Make the garden an extension of your living space and create happy moments there
ONE endearing memory I have as a child was the outdoor birthday parties in my kampung in Malacca. Preparations would begin the previous day, of curries and snacks, and the cleaning and decorating. Everyone would be bustling about in high spirits. Then, all the neighbours would come, and we’d run and laugh in the open air. One reason why I love garden parties is because it always reminds me of such occasions in my childhood.
Fast forward. Today, it seems Malaysians have lost their feel for simple garden parties. These days, from Mother’s Day to Grandpa's birthday, celebrations usually mean dinner at a swanky outlet in town. The humble home garden is now only reserved for momentous occasions such as a wedding reception and Hari Raya or Chinese New Year open houses.
Mention garden party and immediately, images of an expensive, elaborate and exotic event come to mind. But garden parties used to be a simpler affair. Even your favourite team winning a match was reason enough to host a garden party back then.
You can experience that nostalgic charm, too, even if you’re living in the heart of the city.
Rustic charm of a kampung
Nostalgia has a powerful calming effect, even more so for people stressed by the daily grind and needing to “put things in perspective”. Perhaps that is the basic appeal of returning to hometowns to spend time in familiar places.
Today’s child is both fortunate and unfortunate, depending on your perspective.
He is fortunate because he has modern comforts — air-conditioning, a computer that does the “imagining” for him, dozens of channels on TV, and a host of other cool gadgets that if I didn’t admit to enjoying, I’d be lying.
So why is he unfortunate? Because of these very comforts. As a father, I don’t want my two children to grow up with memories of shooting down enemy warplanes on the PC. I don’t want them to just enjoy air-conditioning but not feel refreshed by a cool breeze on a balmy afternoon.
Creating memories for children
Where else can you evoke a little rustic charm if not in your own garden? Yes, spare the garden from modernisation. Whether you live in rows of identical houses, or in a sprawling bungalow, make your garden a testament to your individuality and creativity.
Keep it such that your children will find it intriguing and form pleasant memories of having spent time there.
I don’t mean for you to turn your garden into a replica of a traditional village. Far from it. Make it into an outdoor living space.
For the urban dweller, why not celebrate a family birthday in your garden for a change? Involve the family in the preparations, a great time with cousins and uncles and aunts you only now and then.
Stock up on flowering plants. Place lots of candles everywhere.
Make sure the garden is lit creatively, but don’t flood the area with powerful spotlights. Have adequate wooden tables and seating areas that blend well with the natural landscape. If you have a garden fountain, better still.
The idea is to make your garden, your living room. Use the grass for carpet, the sky for the ceiling, the breeze for the air-conditioning, and well, good conversation and great fun to replace the TV. And oh, don’t forget to pray for good weather!