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Sunday September 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 29, 2013 MYT 10:11:53 AM
by tan lay khim
A young girl finds a guiding light that shows her the goodness in life.
HONEY, why are you still keeping the old tattered lantern?” My husband asked me once, many years ago, when we first lived together.
The truth is, it was just a worthless old torn Chinese paper lantern, and anyone would have thrown it out long time ago. But it meant a lot to me.
I told my husband the story about this faded lantern and the so-called “Lantern Lady” from my childhood days, and then he understood why I had kept it.
Back in the 1960s, just like the other Chinese kids in my neighbourhood in Chai Leng Park in Penang, I had my own lantern to carry around at night during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
But one unfortunate year, as we were parading in the gloomy field behind our homes, my lantern caught fire when the candle inside toppled over. The other children laughed their heads off at my mishap, then walked on, leaving me all alone in the field.
I was upset and went home sobbing. But my mum did not console me – instead she chided me for playing in the dark. I understood as my mum was concerned about my safety – there were snakes lurking in the tall lalang at the edge of the field.
The following year, I was afraid to ask my mum to buy me a new lantern, even though I was so eager to get another one for the coming Mooncake Festival. I did not have extra pocket money, and my family was not well-off. My mum earned some extra income by baking cakes to sell in the morning wet market.
Each time I went to the book and stationery shop near my house, I would spend some time looking at the lanterns dangling above the five-foot way in front of the shop.
I don’t know why I have such an intense fascination for lanterns but ever since I was a little girl, I have been attracted to the soft flickering glow of lantern light.
Two days before the Mooncake Festival, my mum sent me to the stationery shop to buy some parchment paper for baking. While waiting for the paper, I took a quick look at the last four unsold lanterns, and wished I could have one.
“Yes? Do you like to have one of them?” asked Aunty Yee, the shopkeeper. It was as if she could read my mind. “I know you love lanterns very much by the look in your eyes.”
She said that she had noticed my fascination for lanterns each time I was at her shop. To cheer me up, she said she would give me one. Before I could even shake my head, the lady took down a colourful paper lantern hanging from a wire hook and handed it to me together with the parchment papers.
“Don’t look so glum, little girl. Let this lantern light up your life. Look on the bright side and it’s going to be fine,” Aunty Yee urged me with a winsome smile.
I was only 14 years old, but that day, her kindness, encouraging words and positive attitude had a great impact on me. The simple phrase, “look on the bright side”, has become a life-long mantra for me.
When I moved to Kuala Lumpur many years later, I still visited Aunty Yee at her shop whenever I was back in Penang for the holidays. She always remembered me as the little girl who loves lanterns. We became close friends.
I nicknamed Aunty Yee “The Lantern Lady”. She was my guiding light, who showed me the way, so I could see and recognise the goodness in life.
Aunty Yee passed away eight years ago, but her words of wisdom still resonate with me. Now, when I face tough times or feel frustrated by disappointments and not achieving the desired results, I recall Aunty Yee’s words and I make a conscious effort to change my view and look for the silver lining.
I know it is not as easy as it sounds, but I know there will always be some way out of the darkness.
I also know, like many of you, that these clichés can’t help one get over a really difficult situation in life.
But if you really look deeper, these trite phrases can actually motivate you to find that inner strength to overcome life challenges or in some ways to make your life more meaningful.
I am now in my early 50s, and even today, when I see a glowing lantern swaying gently in the breeze, it would immediately remind me of Aunty Yee aka The Lantern Lady.
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