I know, I know, I’m a year late. Last year, I promised that I would write a post about an incident relating to a baby drop. Not the kind of baby drop where you leave a baby at the doorsteps of an orphanage and that kid grows up to become a hero/heroine (they always do). It’s more about the physical act of dropping a baby – or a toddler to be more exact. I actually wrote the post last year, but never got around to editing and posting it. So since this incident took place during last year’s Lunar New Year, and with the 2015 Lunar New Year a couple of days away, I’ve decided to post the entry (edited and recut).
So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
It was a couple of days into the Lunar New Year when I attended a lunch outing with the extended family on my father’s side. I was the sole representative of my branch of the family tree as my immediate family was scattered across the four corners of the world. If I wasn’t alone, my dad would have probably went: “Zareth, put the baby down, now.”
Well, unfortunately I was alone.
Anyway, lunch was good and we celebrated it with yusheng or lo hei, also known as the ‘Prosperity Toss’. It’s one of the customary dish of Lunar New Year that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of China. Consisting of a number of raw ingredients, the aim of lo hei is to toss the ingredients as high as possible while screaming lo hei, lo hei, lo hei. The result is often a great big mess and a dish where the ingredients never really get mixed properly. Still, it’s quite fun.
So what’s the point of tossing the ingredients apart from the sanctioned mess? Well, the height of your toss is proportional to the growth of your fortune. So if you want to get rich quick, you better fling that piece of raw salmon into the air and hope that it doesn’t land on your grandparents’ heads.
Lately I’ve also come to realized that most of the messes are due to the fact that each diner is trying to toss their way up to prosperity until the whole thing denigrates into a chopsticks battlefield. This is made worse when you consider the fact that each person is using a pair of extra-long chopsticks. Extra-long chopsticks = extra ammunition and rage.
So we lo hei-ed and hei lo-ed and ate and drank the whole afternoon long. After feeling sated, we decided to leave the restaurant (this decision was expedited by the restaurant closing for the afternoon). My relatives and I stumbled out of the air-conditioned interior and into the hot haze of afternoon drowsiness.
We ended up standing in the heat for about 15 minutes while everyone had a lengthy debate on whose house we should retire to for the afternoon siesta. The contenders had quickly come down to two of my aunts but the general consensus was still lo hei-ing back and forth without any conclusion. So while I waited for my relatives to settle on a decision, I surfed through Facebook.
“Is that a museum?” one of my uncles interrupted my mindless Facebook surfing.
“Eh?” I said.
“That building. It looks like a Chinese museum.”
I was a bit puzzled because we were in Clarke Quay, Singapore’s clubbing and pubbing nightspot. Granted, there might be a few museums in the general vicinity. But we were standing right in the heart of clubland and even with Singapore’s addiction to constant change, I don’t think a museum would have just drunkenly danced its way into Clarke Quay.
I turned to the general direction where my uncle was looking at and immediately said: “Oh, no, that’s a club.”
“Really?” He was incredulous.
I nodded with the accumulated wisdom of spending too much time in Clarke Quay during my younger days. “Yeah, it’s a club.”
“Oh,” he said and laughed, “it looks so much like a museum.”
The impasse was finally broken and an agreement was reached. We were heading to one of my aunt’s house – a decision that was to be reversed barely 10 minutes later. Since my relatives had parked their cars at different areas of Clarke Quay, we decided to split into groups (that took another 5 minutes of deciding). I was tagging along with the uncle who asked if the club was a museum.
I was about to walk away when I saw my 18-months-old first cousin once removed (who’s also the grandson of abovementioned uncle) staring at a plastic container filled with dirty cutlery from a nearby restaurant. He was staring at the cutlery with rapt fascination. Apparently the cutlery represented an art form that spoke right to the heart of an 18-months-old toddler.
So I walked up to him and said, “Hey M___, let’s go. Your parents are waiting for you.”
He kind of ignored me and continued to be fascinated with the plastic container. Maybe he was waiting for Finn and Jake from Adventure Time or Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick. Or whatever cartoons that toddlers watched nowadays. I took M___’s hand and sort of encouraged him to walk. It didn’t worked. He was still waiting for the wonders of the plastic container to reveal itself while my relatives had started walking away to their cars. So I decided to take advantage of my considerable strength and picked up M___.
I had my left arm wrapped around M___’s chest while my right arm sort of hooked underneath his diaper-clad bottoms. In a way, M___ was sitting on my right arm with my left arm securing him to my chest. Everything was fine and dandy as I walked towards his parents.
About two seconds later, M___ realized that I was neither his mother nor his father. He glanced back and gave me a “who da hell are you?” look. Granted, neither his mother nor his father had facial hair so I guessed I failed the facial recognition test.
M___ was not happy. He wanted out of my arms. And he figured that the best way was to start wiggling around. I thought I had him secured in my arms but you know, toddlers. So somehow M____ was starting to break free of my bonds and was on the way sweet freedom.
I reacted by holding on to M___ tighter.
M___ continued to struggle.
I struggled to balance M____.
M____ continued to wiggle around.
It went back and forth and by then, I was losing both my balance and my grip on M___. I mean, try holding a toddler who does not want to be held while trying to maintain your balance. It’s apparently a much better core workout compared to standing on an exercise ball while lifting a pair of 20kg dumbbells.
So while I was focused on maintaining my balance, M___ broke free to freedom.
But M___ miscalculated. Instead of pitching himself forward so that he’ll land on his feet (but with a chance of landing on his face too), he decided to throw himself backwards. And across my body. With the full strength of an enraged 18-months-old. Up till today, I have no idea how the hell he executed that maneuver.
So the only thing I could do was to twist my body around and follow his trajectory while trying to break his fall as much as possible.
Of course I failed to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this.
The gif above kind of accurately depicts the fall – but remove the rugby player, the sportscaster, the football and the playing field.
There was split second of silence while both M___ and I stared at each other in shock.
The first thought that went through my head was:
“Oh fuck, I broke my cousin’s baby.”
Then an ear-splitting wail filled the entire empty quay. My relatives turned around and saw me half kneeling and squatting, trying to comfort M____ who was looking very, very distressed.
Apparently no one saw the entire incident since they were already walking away. So they only heard and saw the aftermath.
My cousin came up to me and asked what happened.
What else could I say? I couldn’t say, “M____ was practicing his flying triple kick but missed. He has potential though.”
So I said, “I, er, I dropped M____. It was an accident.”
Fortunately the facts of the case were established and my cousin told me there was nothing to worry about*. On the way to their house, my uncle and aunt told me not to feel bad and that kids had the tendency of falling off people arms. I also think my uncle made a passing remark that I fell out of people’s arms one too many times when I was a toddler.
Huh, so this is karma, I guess?
A couple of days later, over Skype, I told my father about the incident. There was a long pause as he contemplated on what to say. Then he gave me this advice:
“In future, you shouldn’t carry other people’s kids, wait till you have your own kids and then you can carry them.”
Oh, and M____ turned out to be fine. So all’s good. He still needs to work on that flying triple kick though.
*My cousin told me he trained M____ how to fall properly. Basically that consists of putting his arms out to break his fall. I guess that’s why M____ didn’t faceplant the ground when he tumbled from my arms.
I think the lyrics is quite apropos for this post.