In 7 years time, I am almost 30. My mum just turned 63. It’s her birthday, and we have gathered for a family meal, as we always do to celebrate each other’s birthdays. We are eating at a slightly-posh steak restaurant. Jie is probably the one that finds it. She’s the one that makes such decisions. The last person finally arrives. It’s usually my brother or me. But this time, it’s my Dad. We get the menu and start thinking what to order. It’s 7.27PM.
“Do y’all remember Angus House”, Kor begins the conversation. “We used to go there last time quite often to celebrate birthdays.”
“Ya,” I reply. “The place with the damn good beef right? That was the only place that I properly learnt to eat beef steak.” It’s true. Before Angus House, I never really ate beef steaks. And Dad would complain about how it’s such a waste that I’m eating Garlic Grilled King Prawns at The Ship, instead of steak.
“Ya la,” Dad says. “Cost a bomb one – almost $70 bucks per person.”
We give each other knowing glances.
“But wa. The medium rare there really damn shiok man. The steak is one sawwww-lid chunk of meat. Then you cut it open arh, inside all bloody,” Dad says.
“Ya. Come with the set one right? Got the starter, soup, and the bread…” Mum says.
“I loveee their tiramisu!” Jie says. “Shioks max!”
The conversation quickly dies when the waitress comes over. We all order beef steaks. Mum, Jie and Jean order a 150g; Dad and Kor take a 200g; KL and I whack a 250g. Kor might take a 250g though. I think it depends on how fat he’s feeling.
The food arrives soon. We chat lightly over the meal. We tell the same stories as we do 7 years ago. Dad talks animatedly about how there are 500g beef steaks in South Africa. I joke about how a person would weigh 0.5kg heavier immediately after finishing his meal.
It’s the last course. Then the birthday cake arrives. We sing the song. Mum cuts the cake.
In less than 30 minutes, the dinner is over.
“Call the bill,” Dad commands. Mum gestures to the waitress and she hurries over with the receipt.
We joke about how Mum pays for the dinner even though it’s her birthday.
We get up, shuffle around, use the washroom, maybe forget the umbrella (or not). Then we all leave the restaurant in good spirits, full stomachs and one happy snapshot richer.
“When I was tiny, the county fair came through town. Our parents took us, and got tickets for the rides, even though I was scared to death of all of them. Edward was the one who convinced me to go on the merry-go-round. He put me up on one of the wooden horses and he told me the horse was magic, and might turn real right underneath me, but only if I didn’t look down. So I didn’t. I stared out at the pinwheeling crowd and searched for him. Even when I started to get dizzy or thought I might throw up, the circle would come around again and there he was. After a while, I stopped thinking about the horse being magic, or even how terrified I was, and instead, I made a game out of finding Edward.
I think that’s what family feels like. A ride that takes you back to the same place over and over.”
― Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf