The Long Goodbye

Zoe is learning how to say “bye-bye”.

Which she accompanies with a backward flapping of her fingers – like she is grasping and ungrasping something in her hand.

And her “bye bye” tends to be very soft in volume. And often said well after the moment.

But she is improving in her timing and her volume.

This morning (17 Dec), I had taken leave from work. We were to move back to our flat in Toa Payoh. PL had also taken leave, but decided that it was best to take Zoe to her mother’s and out of the way for the move.

So the usual morning routine was slightly modified. PL leaves with Z, while I stayed at home. As usual Z said “bye-bye” to me. And then she said “bye-bye” to almost everything as if she knew she would not be coming back to see them again.

I do not believe she had any inkling that she was leaving the home she had known all her 1 year of life, and her long good-bye was no more than a random quirk of hers. But being human, we seek meaning, sometimes in the meaningless, and so it was poignant to believe that she somehow sensed that this was a good-bye for a long while and felt the need to bid farewell to all that she had known or grown to know.

For me, it is a little sad to leave, but there is also excitement and anticipation to return to Toa Payoh, though the task of unpacking and sorting out everything there could be daunting.

Well, Z was brought to the Toa Payoh flat by her grandparents, and she was re-united with Care Bear, Heart Bear (or small bear), and then, a surprise appearance by Ollie the Polar Bear.

Zoe grinned in recognition of Ollie. Ollie was her second attachment, after Alfred ceased to be her “confidante”. After that she got most animated when she saw Ollie. But as with all fickle-minded girls, she shifted her “affection” to Care Bear, the armless, legless, bolster, who has remained her stalwart “companion” (and wrestling partner).

In fact, that evening, after she awoke and refused to go back to sleep, I eventually got her to allow herself to be brought to the bedroom, by asking her where Care Bear was.

She tried to resist by acting indifferent to the question, “where’s Care Bear?”

I went to get Care Bear and put a pair of sunglasses on the bear. PL brought Z in just a moment later. Z’s face lit up when she saw Care Bear in shades and needed to interact with Care Bear immediately (by grabbing the shades). And one thing leading to another, she was romping in bed and then it was a simple matter to get her ready for bed a second time.

Anyway, let me rewind to lunch time. PL and I were on leave, the heavy lifting (moving) had already been done (thanks to my Bro-in-law) and we just had a few personal effects we could move by taxi. But first lunch.

PL chose Old Airport Road Hawker Centre for lunch.

Unfortunately it was closed for cleaning. How “lucky” can we get? It’s our last day and we wanted a farewell lunch at one of the best hawker centres in Singapore, and it was closed.

PL wanted to eat there without Z cos, Z would find the place too hot (not air-conditioned), and there were no child seat so PL would have to have Z in her baby carrier throughout the meal (adding to the heat!)

As we left for lunch though, PL felt unaccustomedly unencumbered. No baby in a carrier, no diaper bag, no snack bag for the baby.

It was liberating!

“Let’s do something we can’t do with Zoe,” PL said.

Several ideas came to mind, but hers was on food.

Which was why we headed to Old Airport Road. And why it being closed for cleaning was particularly disappointing.

So we took a bus to somewhere else. It didn’t really matter. Bus #10 arrived first and it was a double decker.

“Let’s go up to the upper deck! We can’t do that if Z’s with us!” So up we went like little kids.

If she were encumbered with Z, PL would not go up a staircase on a swaying bus.

We ended up at 112 Katong. We’ve had naan and butter chicken at the food court before and we liked it. But the last time we came, the North Indian stall had ceased operations. So we were not hoping for that. Just whatever we could find. We both chose dishes from “Penang Chiak”. $5 for Penang Assam Laksa and $5 for Penang Fried Hor Fun.

The food was ok. PL preferred the Assam Laksa from Gurney Drive (the chain of restaurants).

Then we had Kueh Pie Tie and Popiah. PL felt the Pie Tie “cups” were a little thick. She thought the Pie Tie cups from the supermarket were better (finer).

Star Wars VII had just opened and there was a cineplex there.

Watch a Movie? Something we can’t do with Z.

But no. We have things to do – packing, moving, unpacking.

But we watched the trailer for the “Snoopy and Charlie Brown – Peanuts the Movie”. And thought that Zoe might like it. But she won’t be able to sit through the whole movie.

A friend reflected that one year ago, the day before she delivered, she hadn’t realised that that was the last day she could pee or shower without a monkey clinging onto her.

I guess this is me knowing that something is ending.

Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but the apartment had been home. For a little over a year.

But now, I’m back home. Toa Payoh has been home for about 14 years.

There should be some kind of celebration.

I opened a bottle of Moscato. It popped like champagne.

Secondary fermentation. Moscatos are quite sweet and the sugars had continued or restarted fermentation in the bottle.

It wasn’t champagne, but this return isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. So some milder celebratory fizz was more appropriate.

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