IN ONE’S LIFETIME, we meet many people and establish acquaintances and friendships along the way – friends from school, university, work place, and those we made during our travels. Some last briefly, others longer. Some just fade away, and if one is lucky, a few will last a lifetime.
Today I am looking back – way way back – to my school days.
My first friends were those I made when in Standard One at seven years old (since I never attended pre-school prior to attending primary school). Today, more than three decades later, I still keep in touch with a dozen of them.
At this stage where 30 years represent three quarter of my lifetime, I dare say I have found some lifelong friends.
Together we went through 11 years of primary and secondary education, during which we’d studied together, participated in sports and year-end concerts; visited each other during festive holidays; attended a teacher’s wedding; got together to celebrate birthdays; went on class trips and wrote to each other during the long school holidays.
After school, we went on our own paths, a few of us went to university and graduated together; we were happy for each other as each built a career for herself; we were there for their weddings (two of them chose 11th October the same year to hold their dinner receptions, and being the good friends that we are, we made it to both, attended one and rushed to the other on the same night) and they came to mine; farewells (though a sad occasion) also bring us together, as recent as three months ago.
Our friendships have indeed endured the tests of time and distance, as a few have ventured abroad. Together, we have laughed and we have cried, through it all – good times and bad – we have kept in touch, though at times sparingly. After all, sometimes no words are necessary between good friends.
A picture may paint a thousand words, but words itself say it best, like this card from a Std One classmate reminded me how we first met.
Many of us were classmates for most part of our school lives; some of us were together in the Prefectorial Boards, from primary school through secondary into Form Six.
Prefects in Standard Six.
As Junior Prefects (Form Two) we pledged loyalty to the school under the watchful eyes of Mrs. Ong, and we pledged to remain friends for life… okay, I made up that last bit!
Prefects in Form Five (as well as the year before and the year before that).
And the year after that, prefects in Form Six.
The day we sang and “planted rice” together in Standard One (the song went “planting rice is never fun, from the morn till the set of sun, cannot bend and cannot sit, cannot rest for a little bit”…) fond memories were created and friendships sealed since then.
Planting rice might not be fun, but the school memories were 🙂
From primary throughout secondary, we sang, danced and performed in school concerts.
Primary school concerts, we even performed the “Emperor and the Nightingale” on national TV (bottom pix, right).
Speech Day 8 Nov 1985.
Together, we marched and competed on sports day. (L) SMPP Sports Day 1986; (R) SMPP 68th Sports Day 1982 (winning the gold for Corner Spry) .
Some of us were in the same sports house… (L) Foss House 1985; (R) Rumah Temenggong, Champ in 1988.
Some of us joined the same clubs – Librarians and Swimming.
Re-visited our alma mater 14 years after we left the school, and met two of our former teachers, Mrs Chong and Mrs Tan. (18 Sep 1995).
We graduated together in the company of friends.
I attended their wedding/registration (Oct 1997 and Feb 2005).
They came to mine and were also my “chee muis”.
Over the years, we’ve gotten together for reunions and farewells…
(L) Farewell for ST and I on 17 Sep 1995 at my home before the former left for Spore and I for UK; (R) Our get-together on 27 Feb 2005 at Shangri-La Putrajaya before I left for Moscow that April.
Reunions in April 1997 (L) and on 8 Jun 2011 in Leisure Mall, Cheras (R).
They visited when I was home in Putrajaya… (L) 30 Dec 2002; (R) 2 Sep 2003.
They visited when I was abroad in HK… (Top, L-R) 21 Dec 2008; 5 May 2009; 6 Jun 2009; (Bottom, L-R) 12 Oct 2009; 19 Dec 2009.
Our friendships have indeed come a long way…
Other than in school, we spent time at their homes celebrating their birthdays (in 1976 and 1983).
WK and I in a span of 35 years in 1976, 1981 and 2011.
Friends for more than three decades… WK, SQ and I together in school in 1981 and in HK in 2009.
When the left photo was taken in 1981, we never imagined we would be sitting together for another pix 28 years later in 2009 in Hong Kong.
Greek poet Euripides said: “It is a good thing to be rich, and a good thing to be strong, but it is a better thing to be beloved of many friends.” Over the years I certainly felt loved by my friends. I have stacks of birthday and greeting cards and letters from this special group of schoolmates received over the years, to attest to that.
I have moved and lived abroad in four countries in the last 16 years. The fact that I still have them in my possession speaks volumes of how much I treasure those cards and our friendships.
These are a few of the many that I had laboriously scanned and preserved digitally.
Being a January kid and always the eldest AND oldest at the start of every new school term and having been a prefect a huge part of my school life, I’ve been called names …besides Captain, I was also “big sister”…
… and “a very dear person”…
“A wonderful friend” and even “Boss”?
They might as well call me “Grandma” too, giving me this card for my 21st birthday!
Sometime during our schooldays we became related… I was “A very very dear niece” and “grand-daughtie dear”…
More treasured cards…
This CNY card from Friend J says: At New Year time, remember: To give angpows is tradition… and to ask for them is human!!”
Friend O specially chose this card for its wordings that said it all: “You’re more than a friend for today – you’re a friend for life, and that’s why I’m wishing you a birthday filled with a lifetime of special moments and happy memories.”
Friend S summed it up best when she wrote in this card: “Though there are many things that we did not get to go through together in this later stage of our lives, happy moments in the past still linger in my mind. I guess it’s that sincere friendship we developed initially that has made this special bond. I don’t think I should write any flattery words about you cos we understand each other that we don’t need them lest we become proud and self-righteous.”
Just how much do I treasure our friendships? Here’s the ultimate prove. Friend Q gave me this back in the early 80s with a message: “Hope you’ll put it in your TREASURE BOX & not in the Dustbin! (Humph)” (Bet you don’t even remember this, eh? Well, as you can see, it was in my treasure box all these years!)
Confession time… I finally had to discard them recently. It almost killed me, yes, it was very painful to part with these treasures which have been with me for more than half my life, but staying up on nights at end just to scan them was also exhausting! It’s both heartbreaking and backbreaking. No I’m not complaining, in fact it’s the least I could do, considering these cards had been carefully chosen and written with messages from the heart.
This page will hopefully keep part of the memories alive, while the rest stored on my PC will travel with me wherever I end up in future 🙂
To end, I quote American president Thomas Jefferson in describing our friendships: “It is like wine, raw when new, ripen with age”.
CHEERS to many more years of friendship ahead!