The Stall

My wife woke at 0215 hrs when I reached home from work. She heated up a bowl of glutinous rice balls and placed it on the table. When I was out from the bath, she served it to me immediately. Before she could get me a separate drink, I finished the entire bowl of soup drinking straight from the bowl.

I saw 4 glutinous rice balls staring shockingly at me when I was done.

"I'll get the refill," quipped Jen.

The 2nd bowl of soup was decimated in similar fashion. Then I decided to gobble up the angry rice balls one by one. By then, the 2 bowls of ginger soup left me feeling real warm in a 19 degrees summer night. The soup was not as neither stinging nor as sweet as what Ah-Balling served in Singapore. It tasted perfect.

Later on, I saw hordes of people posting pictures on Facebook, of the bowls of rice balls they consumed today. I was puzzled. Was it the day to eat these stuffs? If it was, how did Jen knew? Probably a coincidence. Well, I didn't know what was the real meaning behind consuming tang yuan. What I remembered from mum was tuan yuan, or reunion of family members.

Jen is my only family member here now.

I missed my mum again. The last call to her last weekend saw us discussing about her retirement plans. The little humble stall we set up 8 years ago could probably come to an end next year. She decided to consider a possible handover to my 2nd sister's brother-in-law.

The little stall brought back so many memories. Back then I was in my final year of university. My parents ran into financial troubles during the SARS period. At one stage we didn't have enough money to pay the utilities bills. Fortunately the boss of a prominent boys school offered to rent mum a stall to have a go. But mum was hesitant, that stall was a western food stall which she had no idea how to cook a single item on the menu, much less run it.

I told her, "We'll make it. Take it up." Not knowing a single bit on western food myself, we went head on into the unknown. I remembered learning everything myself. From the deboning of chicken, making of every single sauce the stall needed, the cooking methods of the unconventional menu items that we invented to inventory control, suppliers, logistics.

I remembered William lending me a steady hand on the first day of business. We were frantic and we didn't quite settle down until the 2nd year of business. From there, business improved and earnings went beyond our expectations. With that, except for school holidays, I spent every single Sunday for the last 7 years helping out my mum at the stall.

The stall was a big story behind my family. Jen was there with me all the while. She was the one who lent us $3,000 to set up the stall. Being just a classmate, that was an extraordinary favour. On the first day when William was around, she was quietly there too.

She was there on some occasional weekends when I was there. Not to collect debts as it had been cleared by the 2nd month. Once, she fainted on the giant rice cooker. I was too slow to catch her in time. Fortunately the rice cooker wasn't on. My mum saw what happened and I told her to "自己保重" and took Jen to seek medical attention.

She was heavy. Perhaps I was still quite fit at that time, I managed to negotiate that extremely steep slope with her on my back, before struggling to the gate of the school at least 400 metres away. We got on a cab and went to the nearest 24 hrs clinic in Bukit Timah.

Did she fell in love with me because of that? I was not sure.

When Jen went to Perth for 2 years, helping out in the stall was painful. I could cope with the 2 extra clumsy hands missing but not the loss of her company. It was then I realised her importance to me. She gave me an option to make her stay in Singapore. Instead I said, 'Go."

Every Sunday since was a day of repenting for me as I expertly whipped up the Egg Pillows, Scotch Eggs, Chocobo Eggs among other items Jen and I came out with to charm the school children. As I laboured through the chores, I imagined voices in my head and images of her trying to tease and irritate me during work. The signboard and menu items we designed together, as well as the silly art work she added on them, also vividly reminded me I let her go.

When she was back in Singapore in 2007, she continued to help at the stall with me occasionally, whenever her hectic audit job allowed her. By then we were in a relationship. Then we got married, she  continued to follow me to the little stall each Sunday until we finally moved to Perth. 2 months later, it was school holidays.

Honestly, I believed my mum wanted to continue the business. But deep inside, I knew she was tired. She had gone way beyond our imagination already. She was the frontwoman, the main woman behind the stall. But I was the fuel to her fighting spirit. Without my presence, perhaps, she didn't see the sense behind another year of hard work. Without being able to tell me the interesting happenings on certain business days, the trends and how my new items were selling. I, too, am heartbroken that it is heading to an inevitable end.

The stall was the back bone behind my little family story. It forged the robust relationship between my mother and Jen. We were there when we were classmates, friends, lovers, spouse and even during the pregnancy. I used to tell all my friends Jen and I didn't have a romance. It could be true.

But we had a story behind our relationship. The stall was the story.


  1. Mate, I think you'd have a hard time trying to find another guy to "take over" your blog.

    It's another very touching post.

    I guess I still alot to live. LOL.

    Thumbs up!

  2. The stall did not 'forge' the r/s btw Jen and your ma. It created the r/s. :)

  3. What a beautiful story. Good on ya, mate! And Jen too.

  4. Dude a touching post, you're a lucky man. :)

  5. Bloody are making me cry.You evil man..

  6. Last night middle of the chat...
    Me: I realised you din share the story btw you abd Chin ... Share le...interested to know..

    Jen: It's a long long story....

    Me: ok... May be you share to me next time.. It's quite late now...

    I think this post is just coincidently match and it cleared my curiousity... It's a good one ... and yet it will be fine for you and Jen in Perth... Everything needs to come to an end... For the end, I will be a good start....

  7. your love story ish so sweet.... envious leh ;)


  8. touching story....good material for TV drama, enjoyed every bit of it. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Awww.. the stall might be gone, but the bonds that ties remains

  10. Hi Nix,

    Am enjoying your blog and your journey everyday :) My husband and me got our PR 2 months back and we plan to move over to Melbourne next year. Hope that we will be able to catch up over coffee one of these days.

    God Bless!