I had to describe my mum to a stranger, I would say that my mum is tall, has the kindest face, and a pair of rough hands. That would be the end of it. The unwary stranger wouldn’t know that her gentle face is a reservoir of decades of heartaches and care for her family; and that pair of hands, a gesture of years of hard work with no time to look after herself.

Mum – to her family

To me, my mum is an ordinary woman with extraordinary resilience and determination. My brother, who is now perhaps too young to appreciate these qualities, would undoubtedly realise this when he grows up. To dad, mum is what the Chinese would call a “virtuous wife and good mother”. She always put dad, my brother and I before herself. Good food were given to us first, and any money were spent on us as a priority.

Dad came to Australia in the late 80’s to pursue possible new opportunities, embarking on this so-called “sterling gold” process (a phrase used in China at the time to describe a person venturing overseas for a Western education so that they could return home and start a better life). “Sterling gold” took longer than anyone had anticipated, and Dad decided to set up home in Brisbane. It was seven years later that mum and I finally set our foot on the Aussie soil. I, a pre-adolescent teen, and mum, an education consultant who was more accustomed to training teachers and designing lessons than what was to come.

Soon after we arrived in Brisbane, the necessity to make a decent living became our family’s number one priority. Dad had just quit his job in carpet wholesale, and mum had no knowledge of English to look for a job with decent pay. A short stint at a Chinese restaurant as a kitchen hand gave my parents the idea of opening their own restaurant.

With little capital and lesser knowledge of running a restaurant, my parents opened up Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant in Brisbane’s south. I still remember the green and cream striped awning that dad put up himself, and the second hand chairs that my parents bought for $5 each at an auction. Both my parents worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week setting up the business – blood, sweat, tears, with me in toll. Mum was pregnant with my brother at the time, but stilled laboured way in the restaurant until she was 7 months into her pregnancy.

The business boomed and our family was much better off, but the work never lessened. I think this was how we formed a tight bond as a family. We were always in the restaurant together, ate lunch at 2:30pm when the shop closed for the afternoon; and had dinner at 10:30pm, after the last customers had left. I would always complain about not being able to go out with my friends on the weekends, and mum would say “this is for our family, you will appreciate it in the future”.

As I am writing this, Shanghai Cuisine had long being sold, and our family owned several restaurants after that. Mum and dad are no longer working, and enjoying the life of two happy retirees. But mum’s words still stayed with me, the experience still stayed with me. As I grew older, I did come to appreciate the hard work that both of my parents put in to make a better life for me and my brother. My mum especially, because I can’t imagine myself being the strong woman that she is. But I’m slowing learning.

Mum – to her friends

To her friends, mum is a generous and down-to-earth person, perhaps also a great cook. She is someone you can always rely on and depend upon. When I was young, I always say that mum’s generosity had led her to disadvantage herself at times. But now I realise that this is just how she is, always putting others before herself.

Her warm heart and enthusiastic nature lend themselves well to her being a team player. She is now a proud member of a local choir group that practices regularly and hold concerts for the local retirement village.

Mum can whip up extraordinary dishes that impressed her friends at our various house parties. Her recipes and cooking advices are highly soughtafter. I have inherited her love to entertain, but is no where near a good cook as she is.

Mum is not one of those “super mums”, nor is she one of those “soccer mums”. Now she is a garden mum, a songstress mum, a mum who deserves her own time to enjoy what she loves.

Mum wouldn’t be able to read this (years of hard work never really left time for her to learn English properly), and it’s a shame that I cannot express these feelings in writing with Chinese. But I think I will pick up the phone now and wish her an early happy Mother’s Day.