The other week I did a post and video about spending Christmas at my sister's. She was supposed to spend Christmas with her grandkids who are in London. The sudden change in lockdown rules the weekend before Christmas meant she couldn't be with them. That was such a disappointment for her, and the kids, so she ended up with me for Christmas instead 😀
My sister has three grandkids, and I am known as "mmm yi por" 'to them.
mmm - is number 5 in Cantonese and I'm the fifth in the family
yi - means aunty, specifically you mother's sister. In fact, in Cantonese, we have seven different words for aunty depending on your relationship with her - yup, no kidding 😀
- there's one aunty for your dad's elder brother's wife
- one for your dad's younger brother's wife
- one for your dad's elder sister
- another for your dad's younger sister
- then on your mum's side, one for your mum's elder sister
- another for your mum's younger sister
- and finally one for your mum's brother's wife. It's the same word regardless of whether the brother is younger or elder
Confusing right? But at least you know who's who 😀. However, I think the English way of just calling everyone aunty makes life a lot easier for kids
por - means maternal grandma, and yes you guessed right, we have another word for paternal grandma 😀
Anyway, once you put all this together, everyone who hears mmm yi por will know exactly my relationship with the kids.
Today I want to talk about the eldest grandchild, Elias. Hé's ten years old. I wish I could show you a photo of him as he's so cute and has a lovely cheeky smile. However, I don't want to share a child's photo without parent consent, so you just have to take my word for it. In the absence of photos, I'll share a few lovely stories about Elias.
Five year old Elias
One day my niece Lou, Elias's mum took him into London on the train. The train ride from their station passes by the town where I used to live. As the train stopped at my old station, Lou goes,
"Hey Elias, this is where mm yi por lives"
"Wow"! She lives at a railway station?! That's so cool!"
How cute is that!! 😍
Six year old Elias
When Elias was still a toddler, my sister used to visit him very often and he'd pick up quite a lot of Cantonese from her. We like to teach the kids as much Cantonese as we can when they're young. Once they start school and grow up, English will become their dominant language and they will gradually speak less and less Cantonese. The time finally came when Elias started school, and my sister saw less of him. Lou's Cantonese is so so, and with Elias's dad being English, naturally English was spoken at home. Elias's Cantonese became rusty, as if it wasn't already.
During one term break, my sister went to visit Elias. As usual, she spoke to him in Cantonese. The poor kid gradually became really frustrated during day, and eventually broke down crying. Apparently he so wanted to converse with granma but didn't understand what she was saying 😢 😢 😢
Ten year old Elias
I mentioned in my previous post, I did a video of this rather extraordinary Christmas. My sister shared it with her grandkids so they could see it, even though they couldn't be there. This is me and gung gung, which means maternal grandfather, chatting after dinner. And if you're wondering, yes, there's a different word for paternal grandfather!
My video was recorded in Cantonese which is our mother tongue at home. Elias watched the video, and sent me the following comment
I read this and my heart melted. I also immediately understood why kids can twist their grand parents around their little finger. Of course, his request wasn't unreasonable at all as there was no way he could understand our conversation and I'm sure he wanted to be part of it. Despite it would take me over an hour to do the subtitles, I was more than happy to do that for him. There is nothing more satisfying than to know that you can help a young child to bond with their grandparents.
I've only saw Elias once last year, he came to visit his grand parents during half term in October. The last time I saw him before that was nearly five years ago. He still had his cheeky smile that he always had as a kid, and now he has a lizard pet which is a big as my whole arm. Urghhhh!!!!