When we were staying at Brooke Drive my father had planted a beautiful Bai Yu Lan tree right outside our main window.
In the evenings we could smell the fragrance drifting through the window. Dad loved the good things in life like flowers and fruits. He read most of the time when he was home. His special magazine Chuern Chiew (Spring Autumn) would come in the mail and all of us kids would pretend that we could read just as well!! He sometimes would tell us what he was reading about. He subscribed to Readers' Digest from 1952 and we all got into reading and laughing when we read "Laughter is the Best Medicine" together. And perhaps in that way he instilled in us a good life long reading habit.
Grandma Lien Tie would always pluck the bai yu lan at this stage for her bun. She would take two and place them niecely at the side of the bun and we would all think that she smelled like a film star (not that we had any idea of how a film star smell like!) In the days when there were plenty of these young buds we would collect them for two little activities : string them into a necklace or preserve them in a good pretty bottle. I will always remember how we used candle wax to ensure that no air would go into the the bottle through the cork!! If we ever did it wrongly the buds would all turn black. It was lovely to have bottles and bottles of these preserved buds.
This is the bai yu lan at its prettiest. Grandma would say when a girl was 18 she was a beautiful as a bai yu lan at this stage.
Whenever we saw the flower at this stage we would be very sad because all the petals would be strewn all over the ground underneath the tree. The fading flowers make us feel that our beloved relatives and even we ourselves would age too. Sometimes we would say that nature should not be cruel to beautiful flowers.
Finally when the flowers really droop we know that one cycle was over and another cycle would begin. As we do not have spring or summer we pretended that spring was over and soon all the rambutans would be fruiting and we would be having fruits like in summer time in China.
It was very much later when China opened up we learned that each season there would be different kinds of fruits...hence the term "seasonal fruits"
We used to use to term to mean end of the year fruits or middle of the year fruit in the past. Today in Sarawak we might not even find it easy to use this term. Durians used to come with Christmas. But now durians seem to be available every day!! Global warming and scientific improvements have changed our lives a great deal.
the fragrance of bai yu lan will bring to our minds memories of our loved ones who have gone before us from this world.