A good neighbor is a great blessing. A good neighbor makes our life sweet where bad neighbor makes a hell of it. Either we are in sorrow or joy, in rain or in shine; he is always by the side of us.
Mak Cik Salmah is sixty-two but she does not look a day over fifty. She is forever complaining that she is overweight but we tell her that she is pleasantly plump. Her hair is always swept neatly back into a bun, not a hair out of place.
Mak Cik Salmah lives just next door to us. When we first moved in, she was the first to come over and introduce herself, holding a hot plate of chocolate in her hand. Her warmth and joy were a welcome change from our previous neighbors. Since then, she has become a regular visitor to our home. I frequently visit my neighbor’s house.
We soon discovered that Mak Cik Salmah did not have any children and so, she doted on us like we were her own. She insisted that we call her Opah and we became her first Chinese grandchildren. When I was young, I used to look forward to her visits as she would always hand me some goodies which she keeps in between her sarong belt.
Mak Cik Salmah is never content unless her hands are occupied. Whenever she comes over for a chat, she always brings along some chores to do. Her favorite is to peel anchovies. The more interesting the conversation, the faster she would peel. In no time, her lap would be filled with anchovies. Then, she would get up and dust her sarong the minute the clock strikes six. “It’s late. I have to go. Pak Din will be expecting dinner soon,” she would proclaim. However, she always lingers for another fifteen minutes or so, as if she was reluctant to go back to her lonely home.
Our day is never complete without Mak Cik Salmah’s stories about the Japanese Occupation. She was just a little girl then but she remembers her time spent in the jungle vividly. She keeps us mesmerized with her stories, which are often scary as well as hilarious. As I grow older, I often wonder whether she makes up all those stories. Nevertheless, the children love her.
The most wonderful thing about Mak Cik Salmah is her ability to see some good in the worst character. So, whenever I got into trouble with my parents, I would turn to her for advice. She is the first to reach to our help, even before our relatives. How can I repay such a kindly neighbor? May God bless her!