I thought it’s best I document this before the memories fade.
The buildup to Chinese New Year when my sister, my brother and I were kids was always exciting – at least as far as I can remember. My mom always got us involved in all the activities that led up to the occasion.
The house was usually very lightly decorated, with hardly any loud décor, just the way my dad would like it. Over the years, my mom has crocheted white table clothes to cover the tables we had in the living room, and a large oval one for the dining table. The base of the the round coffee table was either blue and pink, while the dining table had a large sheet of plastic for ‘tensile strength’ amongst the crochet gaps.
There was one painting which would be replaced every year with her cross-stitched 褔 or prosperity in gold threads on a red cloth. I remember that clearly as many of her friends were very fond of it. Besides the cushion covers being changed to a clean set, the piano runner would be switched to the one she proudly cross-stitched with a fairy tale of a princess and a castle. That was about the only décor we had around the house for Chinese New Year, the simplicity and thought of everything being stitched by my mother made it feel comfortable and homely.
We were all also involved in baking the cookies. There would be at least three types from her list – her famous chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, butter cookies, honey cornflakes and on some years, chocolate Mama Kerries. The tedious part about baking is the hours spent hovering over the batter and running back and forth from the oven. Of course we helped as much as we could, and when it was the right time, we’d transfer the cookies into the little serving jars. Our other task to help was hanging red angpow packets on the lime plant which my mother took care of so well that it always bore fruit each year.
The next morning, we’d be bright-eyed and in new clothes awaiting my dad to burn the fire cracker that left a sea of red on the front porch. I remember how I used to love that part of the morning, right before we headed to my grand parents place, and we’d stand far, holding our ears, trying not to blink because it was over really quick!
So, it wasn’t the angpow collection that thrilled me, nor visiting houses or eating cookies, but setting up our house each year for the occasion.
This year, being the first year as a married woman, I thought I’d bake a batch of my mother’s recipes. But when I tried the years that followed her passing, the batter never folded right, the oven never heated evenly, and the cookies never tasted the same. I procrastinated too much this year that I’m afraid it’s too late for any baking – and my house is stocked with two store-bought cookies (yes, I know, only two. We don’t expect company but if you plan on coming over, please BYO snacks).