This is my grandmother.

This is my grandmother admiring a photograph of her wedding portrait on my iPhone.

“Hey! How do you have this? There’s only one copy! It’s hanging in Uncle James’ house in Canada.”

Ahmah is over 90 but boy is she sharp. I told her I visited Uncle James and Auntie Rachel when I was in Toronto this July.

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“You mean you took a plane? For over 20 hours? And you used your phone to take a photo of the photo? Wah you’re so clever.”

I told her I learn from the best. It was extremely precious watching her admire figments of history through a screen; her veiny, wrinkly, scrawny fingers tapping on her image over and over.

“I was only 20 when I got married. Yeye was 22. We were so young. I was very beautiful and fair and my hair was very long. We were so young.”

She points to a frame on her bedroom wall.

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“You see? That is Yeye. Yeye has gone home. One day I will join him. Some times he visits me at night.”

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This is my grandmother telling my sister off for wearing torn jeans.

“What happened to your pants? Why is it torn? You should sew it up. Take my sewing kit from the kitchen.”

My sister replies in jest that she is poor; hipster fashion requires validation.

“You have no money?”

Ahmah laughs and smacks my sister on the butt.

“You’re so naughty. Look at jiejie’s skirt, it is not torn.”

Just then, her helper comes in. Ahmah’s ad verbatim response?

“Ah fan, you see? It say it no money. It wear broken broken. It so naughty!”

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This is my grandmother fishing bills out of her handbag and forcing them onto my sister and I.

“You take lah, you take. Ahmah has money. All your uncles and aunties give me money. I don’t spend so much. So I give you loh.”

As usual, my sister and I turn her down while secretly anticipating the routine wrestle. Never have I seen my ahmah as aggressive and forceful as when she wants to give her grandchildren money.

Once, she stuffed a $50 dollar bill *into* my bra because I had refused her. Another time, she stuffed money into my sock. Yet another time, she pretended to have an asthma attack *and then* stuffed the money down my shirt.

Don’t mess with ahmah.

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This is my grandmother’s boss face in life.

Especially when she begins to nag me about marriage, love, and life…

“你结婚了没有?你几时请阿嬷喝酒?阿嬷等你等很久。你几时结婚?啊满很乖的,不抽烟、不赌钱、有打工。你要做朋友做久久。选一个就好,心好就好。不要选来选去,选这么多人,心很乱。你这样就好。啊满很好的,你不要放手,放手就给别人抢去。知道吗?”

“Are you married yet? When are you going to invite me to your wedding? I have been waiting for very long. When are you getting married? Sherman is very well behaved: he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t gamble, and he has a job. You must be friends for a long time. Just pick one partner, as long as your heart is happy. Don’t go picking around, dating so many people. Your heart will be a mess. You’re just fine like this. Sherman is very well behaved. Don’t let go of him. If you do, others will snatch him away. Do you understand?”

At least ahmah isn’t nagging me over pimples and beauty regimes this time.

See more of ahmah in Grandmotherly Folklore and Lessons from my grandmother.

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