Last month, my mum and I came back after lunch one afternoon and found that the power supply at home had tripped. No matter what we tried, we could not switch the circuit box back on, so we called the Town Council who sent an electrician to help. He identified the fridge as the cause of the power trip and informed us that it had mostly likely broken down.
That was when Mum started freaking out over the amount of food items stored inside. “What about all the fish and meat that your aunt just brought over the other day? Let’s go to the electronics store nearby now and get a new fridge!” I called the store that she was familiar with, but they were not able to deliver a new fridge the same day. She started shrieking in the background, but there was no point getting all upset if they were unable to deliver the same day. I asked her to keep calm and started checking online for stores that had a same-day delivery policy for fridges.
We rushed out to a nearby mall where there were two electronics stores. One said that the earliest delivery was in five days (bye bye, fish and meat), while the other did not carry fridges and suggested we visited their nearest branch at Tampines. Off on a cab we went, while my mum continued to fret over the possibility of throwing out an entire cache of uneaten food.
Finally, we arrived at Courts at Tampines Mall, where the staff assured us that yes, they did have a same-day delivery policy for fridges, but that because it was already past their cut-off time that day, the soonest they could deliver a new fridge was the following day. My mum wanted a new fridge where the freezer compartment was on top, the kind she was accustomed to. Unfortunately, the store did not carry ready stock for the first two models my mum liked.
The staff then decided to recommend to us another model where the freezer compartment was at the bottom. The fridge was of the right size and a pleasing colour, with many compartments. Furthermore, the staff confirmed that they could arrange delivery by the following afternoon, but when it came to confirming the order, my mum started remonstrating, “This fridge is very expensive! My fridge was very new and it didn’t cost so much! Back in my kampong days, my old fridge only cost a few hundred dollars and lasted more than 20 years….”
By then, it was almost evening. We were both tired from all the running around, and I was close to pulling out my hair. Why couldn’t Mum just focus on getting on the new fridge instead of constantly bringing up things from the past? I thought to myself. Moreover, the broken fridge was really not as new as she had imagined. It had been in the home for more than 10 years!
Eventually we settled on the fridge where the freezer compartment was at the bottom. The new fridge arrived the next day and Mum took the chance to take stock of all the food items she had stashed into the old fridge. We threw away numerous little items that had been forgotten inside, and reorganised the remaining food items into the various compartments. It took a while to get used to bending over to retrieve the frozen items from the bottom instead of the top, but Mum was finally pleased with the new fridge.
Days after the fridge saga, I found myself echoing Mum’s tone of voice, when I was discussing with a friend about travelling during these Covid times. “Back then it was so much more convenient to travel!” I lamented. “All we had to do was get air tickets and off we went.” And then I laughed to myself, wondering if I would sound just like Mum when I reach her age.
“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return,” said Milan Kundera. We are living in increasingly uncertain and volatile times, and perhaps there is more than mere sentimentality in recalling the past. There is some relief for a person who has lived long enough to remember days that were simpler, when some of the ones we love were still around, and there is nothing that can change those memories.
So to our dear readers, here’s to celebrating fond old memories that we can regale to when the opportunities arise, but let’s not forget that we are also creating new memories as we go along. Here’s to a better 2022!