Two weeks ago, Mr Threez and I packed up the three Nglets and headed for Melbourne.
I had been thinking of ways to treat Middle B to something fabulous after all her hard work for PSLE. She reminds me of me — not cut out for massive studying nor consistent daily work. I know it sounds like an excuse but it really is the way we are built. It wasn’t till I was in Secondary school that I realised I could do really well if I wanted to, then I wanted to! Big B, on the other hand, is a photocopy of his father in every way. He is consistently good at his work, setting goals for himself and achieving them (usually overachieving them).
So, since June I had been considering various options. Seeing what a big One Direction fan she is, it seemed a real treat if I could bring her to watch them in concert. There was no sign of them coming to Singapore in the near future, so then, where in the world could we go and watch 1D? Australia seemed the best place. Just as I was searching for scalper tickets on eBay (tickets to the show sold out 10 minutes after counters opened! So scalper or reseller tickets were all that’s available), my husband asked the fatal question.
“Want to run the Melbourne Marathon 10K? It’s on 13 October.”
DING-DING-DING! That decided it! From a Mommy-and-Middle B adventure this had suddenly turned into a family trip. Melbourne was perfect: 1D were playing on 16 and 17 Oct, and I could visit my brother, my sister-in-law and my baby niece all at a go! Plus, it was PSLE marking week (14-18 Oct) so Little B could come without too much ado (even though she had one more holistic assessment paper left to do when she returned to Singapore).
I managed to bid for and win 8th row tickets to the 16 Oct show — expensive but not much more than the Justin Bieber Singapore concert tickets were, and those had been terrible seats (and a weak gig, sorry, Beliebers).
Keeping the trip and the show a secret from Middle B was an operation. Big B was let in on the secret early on, and proved himself an excellent promise-keeper. Finally on the day of Middle B’s final paper, I picked her up from school and we went to watch The Mortal Instruments and have lunch at Jamie’s Italian. Breaking the news to her was the fun part — watching her eyes go wide and her mouth fall open and actually rendering my noisy girl speechless… PRICELESS.
(A dramatic aside: As life often goes, a few days before our trip, I suffered extreme abdominal pains. So bad I went to see the Raffles Medical GP at the 24-hour clinic at Changi Airport. He suspected gallstones because the pain was located in my right rib cage), so I was packed off to SGH A&E department, whereupon hearing I was a cancer survivor, the lovely young doctor took my blood and sent me for three X-rays. I was then put on a drip for an hour and sat in A&E watching my poor exhausted husband drift in and out of sleep. Honestly, I thought all I had was extreme constipation and all I needed was an enema so I could go to the toilet and let everyone get back to bed. The A&E doctor worried that I was having a relapse of cancer — okay, that sort of freaked me out — but the blood test came back clear, and so did the Xrays. So I asked for some laxatives, went home, took them, and was much better by the time it came to board that plane. Thank God!)
The week in Melbourne was one of the best holidays we had ever taken. We had visited just two years ago in 2011, but somehow, this time it was just that much more fun. Maybe it’s the fact it felt so serendipitous. Maybe it’s felt like a “stolen week” when we could all be together as a family, no stress, no hovering exams, no work, no list of things to buy, no big agenda, just enjoying each other and taking things easy. I love holidays because it’s usually when I really get to know a little bit more about what makes each of my kids tick.
We caught up with my old friend Serge Thomann, once a high-flying L’Oreal executive who became a rock star photographer after selling his first photo to Warner Music for Madonna’s video cover. Today, Serge is the deputy mayor of St Kilda, my first favorite spot in Melbourne where once I dreamed of setting up home.
I was eager to see my brother and my sister-in-law Sasha — sometimes it’s not easy when your only family lives thousands of miles away. My little niece Sophia turns 2 this December and she is looking more like Mommy and speaking more like Daddy every day. It was clear to anyone who interacted with him that my brother was a genius even at the age of 3. Hopefully Sophia has both her Daddy’s analytical skills and her Mommy’s artistic gift and exquisite sense of style.
I was chuffed to catch up with my old friends Ping and James, and Alex and Karen. Ping and Alex worked with me at a publishing company that shortened our lives, but we had lots of fun. Between them they have four amazing girls (and Ping and James have an incredible self-feeding baby boy) who are so well-adjusted, enjoy school, love to play and are so charming. Ping made the most amazing leg of lamb — first try! — and Karen brought one of her INSANELY yummy desserts, custard tarts, perfectly turned out and piped. We had a wonderful evening catching up, sharing the good stuff and the bad. I left that night, thankful for friendships kept, thankful that we can keep each other in thought and prayer, and that I have the privilege to meet their children.
One of the things I wanted to do this trip was to return to Fairfield Park. We had been to Fairfield first when Bruce was just 15 months old, and we took photos of him crossing a little covered bridge at the Park. We took photos of him again in the same spot when he was 8, when we were back in Melbourne for my brother’s wedding. And now, 6 years later, I wanted a photo of him crossing that covered bridge.
Except this time, he wasn’t so much crossing the bridge than trying not to lift up its roof with his head. Will update this post when I dig up those old pix!
It was lovely watching the kids feed the ducks — we went armed with a full loaf! Little B is 7 now — the last time we were here, she was nine-months old — and had a ball with the ducks. In her inimitable style, she quickly made friends with the few Australian kids who were also there in the park.
Memories are made of: Nando’s lunches. Solo lemonade. Discovering that Little Creatures (Mr Threez’s and my favorite brewery in the world) had a Dining Hall in Brunswick Street (oh chili mussels, heaven is thy name). Satisfying our craving for local food at the first Killiney Kopitiam on Bourke Street (just a stone’s throw away from our hotel) — they even piped in Joe Augustin and Glenn Ong in the mornings!
A throwback to something we used to do when we were still DINKS (double income no kids): we took Little B to a small gallery to look at limited edition prints of Star Wars, Star Trek and Marvel hero art. The art was marvelous — wish I had the money to buy my husband a canvas piece. But it was sharing it with Little B that made it fun: she carefully read every title and description to every art piece. She laughed out loud when the gallery owner pulled out a painting of Yoda sitting next to Kermit the Frog.
It was the best trip I’d had with my brood to date. So grateful I got to be with them and make memories together.
NEXT: Part 2: Catching One Direction In Melbourne