Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Angels in Cheong Sams

My grandfather Tiong Kung Ping had a step sister, called Tiong Yuk Ging. This makes her our great grandfather Tiong King Kee's daughter. Our own great grandmother ,mother of Tiong Kung Ping, passed away very early so GGF TKK married a second time to a dainty, pretty lady, with bound feet and brought her and Goo Poh(or Great Aunt) Tiong Yuk King to Sibu.

Goo Poh, Tiong Yuk Ging became one of the most well loved aunts of ours. She was a servant of God, a great kindergarten teacher, a soft spoken Foochow lady, an educator and a whole list of others. So many of us owe her our beautiful and privileged childhood. And other children who grew up around the Methodist Primary School, along Island road in the the 1950's and 1960's would remember this kind and gentle angel in Cheong Sam.

Goo Poh was educated in the Methodist School which was set up by Rev Hoover and upon her graduation, she started teaching in the Methodist Kindergarten. Grandfather Kung Ping had wanted her to marry a scholar and a professional and not a farmer. So he arranged for her to be married into the Kiu family of Sibu. The Kiu family was a family of scholars and gentlemen. thus she married Mr. Kiu, the brother of Dr. Kiu Nai Ding, who was a famous physician in Sibu in the early forties, and had three children, Kiu Koh Siong, Kiu Ik Sing and Kiu Ik Ding who are all in their late fifties or sixties now. Koh Siong is in Europe while Ik Sing is in England and only Ik Ding is still in Sibu.

Our Goo Poh never wore anything except a cheongsam and she cut a very graceful and classic figure in that attire. She also made all her own clothes and the clothes of her children and other relativs. In fact as a young child, I was blessed by her gifts of clothes,some of which were hand stitched.

The most wonderful part of our primary school life was the privileges we enjoyed during recess. As she lived in the Memorial Building of the Methodist Church , which was sited within the primary school, we the grandchildren of Tiong Kung Ping, would rush up the more than 60 cement steps of the stair case and enjoy our kampua which were left in her kitchen by the noodle seller.

My brother Kai, remembered that the school canteen operator finally put a stop to all our special treatment (which went on for moe than 10 years) and the town noodle seller could not longer bring the kampua mee to Goo Poh's kitchen for all the Tiong grandchildren. This made the school canteenoperator very jealous and livid. But this special treat would endear us to Goo Poh who also prepared special lunch for us if we were detained by the school headmaster, the most famous of whom was Mr. Wong Kie Mee.

Later on in the 1990's, when my children went to the Primary School, they too enjoyed special treatment fromGoo Poh who was then fairly well into her sixties.

One marvellous dish that she cooked was the yellow curry wich was just full of Foochow goodness. You see this curry is all santan with the tumeric and not chili. so the thick milky soup and the nice fresh chicken was just the correct taste for our young children. They would dig into the thick soup and have a really stomach filling lunch.

Goo Poh was always generous to her young relatives as she had a heart of gold. All of us would remember her with fondness and great love as she so loved us, fed us, clothed us and never,never,never raised her voice at us. She was just such a gentle person. And I can bet with any one that you won't find another person better than her.

She lived well into her 80's when finally old age caught up with her and one evening, she just passed on, leaving behind a son, two daughters, in laws,cousins, grandchildren and grand nephews and grand niceces to mourn her pasing. We really miss the gentle angel in cheong sam. And we have actually never thanked her enough for all that she had given to us. I hope that this little posting could be read by her in heaven.

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