Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thank God for Ping Pong

For eleven years I was the only boy in my family. My mom gave birth to five little sisters before my brother came. I remember as a young boy, back when I was about five or six, that I asked my mom if I could have a baby brother so I can play ball with him. For quite some time my childhood memories with my sisters consist mainly of playing house (I was either the father or a waiter) and skipping rope (at which I became good at, with no shame). Not much what most people call boyish stuff like playing soccer or fighting with the neighborhood kids. The most boyish stuff I think I usually did was climb trees and getting lost in the woods near my house, both of which I mostly did by myself.

I have to admit, most of my childhood were more of with the family. Childhood friends were not a big part in my life. The reason being we kept moving house because the family got bigger and bigger. I don't blame anyone for this, in fact I am glad that we have such a big family. At home we never feel alone. Because of this I have little reason to fully socialize myself with the neighborhood kids, and therefore my childhood friends list are in fact almost NIL.

When I was twelve going on thirteen I got sent to a boarding school in Kuala Lumpur. It's an all-boys school so I guess my 'boyhood' problem was practically solved. But it separated me from my baby brother who was a bit more than one year old then. I have little memory of spending time with him (Ayid we call him, my first baby brother) as I was mostly away in school. He's eleven years younger than me. So he more or less grew up mostly in my absence, as I only got to see him once every month, sometimes even less than that, due to the strict rules of the school not letting students go home every weekend.

After I was done with high school it was little time before I whisked away to prep college and then to the U.S. for my tertiary education. With the distance and the time the less and less I could relate to Ayid. He'd grown, taller, darker and thinner (he was quite fair when he was a baby), his voice started to change, became more and more active in sports, et cetera. All in my absence. Once I came home from the U.S., I felt like my brother was a totally different person.

My memories with my father wasn't much either, as either he was away for work or school, or I was away for school. I remember there was one year when I was in school that I didn't see him at all for almost six months (my being at home for two days a month didn't coincide with his being at home). This was back when cellphones were a luxury of the corporate / high society. I missed seeing him and listening to his voice. And with the little time spent with each other, the distance grew. There was little I could relate to my father. This was aggravated even more with me being in the U.S. for 4.5 years. I remember calling home and he picked up the phone, and our conversation was limited to how-are-you-doings before it changed to "wanna talk to your mother?". The physical distance between us resulted in emotional distance. I didn't know what to say to him on the phone. Whatever he knew about me he found out mostly from my blogs or from my mother.

After I returned from the U.S., something that I saw outside the house changed everything.

It was a ping pong table.

My dad loves to play ping pong (or table tennis, for some), and so does Ayid. In fact they had been playing together for some time before I came back. I myself had been learning to play the game with my friends in the U.S., not knowing that my dad and Ayid were playing the same game at home. I guess in some ways, we're still the same inside even with the time and distance apart. By the time I got home, I was already good enough at ping pong to play the game with my dad and Ayid.

And so it has become our fortnightly activity. Whenever we were together at home, it'll be ping pong in the morning and ping pong in the evening. Sometimes even at night. We enjoy taunting and challenging each other as we play the game, and I could feel us bonding together with each game played. I can see how much my father enjoys playing with us and with the many games we've played over these two years so far, I think they made up for most of our lost time.




Alhamdulillah. Thank God. Thank God for ping pong.



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