From one mother to another
MAY 13 — “Wait until you become a mother. Then you (will) know.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that line.
It was my mother who would say those words to my sisters and me. She still does, except to me to whom she now says, “Now you know.”
The stuff I would have known included:
1. The endless wait (for everyone to have a shower so the laundry can be done, for the repairman to show up, for friends who say they want to “drop by”).
2. The worry-filled nights when a child is sick.
3. The ache in your heart when you know your child is making the wrong decision.
4. The frustration when a meal you have slaved over is untouched (fast food won hands down many, many times over home-cooked curries and herbal soups).
5. More frustration, like when a freshly-mopped floor is “tarnished” by your child throwing up the meal you slaved over.
So this has been my mother’s lot for the past 36 years. Is this what I am in for too?
On the upside, there are a few bright spots to break the monotony of a housewife’s routine:
1. Nephews and nieces who come by just for her home cooking.
2. Said nephews and nieces who take her out to Sunday lunch and bring by pints of her favourite rum and raisin ice cream.
3. A daughter who will rush home from work to help her run errands.
The list is a little lopsided but I am trying to correct it. You see, only after becoming a mother myself have I been able to see what an amazing mother I have.
There have been many times when I itched to hop on the bus and head for the nearest mall to simply run away from the drudgery of my daily routine.
My mum on the other hand soldiers on, performing her tasks with as much energy as I recall when I was a child.
She is still the last one to go to bed every night, after she’s hung out the day’s laundry in the moonlight, performed a security check on all the doors and windows and accounted for every set of house keys — we would be woken up if one set is missing — and scanned all four newspapers over a steaming mug of black coffee.
She continues to iron the clothes and boil soup daily for her grown-up children. She sings the same repertoire of cheerful, unintelligible songs to my children (there’s one in Hokkien about eating taufu) that she did with my sisters and me.
Lately though, she’s had to fall out of routine, dropping everything to fly over to Hong Kong when Daughter Number One calls for emergency babysitting services. There is, after all, no better comfort than a mother’s presence when a new baby arrives, or, say, a gallbladder decides it is of no more use.
Oh, there was a time when I wished my mum was not a stay-at-home mum. She watched my sisters and me like a hawk. She kept us in line with her trusty assistants: the feather dusters (two) and rotan (three).
When the college years rolled around, earning me a semblance of a social life, it came to a dead end at midnight. Nightlife only began after 11.30pm, so naturally I gained a few kilos when the movies and mamak stalls became my hangouts.
Then I had the bright idea of bringing friends home so that I could circumvent the midnight ruling. My mother was one step ahead — she would announce at 11.45pm that it was getting late and time to turn off the lights and GO HOME.
It was only when I was 26 that I received full blessings to carry on as I pleased. You see, my mother had met her future son-in-law. It would be another year before we started dating but it was a clear sign when she cheerfully wished the then-scrawny young man goodnight (“He’s a bit square, but he’s a good boy”).
What can I say? She chose well.
So this is my thank you to my mum. A little corny, being Mother’s Day and all, but there is no time like the present.
My mother will always be about warm butter cakes, steamy soups, supermarkets (she says we can leave her there when she’s old and senile) and cutesy baby songs. I would not change a thing. Now I know.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the correspondent.