It is nearly mid-autumn again! The time of the year when it is alright for children to play with fire! Sis got a cellophane fish this year, and I lit a candle mom found. Last year was a scurry for both lanterns and candles, as we could hardly find non-battery-operated ones. Ruirui sang a birthday to song to Oliver, who could only repeat “happy. to you” as they spun around and around, giggling.

Life is so different now from my childhood days. We are now eighteen storeys aboveground, with less than a square metre of outdoor space to hang a single lantern, carefully watched over because of its open flame.

Back in the village days, we used to hang an entire row of lanterns, huge ones, along the eaves of our house. The tiny birthday candles also lined up the building apron, and we sat outside eating mooncakes, pomelos, little dough piglets, and sipping bitter Chinese tea. Our dogs too, lazed with us, under the moon and twinkle of stars. Sometimes we lit sparkles too, and sometimes we threw TNT poppers at one another. Sometimes the lanterns burned themselves, and we all ran and jumped and hollered as dad or aunt tried to put the fire out.

With urbanisation, we moved into towering flats. The open spaces now even bigger, and embellished with giant animals as playground. We would light the elephant structure up with rows of candles, and sometimes even the giraffe. It was fun! Our family had then expanded in a way, to include all the big brothers and sisters in our block, and we addressed their parents as uncles and aunties. We went to school together, attended tuition classes together, cycled and played together, and we had art lessons together. Sometimes when my mom was busy, one of the neighbouring big brothers would pick us up from the classes. Sometimes their moms would babysit us, teaching us how to make desserts fit for children. I still call them big brothers now, while the big sisters have moved overseas. I still address their parents as aunties and uncles. Children will always be children in the eyes of the adults however we grow and age. 

Now it seems we no longer have playgrounds that size, nor playgrounds tall enough, nor playgrounds with natural sand. Now we have pokestops and poke gyms, small enough to fit into the phones tinier than their predecessor bricks.

Fortunately, my mom brought the kampung spirit (the village community spirit) with her, and our little Oliver is still known all around the entire neighbourhood. Although no one knows what my sis or my brother-in-law looks like.


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