This is my letter to the world, That never wrote to me, -- The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty. Her message is committed To hands I cannot see; For love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me! - emily dickinson -

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

numbers, ii

i am the 14th child in my family. i am also the 7th son and a member of the 7th generation of ethnic bugis from riau who arrived in what was then called the golden chersonese at the start of the 1800s. i also have 13 nieces, 20 nephews and 1 grand niece. a grand nephew is due in november.

because of the size of my family, i always dreaded the times when i had to fill up forms that required me to list down the names and birthdates of every member of my family in chronological orger. the names i never had problems with. but the birth dates required a bit of math and some creative lying so that they could be listed logically as intended. i remember at least 2 occasions where i had to go through this dreadful deed.

you see, my family never celebrated birthdays. well, at least in the years since i was born. i guess my parents stopped celebrating birthdays by their 10th child. but it never mattered. so, i never memorized the birthdays. but i knew that my father was born in 1922 and was married when he was 22. my mother was 18. i arrived in 1969 and my sister who came before me was born in 1967. so, between 1944 and 1967, i had 23 years to sequence the birth of 12 siblings.

my eldest brother had to be born in 1945 because it wouldn't have been logical for him to be born in the same year my parents were married. starting from him, i would then list down the names of my siblings according to the actual sequence that each was born. of course everyone in the family knows who came first up to the last: after my eldest brother, there was my eldest sister, followed by another sister, then a brother, a sister, a brother, a sister, a sister, a brother, a brother, a sister and a brother.

let's see, 6 boys and 6 girls, that equals to 12. okay. everything sums up nicely. now came the tricky part--adding the dates.

heck, i can't remember exactly how i did it but the list came out looking the most logical it ever chronologically could by the time i was done. was that a nasty thing to do?

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