My mother and I had lunch with her sister the other day. The first thing Auntie Wai-ling said when she sat down was how glad she was to eat with us.
“Thank goodness you have no children!” she told me with all the solemn gravity of Moses presenting the 10 Commandments.
Mother looked up over the edge of her cup of chrysanthemum tea. “Please don’t encourage him,” she told her sister with a slight purse to her lips.
Auntie Wai-ling rolled her eyes. “My God!” she began. “I had dinner with Eric and his family last night, and it was just awful! Really, the whole evening was awful. Their apartment is awful. They have no taste at all. The food was awful. The wife is awful. What my son sees in her is beyond me. And their children! They’re the worst human beings to walk the planet! They were simply awful!”
It turns out that little Erica and Eric spent the entire dinner squirming and shouting at each other and at the adults that they were bored. And when they weren’t demanding to sit on their parents’ laps and be hugged, they squabbled with one another over what to watch on the iPad while the helper literally fed them.
“At one stage, Eric said that he was going to get another iPad so that the children wouldn’t have to share!” Auntie Wai-ling reported. “But then a fresh fight broke out because Erica said she was sick of hand-me-downs, and she wanted a new iPad as well! She’s six! Someone needs to tell that brat,” her loving grandmother went on, “that since she’s six, she should also be able to sit quietly at a table and feed herself!”
“Our parents would have smacked us so hard if we ever did anything like that,” Mother said. “Remember that time Father whacked Fred on the head and he was dizzy for a week?”
“If he did that today, someone would have called Social Services,” Auntie Wai-ling replied. “But we were so well behaved as children! We sat quietly. We fed ourselves. No one stuck spoonfuls of food into our mouths. And we had no iPad to entertain us! We were never bored!”
“Remember how we spent entire afternoons catching crickets in the garden and if it was raining, we’d be indoors playing Five Stones? Little bags of sand!” Mother turned to me. “That’s what we played with. Little bags of sand. And little plastic sticks!”
Saffy later said that it’s a pity my mother and aunt hadn’t been consultants on Squid Game.
“I’m about three-quarters of the way through it,” she said, “and it’s completely insane!”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Please tell me it’s not another Korean Netflix show!”
Saffy paused and blinked.
“Because you are really obsessed with Koreans!” Amanda went on. “It’s not healthy! You can lip-sync perfectly every BTS song, and yet you have no idea what you’re singing about!”
Saffy’s magnificent bosom inflated. “Excuse me, but can I just say that the Koreans are the best thing that’s happened to Netflix since I saw Chris Evans naked? That company would still be churning out stupid holiday rental home specials if it wasn’t for the Koreans!”
Amanda looked up from her phone where she’d been Googling Squid Game. “It says here it’s a violent horror show about children’s games!”
Saffy radiated utter joy. “Yeah, it’s about a bunch of people with serious money problems who have to play several rounds of childhood games that have been seriously juiced up with dangerous booby traps and the losers all get shot in the head and the winner wins a trillion won or something! It’s so good!”
Amanda looked doubtful. “I’m not sure…”
“Imagine if there was a Five Stones challenge on Squid Game!” Saffy went on, eyes shining with sadistic delight. “They might put the contestants in a room and just drop big bags of sand from the ceiling and you’d have to run around to avoid being crushed by one!”
“Or play Pick Up Sticks with super sharp knives!” I said, getting into the spirit of the game.
“Or even better, get shot by randomly shooting metal spears!” suggested Saffy, clearly auditioning for the role of creative consultant for the second season of Squid Game.
Amanda got up from the table and stalked off to the room. “You’re both sick!”
Saffy has spent the better part of the last two days dreaming up deadly versions of local childhood games. Zeropoint, the game my mother with a long rope made up of rubber bands, has turned into a gruesome trial by hanging. Scissors, Paper, Stone now involves death by falling into a pit of upturned scissors, being sliced by the edges of paper, or being stoned by other contestants; whilst Snake and Ladder involves wonky ladders and a room full of cobras.
At one stage, Saffy looked up from her notebook. “I should really send these into Netflix! They’re so good!”
“How are we even friends with her?” Amanda asked me.