Mum and Dad and half the pack
Eventually there were altogether nine of us siblings. It was a wonder how we all could fit into the little Renault car for our balik kampung trips. Dad always chose to make the 3-hour journey from KL to Melaka in the cool of the night when we kids were sated and sleepy after dinner. It was fortunate that we were all skinny and so could squeeze into every available space in the car. The three toddlers would be in the laps of mum and my two elder sisters. My two elder brothers occupied the rest of the backseat whilst my younger brother and I either crammed in between them or even settled on the car floor which in a Renault was quite spacious actually.
With everyone asleep, 3 hours wasn't that long. Dad would drive the whole way without stopping - there were no refreshment or toilet breaks. Those days when the Federal trunk roads were single-lane, driving at night was easier than in daylight because you could see the headlights of oncoming vehicles, and this was especially useful round a bend when you could see the lightbeams approaching before the vehicle, so I was told.
The drive back to KL however was usually during the day after lunch at the grandparents'. As usual we children would be dozing and by the time we passed Seremban dad himself would be tired and sleepy. On one ocassion, mum offered to take over the wheel while dad took a snooze. And that was to be the last time mum ever drove outside KL.
Just before the dreaded Mantin Pass, a car from the opposite direction came into her path while it was overtaking round a bend . She swerved hard to the left, and went off the road onto a levelled bit of the hillside. In her panic mum kept on going but dad awoke just in time to turn the steering-wheel back towards the road and pulled the handbrake. It would probably have overturned had it not been for dad's quick reflexes in preventing the car going up the hillslope.
Here's a picture taken after the accident - the car didn't look too damaged but it couldn't be driven after that. There's mum, and my eldest brother who with a white nappy in hand, had the job of warning traffic about our stalled car, and me peering into the car to locate my missing flip-flops. This was just before we were to be driven home by some people from dad's office I think.
When dad was transferred to Singapore a few years later there were no longer such trips back to Melaka because the girls were packed off to go to school in the Sleepy Hollow itself. And that will be another story for another day, I promise.
Anyway yesterday we marked mum's 83rd birthday which actually was on the 13th of May with some makan-makan which she herself organised and hosted. Despite her age and problems in the knees, she is still a sprightly lady with a can-do attitude that we marvel at and sometimes worry about, especially when she decides to get into the car and drive herself to the market or to whoever's house. But one thing we are sure of is she'll never drive herself back to Melaka.
For all the May-borns, "Allah Selamatkan Kamu...."