My Notebook: Printed Pages – 4
By C.E. Pereira
My childhood years was so different from my teenage years. When I look back I sometimes pause for a moment and wonder if that was me or two seperate individuals.
I was the neighbourhood tomboy. It was my Dad’s doing. He made sure that my two brothers were my baby-sitters when we played outside. Hence, they had no choice but to insist that their little sister be inducted as a member in their boys club.
I enjoyed my childhood outside of school. The boys accepted me as an equal. I became as tough as them. Yet, they were never rough with me. Now that I think back, I wonder. My Dad usually came to watch us play for a minute or so. Then he’d stroll back indoors. Did his presence have any influence on how the boys treated me? I think it did. I’d like to think those boys have become fantastic fathers as do my brothers.
So this tomboy had lots of fun climbing trees and running around the neighbourhood playing with the boys. I remembered games of marbles, rounders, badminton, of kite flying, top spinning and “Oh, so many more.” Of scraped knees, of fights and disagreements, of friendships and laughter.
Today, the games that I had such fun are listed as traditional games. Children today are attracted to games on their smart phones or computers. They don’t get dirty or bruised, or sweaty. I’d trade electronic and internet games anytime for the outdoors.
Then came my teenage years. And I lost my tomboy identity. It got replaced by the gangley, flat-chested and plain Jane. Over night my friends had breasts. I longed to have what they got.
I got shy and tongue-tied when it came to boys. How could this be? Me, who played and argued and fought with the boys during that last school holiday. How had I changed? I longed for that fearless tomboy.
At least I still knew how to smile and say ‘Hello’. None at school teased or ragged me. Teachers liked me. My yearly report card had comments of me being studious, serious, hardworking and so on. But I rather wanted to have beauty and boyfriends.
My second brother was two years my senior when we both transfered to the school in Jinjang. He was in the morning session, while mine was in the afternoon. That didn’t ditter him from being very protective of his little sister. Before the week was up, the whole Form One students knew my brother. My new friends were a little intimidated with my tall, fierce looking brother.
If only they had known he was really a lovable teddy bear at heart. But I didn’t correct their impression of him. I felt save as I was having such an emotional conflict with the changes I was expierencing.
I joined as a Librarian and the Library bacame a haven for me. I had my Library duty on Fridays after school. But you could find me at the Library everyday.
I’d be arranging books on the shelves. And checking for books to be repaired. I’d also chase after students late in returning their library books. And I read as many of those library books. The senior Librarians taught me everything there was to learn, from the Dewy Decimal system, ISBN, copyright and publishing issues, and lots more. Today, I have my own home library.
For someone who was a tomboy, I didn’t do well in Physical Education. This period was filled with embarassing moments which I cannot seem to erase. But I did better in team sports like Netball, Badminton, Basketball, Table Tennis, Volleyball, etc.
When I started working I played in tournaments for the company that employed me. I’ve collected trophies for all of the above sports plus Football and Hockey.
My high school years were awkard. My arms and legs didn’t co-ordinate. I was clumsy, like having two left feet. I didn’t excel in anything physical. I failed most of the time. I had height. I had long legs. Yet, I came last in running. The PE master gave up on me, so did I.
Another embarassing memory was the parties I went to. I was the wallflower, the one whom no one asked to dance with. Well, truthfully I couldn’t dance. I had two left feet. And a tongue that was tied in knots.
Some of my dance partners were as bad as me. With their two left feet combined with mine, I ended up with bruised toes. My uncle taught me the Waltz and the Jive. At family functions I survived being able to dance these two dances.
On the night when my Dad died, I had to be strong and brave. I saw that death never knocked to enter. Death just took without hesitating. And with death, the ones left behind had to cope with their lost.
It would be months before I became once again as strong as I was on the night my father died. The tomboy and wallflower merged. And I became a strong individual, hardworking and dependable. I continue to yearn to be beautiful, for I am only human. But I love who I have become.
The decisions I’ve made along life’s journey have always been based on that sixteen-year-old, who’s life changed forever on that worst night ever.
That tomboy had taught me to be brave. That being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid but over coming your fears. And that wallflower has empathy, kindness, and compassion to share. I have become a strong individual, yet I will bend when needed. I’m no longer that ugly duckling but I am no swan either. We cannot have it all.