Ah Siu worked for my grandparents as a helper from when my mother was in her early teens until I was 15 or so.
Not being the most modern lady in town, she still keeps the mesh wire cupboard that my grandparents had before they could afford a refrigerator, as well as the foot stool that my mother would sit on to watch her cook.
When my mother happily told her she was going to get married, she locked her out of the flat for 3 nights because she was not marrying a Chinese man. My grandparents eventually convinced her to let my mum back in. Ah Siu herself never married.
I used to associate her with a black porcelain rice bowl with pink and yellow speckles that she would use at the dinner table. She would suck air into her mouth along with the rice to cool it down. My mother and I went to visit her this last Sunday and Ah Siu served me a red bean desert in that same bowl.
We were relieved to see that she now uses her fridge as a refrigerator rather than a storage cupboard.
She still has an ancient cream tin bowl with holes from decades of use. She plugs them up with little bits of tissue paper, rolled into balls to prevent any water seeping through. She put up a fierce protest to our offer of replacing it. She of course won and will probably still be using it when we visit her next year, except there will no doubt be more holes and soggy tissue hanging down from it’s base.
Ah Siu is 93 and her name means both smile and laughter in Cantonese.