Friday, April 14, 2017

17 GOING ON 70

On Chap Goh Meh the last day of the celebration of the Rooster Chinese New Year, 40 golden girls from Holy Infant Jesus Convent, Johore Bahru got together. In 1964 they sat for the Malaysian Certificate of Education. They were only 17 years old then and after that they pursued their dreams, embarked on a career, and raised a family. This year 2017, they are now 70 years old - definitely a milestone to celebrate and hold a big reunion at  a local hotel in Johor Baru.

It was indeed a grand reunion as the ladies walked down memory lane together. Thanks to the organisers who were based in JB and the wonders of the internet, emails were sent to set the day and venue.

Many of the ladies had mixed feelings. Would we be able to recognise each other? Would our memory fail us as we recall our classmates' names? But the minute we set eyes on each other, our fears were allayed. Also name tags helped make remembering so much easier. And so there were shrieks of laughter as we renewed friendships.

The emcee had difficulty in calming the excited ladies as they went round to mingle and get their life stories updated. Finally we were all seated ready for the programme.

We started by singing the national anthem Negara Ku, followed by a minute of silence for five teachers and six classmates who had passed  away. We then sang our school song. One verse of the school song was a tribute to the late Sultan Ibrahim who gave the school a statue of Mary which still stands in front of the school to this day. Before lunch was served, the emcee requested a thanksgiving prayer by a Malay classmate followed by a Christian classmate who said grace. The lunch was sponsored by one of the golden girls.

While eating the ladies moved from one table to another to mingle, take photos and reminisce. There was so much merriment and mirth as they exchanged notes on careers and family. Meanwhile the organisers had prepared a video presentation of the photos of yesteryears and again there were guffaws of laughter as we looked at the younger version of our good selves. Oh to be young again was the wistful look on many faces. Other comments were how did we balloon to our present size? In the same breath we were more than thankful that we were all there to celebrate the 7th decade of our lives.

The emcee had a small competition. First we wanted to know which golden girl had the most grandchildren. Our classmate from Perth hah a son who had eight children, their ages ranging from one to fifteen. So she won. The next prize went to the one who had the oldest grandchild. This was won by another classmate who proudly told us that she had received an ang pow from her 26-year old grandson before she came for this reunion! The last prize went to the classmate who travelled the furthest for the reunion. She had come for the reunion all the way from Washington!

Photos of family members were whipped out from the iphones and, believe it or not, there were some anxious mamas who were heard advertising the availability of their unmarried children .....yes match-making in full swing! I can imagine the response from their children if they knew what their mothers were up to. There were also invites to visit from those living abroad.

Next up was the cake-cutting ceremony for those who celebrated their birthdays in February. To get rid of our calories after the sumptuous lunch three golden girls led the others to a session of line dancing. It was really fun and hilarious as they listened to the instructions and tried their best to follow the steps and dance.

The ladies were not going  home empty handed. There were door gifts of smart balance oil given by one classmate, a handicraft from the organisers and a magnetic bookmark given to everyone. This bookmark came from an autistic centre where one of the golden girls was a volunteer.

Sweet 17 in 1964
Yes it was really a joyous reunion .....40 ladies in their 70s and not a white-haired woman around, thanks to the art of dying one's hair! Nobody was in a wheel chair and I noted no one needed a walking stick. The conversations ranged from useful exchanges of homemade remedies, how to get rid of arthritis, frozen shoulder, trigger finger, pigmentation, weight loss, to tips on how to look younger and many more.

But all good things had to come to an end. When it was time to say goodbye, there were more hugs, also more promises to see each other soon, to keep in touch with visits to each other's hometowns. We decided that by the time we reach 75, there should be another big do.

When we reached home there were dozens of photos and messages on our Whatsapp chat, lots of thank-you notes to the organisers who had gone to great lengths to organise this awesome reunion.

Yes, convent girls from the class of 1964, you were sweet 17 then and now in 2017, you are 70 years old but you have all aged well. We look foward to another reunion soon, God willing.

(Article contributed by Linda Lim. In the reunion group photo, she is in the back row, extreme left.)

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