“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” – Mark Twain.
Learning is a lifelong journey. Whether it is formal education or acquiring skills, making an attempt to pursue something new can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for anyone, including septuagenarian Madam Chan Siow Chi, fondly known as Aunty Kim among family and friends. Her warm personality and adorable nature immediately makes anyone at ease.
Born and raised in Butterworth, Penang, Aunty Kim was not academically inclined in her school days.
“I had to drop out of school after Form 3 because I am not academically inclined. No matter how much I read, the knowledge won’t seem to go in,” said Aunty Kim.
However, this former student of St. Theresa’s Convent had a secret passion for music. Although she never had the opportunity to pursue music in her younger days, she never gave up hope and decided to learn the piano a couple of months ago.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Aunty Kim about her bold decision to take up piano lessons at 75, her family and other interests.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I have four siblings, four children and six grandchildren. My children actually live nearby. Like, my oldest daughter, Stephanie lives behind my house and she works in a bank. I look after her children when she is at work.
My other daughter, Regina is currently self-employed. As for my two sons, one lives in this area. My youngest son, Gerard is currently working in Saigon. He is in the hotel industry and often travels around for work.
2. When you were younger, what did you enjoy doing?
Cooking and spending time with my family members! We would teach each other how to cook and even among close friends, we would share recipes with each other. I would go home and try out new recipes.
I can cook all kinds of dishes – Indian, Chinese, Nyonya dishes. Besides cooking, I can also bake, something I learned from my father. Initially, I wasn’t much of a baker but in time I became better. I have passed down my ‘expertise’ in cooking to my children. Both my sons and daughters can cook quite well.
3. You recently started learning to play the piano. What inspired that decision?
My two grandchildren were playing piano at home. They were fortunate to receive a piano from their uncle on their father’s side. Actually, I have always wanted to learn a musical instrument. Back in school, I was exposed to music. My classmates would sing and play musical instruments.
I often wondered whether I would have the chance to take up music as well like my friends. When I accompanied my grandchildren for music lessons at Ms. Monica’s house I became more interested to learn the piano. I told my daughter and she encouraged me to give it a try! I must admit being reluctant at first because of my age.
I kept doubting myself. Eventually, I decided to approach Ms. Monica about piano lessons. I find it interesting to learn the piano as it takes me back to my schooling days. This is a good way to keep my mind occupied.
4. What has been the most challenging part thus far about learning to play the piano?
I would say it would be to remember the notes. Every day, I try to read and practice. Try to remember. Sometimes, it can be difficult. That’s why I really need to focus when I am playing.
5. Do you have a favourite song you look forward to play on the piano? Any favourite musicians?
No, not yet. I just started learning to play the piano. As for musicians, I listen to a lot of Christian songs and songs from the 60s. One particular artist would be Don Moen.
6. It is definitely inspiring to us that you are willing to learn even at this age. What do your children have to say about your new interest?
My friends and family who I WhatsApp every day are pleased that I am learning a musical instrument. They say it’s good for my brain. Otherwise, I’ll be at home because now I don’t do much sewing after my eye operation, a few years ago.
7. Finally, are there any words of wisdom you wish to share with our readers?
I think my grandmother had quite an impact on me growing up. She taught me to be kind and not to be jealous of other people’s success. What they are, what they become is due to their own hard work. You have to just do what you can.
My father’s words that patience is the mother of virtue also influenced me. He always taught us to have faith and pray. Always pray to be someone good. I share all these lessons with my children, too. I teach them what I can.
We wish Aunty Kim the best of health and hope to watch her piano recital someday!
*Feature image by John Tan