Friday, May 7, 2021

Robin, Revisited

Hello friends! I enjoyed reading all your comments to my last post on my mad new crochet hobby. Thank you for your recommendations and encouragement! I will be checking out some of those websites soon. I'm already on Ravelry, but in a sewing capacity, so it's a matter of simply crossing over to the yarn side when I have the time. It'll be fun to immerse myself in a new community of makers and speak a new language, as it were.

Two years ago today, I lost my dad. It still feels surreal to say that. To process the fact that I haven't seen his smile in that long, that the yearning and the grief have been part of who I am for what feels like both a blink and forever. I took stock today: where am I now on that journey? Well, I'm frustrated that because of pandemic travel restrictions, I can't physically be with Mum on important, difficult days like this, or Father's Day, or his birthday, or their anniversary. At the same time, I'm grateful that she's safe where she is and that she's taking good care of herself. I'm also perplexed that like those early days and weeks after his death, I'm once again lost for words. I thought that I'd have a lot to say - most people do, don't they, waxing existential about time and blessings and memories and life? I woke up this morning and it felt like a normal day. I wasn't fragile like I was last year. I wasn't angry. I wasn't lost and unmoored and foggy-headed. I'd had grand plans to be all solemn-ritual and bake Dad's favorite cake today but instead I made a batch of cookies and spent some time in the yard taking photos. My next-door neighbor, who'd lost her mom years before, has wind chimes hanging from a tree in her yard. She says that when the wind makes them sing, she remembers her mom and it's like hearing her mom talk to her. After the funeral, she gave me my own set of chimes. I hung them on a tree near hers, and whenever the wind blows through our yards, the chimes tinkle to each other. I heard them today when I was outside with my camera. They, too, sounded normal, the now-familiar outdoor soundtrack of spring-and-summer. 

I miss my Dad, and my heart will always look for him in the world around me, but life is moving me forward, I think.

I want to share a memory from just after his passing. I remember some advice I'd received (could've been a friend or a book or an article, the details from that time are so fuzzy) - to preserve as many memories of those days as I could, even the painful and discomforting ones, because they were part of his story and to forget them would be another kind of loss. So I journaled as much as I could, for which I am now unspeakably grateful, because that advice was indeed spot-on. I had to re-read those early entries today to remember all those precious details.

Bereaved families in Singapore often hold wakes just before their memorial services - several days of visitation to allow time for friends and relatives to sit and share memories and practical help. Sometimes these are held indoors in funeral homes but just as often they're outdoors, under large tents temporarily erected near the family's residences. If you live in an apartment, as I and the vast majority of Singaporeans do, these wakes are typically held in the public commons on the ground floor or some other designated public space. On the first night of my dad's wake (as told by my cousins) a tremendous rainstorm ripped the tents and flooded the site. The next morning, the funeral company had to reinstall the tentage. Then, I was still on the plane flying in from Minneapolis, and by the time I'd arrived, the sun was out and there was no trace of the damage of the night before. From the awe in my cousins' voices, I imagine it was quite the sight, as if nature itself raged alongside us in our grief. I was almost sorry to have missed it. 

Nature wasn't done, however, for then the moths came. Every day, for almost a week.

First, to my mother on the second night, as she puttered about in my dad's workroom, his tools still lying mid-project where he'd left them. A brown moth flew in through the open window, nine floors above the ground, and fluttered around the room. For a long time it stayed, sometimes airborne, quite unafraid, occasionally alighting on the tools. Mum was looking for something with which to swat it or bat it away when a memory from my childhood surfaced: my grandmother telling about moths turning up whenever there were deaths - a common association in our culture, but something I'd forgotten as I grew older and left those old wives tales behind (I secretly thought the moths came to funerals because of the bright lights at the wakes). The older generations certainly held to all manner of superstition regarding moths and the deceased, and spouted endless variants of their particular significance, but that night, decades removed from those stories, it was simply a comfort to see that brown moth. "Let it be," I told Mum, and we watched it together until it we could no longer spot it and had to assume it had finally flown out the window and back into the darkness. 

The next day, on the ground floor, we were clipping flowers from the wreaths for the casket when another moth appeared and fluttered around the flowers. "Was that the same moth?" I asked Mum under my breath. "No," she answered, "this one was smaller."

The day after, back in our 9th-floor apartment, Mum unpegged the dried laundry from the line and prepared to fold it. When she shook out her T-shirt and mine, two moths fluttered out where they'd been hiding, one in each shirt. 

On the fourth day, a moth flew into the apartment and alighted on my head.

On the fifth day, a moth flew into Mum's bedroom and sat on her arm.

There were no other moths after that. My Aunt passed away some months later, just before the start of the pandemic. This March, Singapore sufficiently relaxed its social gathering restrictions for my family to finally inter my Aunt's cremated remains in the columbarium. When Mum got home after the memorial service, she washed her clothes and set them out to dry. When she gathered them the next day, a moth surprised her by fluttering out.  

There were other incidents, too - the fragrance of flowers in a locked car and apartment, for one - things we couldn't easily explain. Coincidental, scientifically unproven (but not disproven) wishful thinking, perhaps. Yet not everything that's unexplainable is necessarily untrue, and I like to believe that what I experienced might have been the good Lord speaking comfort in ways we could understand, using the language of nature and culture and a grandmother's all-but forgotten anecdote.

So that was my memory. Today seemed a good day to share that. But let's look ahead now, shall we? 

About three years ago, when I was trying out some mini versions of Menagerie animals, I'd planned to make a series of birds. Before I became distracted by other projects, I got as far as a prototype of a robin. The colors were a little off, but they were what I had in my felt stash at the time, so I made do. This winter, I wanted to do something in honor of my dad so I revisited and tweaked the robin, then made other birds, which I'll share in upcoming posts. My dad loved birds. He was never a birdwatcher (then again, it wasn't a common hobby in urban Singapore) but from time to time, he'd keep birds at home - the local songbirds, typically. I remember him building cages with bamboo skewers, caring for injured birds and then setting them free. In his later years, he befriended a particular pigeon on the dock where he often fished. Their initial meeting involved food, unsurprisingly, but I heard that over the months a loyalty developed that was far less conditional. All  the birds in this series are native to this hemisphere, and make regular appearances in my backyard, but because my dad visited me here in MN a couple summers pat, he'd had the privilege to see them in person in his lifetime. What a sweet memory.

Anyway, here are some photos - this is the American Robin. 

Not the same as the European Robin, whose red coloration, the internet smugly informs me, is lighter and doesn't extend below its chest.

Here it is with the more taupe-ish Version 1.

Actually, if not for its dark head, Version 1 might've passed for the European (or English) Robin. If it also had a brown beak and brown feet, I mean. And an orange breast. And throat. So . . . maybe not.

Version 2 comes in more realistic shades of gray. I did my research a little more thoroughly this time.

Check back soon for more birds!


  1. Blessings to you

  2. I think there is something to moths and other things that happen shortly after we lose loved ones.

    The robins are fabulous. And I am very excited to see more birds, especially since my youngest daughter LOVES birds.

  3. I too have been mysteriously gravitating to crochet and I have no idea why! The Reddit subreddit on crochet is quite thriving, it seems even more than the knitting one. Part of the charm is how quickly you can make things, and how wonderful and crazy it all looks. I'm hoping to make the Kram cardigan by Katy Peterson and a Stash Basket is always fun, although it's harder than you think to knit a completely flat circle (circles anyone? :-) ). Doris Chan has some nice clothing designs too.


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