(A lil' blog on a dotty hill somewhere)

Wednesday, January 4

Creative Tuesdays: The Story Behind the Woman on the Train

Arms folded, always traveling, she looked out beyond these trees, into another time when life was so glamorous, care-free and full of fun...


Saying goodbye to Petaling Jaya, to her dear Malaya once again, how could she know that decades later, she would never return? A few more "lives" from now, all that would remain would be the bittersweet memories of brighter times casting their increasingly faded hue onto longer shadows of duller, forlorn years — years that would stretch past her current middle age and deep into the fading light of a long, often lonely, bleak winter.

Instead of sparkling oceans and romantic horizons, her life would only diminish. Behind four whitewashed walls of her new-found confines, she would be alone in her experiences that no one could possibly imagine. Her upbringing was a Colonial life, as was her father's and father's father, but those days were long gone. Her only voyages would be in those tenuous dreams of once more embarking on her ship and heading out of port. One day, she'll console herself that this journey will indeed be her last. Setting sail, she won't look back to those dark waters, her heart instead fixed on another horizon, one also lush with promise. Yes, the sun will return, the colors will then become ever brighter.

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I dedicate this piece of art and story to my mother, who now faces an unwanted life in an elderly care home, burdened by a heavy heart and ailing body. Even now, she still wishes she could return to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands — exotic locales she enjoyed not just in her childhood (before the Japanese invaded) but again in her 20's for several years and later still, with my father in her 30's (where we spent our baby to pre-school years). As she often reminds us, she may be English but remains a child of the tropics! "Why do I live in such a bloody cold country?!" she often laments. Indeed. Life has taken her to untold heights and incredible lows. Her life's journey has been one of loves discovered and lost, privileges enjoyed and stripped, and of children come and gone afar. Faced now with short term memory loss, those exotic days of old when she worked for Special Branch, entranced with frivolous days of dancing and cocktail parties and visits to Raffles hotel are some of the memories that she can still hold fast to and enjoy their revelry.

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Dear Mama, I love and cherish you. One day you can and will once more set sail to those distant shores but this time there will be no sorrows.

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12 comments

  1. This is a beautiful and moving tribute to you mother Michael...you write so beautifully might I add. When I saw the art piece I went 'wow!'.

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    1. and I just noticed her beautiful photo below.

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    2. Oh, so glad you saw the photo that Alexandra found upon our last visit back in England. :) thank you so much, Christine! I think this was in her 20's when my older sister was born, when in Singapore, not in her 30's when my sister was born in KL. A far different life. Her;s is a life of contradictions, joys and sorrows. Through it all, she was one incredible, indomitable, woman. Her continuing health and family issues took their too. Just so glad I had the chance to go back and help her locate to somewhere where she can be properly taken care of and my sister's toll lessened some too.

      Thanks for you lovely comment on my art too. I tried to keep this sort of dream like and non-descript for the exact time but obviously 40's, 50's or maybe the 60's. If only I could have painted like Edward Hopper! :) Anyway, what a prompt! Next one will be a lot easier I think. This was hard. Lol.

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  2. This photo of Mama was before her thyroid and hear t murmur really took its toll too. Better days in that regard! :)

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  3. Oh Michael, I'm so touched with your painting, and your tribute to a beautiful and wonderful woman. Your mother was a beautiful young woman, and I can see you got her looks. The older I get, the more I can relate to those who are in the winter of their lives.

    Thank you for opening your heart and letting us get a glimpse.

    I'm so glad this was my new beginnings. Love and Hugs.

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    1. Age has not been her friend, I'm afraid, but yes in her younger days she always reminded me of an Elizabeth Taylor. Than kyou for your lovely comment and so glad you are back into the art world! Happy New CREATIVE Year to you, dear Wanda!

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  4. I loved this tiny glimpse into your mother's life Michael so beautifully illustrated by your painting and words.
    From her photograph I too can see that you are your mother's son - it must be very difficult for you all.

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    1. Wow, so nice to hear from you, Rosemary. Thank you so much for your very touching words here. I'm jsut glad we got to move her into a home where she cab be properly take care of. :) She is loved. That's more than too many elderly in more dire emotional circumstances.

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  5. I felt like I was reading someone's memoir of sorts, full of nostalgic thoughts. seeing the bright yellow dress and hat and shoes, she seems ready for adventures, perhaps she is dreaming many great new things...

    a touching & very sweet tribute.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. Well, at the point of the picture she is leaving on another grand adventure, no t knowing what lies ahead and how one day she will not return to that part of Asia again, as outlined above. Thank you, Lissa!

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  6. A very nice tribute to your Mum. My wife is a 'diplomatic daughter' and travelled the world from embassy to embassy. She too often has thoughts of old haunts. Best wishes.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by. Wow. I'm sure our mums would have a grand time chatting about the past. :)

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