Sunday, April 3, 2011

WHEN I'M 64...

(The article below is contributed by Linda Toh, who writes about her recent reunion with her former classmates of Convent JB.)

This year is a very significant year for the convent girls from Johor Baru who left school in 1964 after completing their Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE). Significant because they will be celebrating their 64th birthday this year.........32 of the classmates met in a hotel in JB recently to renew their friendship and their theme song aptly chosen was the famous Beatles song ”When I’m 64”.

It was good meeting up with our old friends. The last time we met was four years ago. Needless to say we needed the help of name tags to identify our friends for Time had not only rearranged our faces but also our figures. One of my friends came up and told me that she would like to remember me when I was 17 years old in school. I was tall and willowy and if there was a strong wind it would blow me away. Alas today with my present figure it would a tornado to do the same. We laughed on this matter.

Our programme began with the Master of Ceremonies introducing all of us as our memory of classmates needed jolting. There were oh’s and ah’s as names were mentioned. Then it was sweet confession time. Only a handful of us like Kee Soon, Sin Foong and our ex head girl Ah Yew were still working. The rest were retirees. Wan Esah who has 6 children has 20 grandchildren was proclaimed the winner of being the most productive. Soon Moi who battled against breast cancer is now an active social worker for a hospital and volunteers her time advising those who are about to go for breast cancer operations and are fearful about the future. She is also good with her hands and each of us got a handmade hair band as a door gift.

Happy 64th Birthday to these lovely ladies!
Elizabeth had all us laughing in stitches when she took the floor and told us about her journey as a single mother. She became a widow when her husband died in an accident at the tender age of 27 and had two sons aged 6 and 7 to bring up. She did not wallow in self pity. She was a teacher and after school hours she gave tuition. Her reputation as a tuition teacher was so good that she had students on the waiting list. She worked hard and today both her sons are chemical engineers. What a tremendous feat!

Then there were invitations. Teng Siew who now lives in Washington offered to bring us around if we ever went there. Kok Kheng now residing in Auckland also made the same offer. While updating the paths that were taken by our ex classmates, there were many anxious mothers who tried to advertise the availability of their unmarried children. “I have two eligible daughters,” said one anxious mother, and yet another retorted, “I have 3 eligible sons.” “Photos, photos!” shouted another, “we want to see their photos”. We laughed over this, knowing that our children will not take too kindly to our attempts to match-make them!

Food was served and as we ate, we exchanged photos of our loved ones. We mingled around as we exchanged e-mail and Facebook contact. There were constant peals of laughter from the three tables. We then took group photographs. The MC Jane invited us to share stories of our Convent days. We remembered how her bag was thrown out of class by the teacher for some misbehaviour and how another classmate went to her rescue. She explained the situation and got Jane off the hook. Along memory lane we reminisced the fear we had in our maths teacher. God bless her soul. Sadly we thought of a few of our classmates who have passed away. We basked in the glory of two of our classmates who became doctors and two who became professors.

The girls from Convent JB, Class of 1964 at the reunion. Click on picture to enlarge.
Mariam and Siti Fatimah remembered with fondness how every Wednesday we would have singing lessons. We sat on the floor, around the piano as Mrs Selvarajah, now a famous writer of cook books and residing in Australia, (Carol, if you read this please contact us) taught us songs which up to today are etched in our memory. The repertoire included oldies like Annie Laurie, Drink to me only with thine eyes, I‘ll take you home again, Kathleen and all the Xmas carols. The Xmas carols were important because just before school was dismissed in December, all students had to bring two gifts to donate to the poor. As we sang the carols we walked up to the Nativity scene and placed our presents there. It was a sight to behold - all the pupils, regardless of race and religion, bearing the gifts.

We remembered our visits to the chapel, a quaint room upstairs where during examination time it was frequently visited as the students sought for divine help. And yes we remembered the nuns not for their lessons in daily subjects but for the way they taught us manners. They would not stand for misbehaviour. The nuns churned out students who not only excelled in studies but also etiquette. They prepared us for the real harsh world that we were going to enter after leaving the convent school. Oh those good old convent days!

The next activity was line dancing. After exercising our jaws and pigging out we needed to lose the calories that we had put on. Our classmates Pau Lin and Nancy taught us simple line dances because not all were familiar with the steps. Lucy surprised us with her dance moves. Four years ago she only had left feet! After some time the ladies did their own version of dancing. It was good to see them doing the cha cha, rumba and waltz.

All too soon it was time to call it a day We had been letting our hair down from 10 am and it was almost 4 pm. There were long journeys to be made. Five had come from Singapore, two from Batu Pahat, and one from Seremban. Those who had settled abroad still had some of their family members in Johor Baru. They made this trip as it coincided with Chinese New Year. The farewells were made and a promise that we would meet again in two years’ time. This time we told the committee that we would like to go for a short cruise together or even take a short trip to Malaysia and stay in a hotel. We also said that we would try and contact the missing 30+ ex classmates so that the next get-together would be a more meaningful one.

If anyone reading this is a classmate and would like to make contact, please email the writer at Before we parted we thanked the committee for their arduous task in making this get-together a success. We appreciated the trouble they took to get the names and addresses of all of us.

And so the 1964 Convent girls from JB bade farewell... There were lots of hugs and take care reminders....2013 we will meet again, God willing.

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