There's this story that you absolutely loved to tell anyone who would listen at your dinner parties. About your little SanSan in her pink silk pyjamas and orange kerchief, singing the theme songs for Chinese soap operas at the tender age of 3.

I still remember the mahjong hall on Dundas, where I'd spend my weekend afternoons standing on stage, singing to a dark hall while colliding plastic tiles competed with the chatter of seniors in the back room. Oranges, incense, Sugus candies, Vaseline Intensive Care in the green bottle. While mahjong and crafts were popular at the hall, the seniors also loved their music. There was always some kind of operatic or folk tune, playing in the background. The ladies also held weekly choir practices, accompanied by old men with traditional instruments.

Every few months, the ladies' chorus would perform for their peers. Somehow, Mrs. Chu's obedient little SanSan was added to the programme at one of the recitals. Though I could not read a word of Chinese, I had watched enough episodes to memorize the theme songs. The old musicians played their fiddles as I charmed everyone with my squeaky Cantonese and pink pyjamas. I still have the Polaroid snapshot. You were so proud -- you love that story. Each time you'd start to tell it, Ted would snicker and I would blush with embarrassment.

I wish I could remember all the words. I managed to utter the first lines of several songs last night, but hummed the rest. You were looking straight up at me. You croaked a few times, your eyes encouraged me to despite the lumps and tears. I hope you didn't mind me switching to Mandarin songs. They seem to come to me much more easiliy. Your hands smelled like scar tissue.

Before I left, I whispered, "It's OK to let go."

The ride in this morning was surprisingly calm. No horns, no sirens, no cellphone yammerings. Just the streetcar gliding along listlessly in the sun. All was quiet on the 506, except for the older woman who sat behind me, crooning softly in Chinese. She was singing out of a book of folk songs, probably on her way to practice on Dundas. I didn't get to hear the rest because I got off at Borden.


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