The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Let me tell you about……..My Lil Bro

on January 14, 2014

When you are little, it’s hard to imagine things. For example for #1 and 2, what is real is what they see day to day. Try to explain the existence of other places when Singapore friends move countries or when we talk about our friends and family who live all around the world or something that happened before their time, it’s very difficult for them to grasp. Then it all falls into place and becomes part of their consciousness when they meet that person or go to that place.

Until Nana Moon came to stay, she was just a name but now she is Nana Moon who has a brother called This who lives in New Zealand and a sister called That who lives in England. She likes Star Wars and #1 points out everything Stars Wars related. She also lives in space whilst Uncle Monkey lives in the jungle. One of those statements is true. It’s a first step towards establishing the importance of these relationships and that seeing is believing.

When I was very little, My Dad Mr Li had talked about an Uncle and Aunt that came with a Lil Bro and Lil Sis in Scotland but what exactly did that mean? (Another Lil Bro and Lil Sis came along a few years later). I should explain that in Chinese culture they are Lil Bro and Lil Sis and not cousins because the children of brothers are considered as close as siblings. Until that point, I had mostly been around relatives who were older and quite a bit older than me. So it was an exciting and whole new world to discover relatives the same age and be around them too.

I was eight years old when several important things happened all at once. I went to Hong Kong for the very first time in a jumbo jet and subsequently thought all aeroplanes were that big. It was quite an occasion we were going back for – the celebration of a brand new Li Clan house had been built in our ancestral village of Tai Po Mei complete with indoor flushing toilet. (I couldn’t quite see the significance of this until I saw the squatting toilets and bucket under the bed alternatives a short while later.)

Lil Bro but not Lil Sis came to Hong Kong for the celebration and also Cousin T who lived next door. Our house was in the furthest part of the village away from the main entrance as you could get but in the early 80s it was still a thriving community. Full of people who all shared the same ancestry and Lee/Li/Lei name. There was a banquet and fire crackers to mark the occasion of a new home to bring good luck and good health for a brand new start.

I have only ever experienced this kind of close knit community for the three short weeks I was in Hong Kong at the age of eight. By the time I went back again seven years later much had changed. But back in 1982, we were free to wander around our stretch of village and wander up to the small shop for ice lollies. We were around our beloved Grandma, Por Por, in her element and we were cocooned by so many family members who went back years and years. Lil Bro was familiar with them having lived in our village a few years earlier. He’s still close to many of them now and will mention a Brother Seven of Uncle Two or something and I will just stare at him blankly. I guess it’s a village male thing.

The experience of this first trip to Hong Kong though remains with me vividly even now. It was about finding out about my heritage, being with my Dad, Mr Li and having family like Lil Bro to share it with. We’ve had a couple more shared trips back to Hong Kong since then for other rather big occasions. Each time he feels the need to point out that Chinese doesn’t appear to be my strongest language which makes me want to brush up on my Mandarin and speak only that at high speed so he can’t follow and then tell him the same but regrettably I haven’t quite mastered that yet and so will have to put up with him being annoying.

It’s his birthday today and I’m not allowed to tell you he’s just five months and two days younger than me. I think he says I have to say he’s at least eight years younger. I’m not sure what he’s up to by way of celebration. Most likely staying up late and chasing girls like he says he’s always up to, to which I roll my eyes and say Pah.

When we were young, he was easy going, sociable and fun to be with. Even my quite a bit older relatives say this and they are super hard to please. He’s still the same now you know, although with a few more responsibilities to shoulder. It’s good to have someone that understands where you are coming from without feeling the need to explain yourself all the time.

It’s not often we express appreciation of our family as much as we do our friends. Perhaps we expect a lot more from family than friends when we need them as family are usually always there. But he is incredibly good at being there and a credit to his parents. He checks in on my Dad Mr Li and I’m grateful there’s another person looking out for him.

As I think about it now, I realise just how glad I am that we do get along and how he was there for my Graduation and when I got married, which was no easy task for him for reasons I’m not going to say. Though I guess a real sign of effort is the fact he will get up before noon to drive from Lincoln to Newcastle or London to see us on our trips back to the UK.

So today he’s celebrating his birthday and I just want to wish him a very Happy Birthday and to say I’m thinking of him too. And that I haven’t forgotten to tell everyone he’s my much younger Lil Bro like he’s asked me to.

Happy Birthday Lil Bro.

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I also want to include this photo too because he looks constipated and it makes me laugh.

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