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The Graduation Troops

Amy Lau

Mon Dec 10 2012

Amy’s family

ONCE or twice a year, we’re expected to entertain our parents when they come visit us in Melbourne. But what’s it like when you’ve got not two or three, but seven family members visiting at once? Amy Lau shares her experience. 

There was no doubt in my mind mum and dad would come to Melbourne for my coming graduation. But when I got the call that my grandmother, my cousin and my mum’s four other sisters were coming as well, I began to stress out months before their impending arrival.  Now don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled and excited they were coming over, I just didn’t know how to prepare for it or what to expect.

Two days before their arrival, my phone erupted in a flurry of WhatsApp notifications. Eleven family members added into a group chat. My phone battery decreased by 15 per cent in five minutes.I could already see the parallels between my phone’s battery life and my own energy span.

There was no way they could stay in my mildly claustrophobic studio apartment, so arrangements were made for them to stay at my grandaunt’s house in the suburbs. The downside was it’s about an hour and a half away from the city by bus and train.

When they came into the city for the first time, I decided to surprise them at Melbourne Central by waiting for them at the train station. Considering they resembled a mini army carrying a load of “supplies” for me, it really wasn’t hard to spot them amongst the crowd.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged alongside complaints about the myki. But I couldn’t stop smiling. And I didn’t even mind when the noise level suddenly increased – by an obscene amount.

The next few days consisted of exploring the city and buying enough chocolate to fill a small suitcase for my relatives back in Malaysia. I found myself counting the number of family members every few minutes while we walked around, ensuring no one had gotten lost in the sea of other visiting families, uniform-clad high schoolers and enthusiastic shoppers.

At the end of each day, I would see them off at the train station and head back to my apartment. Tired. Worn-out. Alone. Already missing them and looking forward to the next day.
My dad’s just arrived too – so that’s another one to add to the family band wagon. But am I complaining? No.

If anything, their boisterous presence and overlapping conversations -mixed with Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and English- makes me feel like I’m back home in Malaysia. And well, there are no words to express just how much I’ve missed mum’s cooking.

Is your family here for your graduation? What’s that been like for you?