by Sophie Chua (P6 2021)
25th of April. That was a date I found absolutely confusing and was always puzzled by. Over the years, I noticed my mother extremely downcast and glum on the 25th of April. However, whenever I tried approaching and questioning her, she would always fly into a rage and tell me it was nothing. Being the only child, I expected to be the apple of her eye and often became possessive when she carried other babies or complimented other children. Every year without fail, I would demand that she tell me that I was the only child she loved. Hence, 25th of April always remained a mystery to me. Until, one day, I came across items I had never seen before and it changed my life forever…
“Mum! I am going to do some skipping with my skipping rope outside! I will be in the garden!” I hollered with exhilaration as I sauntered out the front door. Hearing this, my mother nodded and reminded me to stay safe and be careful. It was a typical Sunday afternoon, and my family and I had decided that we would take a day-off that day after a hectic work week.
It would be my first time playing with my skipping rope for a while, as I had recently been busy juggling school work and enrichment classes. My skipping rope was kept away in an old box down in the basement of our house. I had never really been in the basement before, as it mostly just contained old items and furniture that we did not use anymore.
As I stumbled down the dark and steep staircase into the basement, I slowly pushed open the old, heavy door. With the basement door creaking open, I entered the basement filled with dust and spider webs in corners of the dull room. Although I had always known that the basement of my house existed, it suddenly felt so unfamiliar to me. Almost instantly, I espied my bright pink skipping rope lying on the ground at a corner beside a broken plastic box. I then reached out to pick the skipping rope up and prepared to leave. Just as I was about to turn around to exit the room. I accidentally kicked over the plastic box. An old and tattered envelope fell out and fluttered onto the ground.
At first glance, I thought it was just another old birthday card addressed to me many years ago. However, as I crouched down to further examine the crumpled and yellow envelope, I realised it was one that I had never seen before. Strange as it was, the envelope was addressed to a person called Samuel. Confused, I thought, “I don’t know any Samuels, do I?” Intrigued, I gently picked it up, careful not to rip or tear the delicate piece of paper. The envelope contained a couple of hand-written letters, the contents written resembling my mother’s small, cursive handwriting. The date written at the top corner of every letter also all read, 25th April. As I began flipping and looking through the letters, I noticed similar sentences and meanings. One wrote:
“Dear Sammy, I miss you very much. You would be two years old by now. I carried you in my womb for so long, in hopes of being able to carry you and hear your contagious laughter. I have hopes of hugging you and embracing you in my arms every day……”
Seeing this, I began tearing up as I read about the love my mother had felt towards this person. Or child, that was two? I was utterly confused and awestruck. Just when I thought the letters were the end of it, I noticed a faded and torn photograph of an ultrasound scan, showing a small little baby. It was said to be scanned on the 18th of April 2004. My eyes widened in shock as realisation hit.
“Then where’s the baby? Could this be a……miscarriage? What else could it be?” I muttered silently under my breath. If it really had been a miscarriage, I would have been lied to all along that I was the only child my mother ever loved, and Samuel had been kept from me. I did not know whether to feel angry or sad that I had unveiled this secret. I was confused. Considering the possibilities, shock overwhelmed me as my knees trembled and my hands turned cold and clammy. An ultrasound scan… Letters written by my mother to an unknown baby… All on the 25th of April!
“Well, there’s only one way to find out! Ask my mother herself,” I thought, as I clasped the envelope in my trembling hands and started up the stairs with hurt and confusion written all over my face.
Slowly approaching my mother who was in the kitchen cooking up a storm, I questioned anxiously, “Mom, can I ask you something?”
Startled, she quickly replied, “Sure! What’s wrong?”
Holding up the envelope to her with my eyes glued to the faded envelope, I whispered, unsure of how she would respond, “Mom, what is this? Who is Samuel? Have you been truthful when you told me that I am your only beloved child? Sorry if this question is too painful to bear, but did you have a miscarriage that I am unaware of? Is that why you are always sad on 25th of April?”
With eyes glued to his phone at the dining table, my father instantly raised his head to look at me, puzzled as to why I was suddenly asking questions like that. “Sophie… What did you find?” He quickly rose from his seat to stand beside my mother, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Taking the envelope and examining it clearly with my father watching closely beside her, my mother gasped in shock, before shamefully admitting, “Yes, I did. I was going to name the boy Samuel and he was born on 25th April. I was devastated upon finding out that he was a stillborn baby. I miss him so much! I write a letter to him every year. I am sorry I have kept it a secret from you for so long! I did not want to make you sad and put even more than you already have on your plate! We didn’t want to lie and keep it a secret from you!” By then, she was in hysterics and tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I am so sorry, Sophie; we were just afraid of how you would react, and we were already shocked beyond words!” My father admitted in a low voice. Seeing her bawl her eyes out, I instantly embraced her in a tight hug and reassured her that everything was going to be okay, and Samuel was in a better place. Although I did feel a little upset that I had been kept in the dark, I could empathise with my mother and knew that it was already hard enough to have to go through the terrifying experience, especially as a mother. I suddenly felt that I wanted a big brother. Together, as a family, we sat on the kitchen floor, both hugging and reassuring each other, praying that wherever Samuel was, he was safe.
That day, I finally discovered the secret and true meaning of 25th April, that my parents had kept from me for a long time. It really touched my heart and filled me with sadness knowing that we had lost a precious family member. I resolved to always support my family and treasure the precious time spent with them, as you never know when it may end. Every year from then on, 25th of April was not only a day of remembering Samuel’s birth, but also reminding ourselves the meaning of family and love.