Golly’s parents were not demonstrative people. At three-and-a-half years of age, Golly could not recall a hug or kiss from either parent. Yet she knew that she must have been held by her parents whilst an infant; after all, Keng, at six months of age, was always being carried by the adults because she could not walk yet. Golly was precocious: she questioned everything in her mind if not always out loud. By day, whilst Ah Moi fussed over the baby, Golly daydreamed. Her imagination became a means of escape from the tyranny of a servant who had caused and who would continue to cause her much physical pain and mental anguish.
How could she attract her parents’ affection? With her toddler’s understanding, Golly reasoned that Keng received all their parents’ attention and affection because her little sister was chubby and slept well morning, noon and night. Keng was also the better dressed of the two children since Ah Moi spent most her wages on buying Keng beautiful clothes, shoes, and jewellery. Golly wore only cast-offs from her older cousins. Her parents could not afford to spend more than was strictly necessary as their salaries had to stretch beyond their family’s basic needs to paying the wages of two servants: Ah Moi and the washer-woman who did the rough work in the house.
So, within her three-and-a-half-year-old mind, Golly reasoned out a plan. She had never slept quickly and soundly, and she had outgrown the cute chubby cheeks of babyhood. And, she could only wear what she was dressed in. However, she would try her best to be as good as possible so that Mother would cease being so cross with her. Perhaps then she would get a hug instead of the cane every time Mother returned from work. Father ignored her at best, but she would try to be quiet for him as she knew herself to be a chatterbox. ‘Why?’ was Golly’s favourite question.
Of course Ah Moi had to make Golly’s plan unviable. The servant complained about her charge as usual and Golly was scolded and caned as usual. Golly was down but not undone. “I’ll try to be good on Sunday,” she thought. That Sunday, Golly went into the garden and picked a touch-me-not flower and presented it to Mother. It was a pretty pink bloom, very small, but she hoped Mother would like it. Golly loved playing with the plant: she enjoyed touching its numerous leaves and watching them fold into themselves, waiting patiently for them to re-open so that she could make them close up again. The little girl did not know that it was a weed! Mother, bless her, smiled when Golly presented her with the weed. And, she gave Golly a hug! Golly was thrilled. It was the first hug she would remember from Mother. Would there . . . could there . . . be more to come?
The little girl from the bin leaned into Mother for as long as she dared. Perhaps Mother loved her after all. It felt so good to be held.