Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Mi,

This is a Mother's Day wish a day late.

It has been 25 years since your experience of being a first-time mother. I know you and dad tried for 5 years before conceiving me, but the 3 other sisters came easily after that didn't they? = P

Mi, we are growing up already. Even your youngest, Serene, is already 18 this year. I know you and dad must have had one helluva ride bringing up 4 girls. As naughty as we may be sometimes, I just want to let you know that you and dad have both done an amazing job - all of us turned out OK what!

Mi, I was a dark baby. I hope I didn't scare you if you were expecting a fair little princess to pop out. When I was born, you were still working then, and I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa for about 2 years right? I have no recollection of those times. Still small ma! But I know I had problems with my milk bottle - I just wouldn't drink! I'm sorry I caused so much hassle because I had to be hidden out of sight before I would suckle on the teat of the bottle! And I know that papaya and rice isn't exactly gourmet, but I loved it all the same.

Thank you for the stacks of photo albums at home which featured baby me, and no one else but me. I guess I was like a novelty item huh? Being the first born, I'm sure I was showered with much love and attention from you and dad. I still remember you telling me that daddy spent a lot of money for my 1st month celebration! He booked tables at a restaurant and opened many bottles of brandy right? What a waste. I didn't even get to have a shot of whatever everyone was having! Hehe.

Then Daphne came along a week after I turned 2. And that's where my big-sister instincts started kicking in I believe? Yes, you were so proud of me because even as a kid, I would give up the chicken drumstick so that my sisters would have more meat to eat, while I made sure I only ate the parts no one else fancied, like, uh.. chicken neck? Hehe.

I had a happy childhood. I loved showing off didn't I? Remember my toy electric guitar I had when we were in Indonesia? That was a fun piece of plastic. Hehe. And I remember our inflatable pool which we used to splash around in on hot sunny afternoons. Elaine was already born then, and we'd take walks around the garden by the pond in the evenings. Mi, remember my red outfit? The blouse and skirt that came in a set? It had white buttons on it? Well, I loved that baju lah! I also remembered the hours you spent making those flash cards, and then teaching us how to read. If there is one thing which you would want the most from us, I think it would be for us to be knowledgeable.

We moved back to Malaysia and I soon started attending kindergarten in Melaka. We had a big garden behind our house and we'd always go to the backyard to blow bubbles. We never bought those silly soapy liquid which was nicely packaged and bottled. You always gave us your concoction of dishwashing liquid with water. Remember those wild grass that grew at the sides of our fences? I used to be allergic to those pollen. Sometimes, after an afternoon of playing in the sun, I'd come home with swollen lips!

You and dad bought me my first bicycle when I was 6. It was red BMX. Yes, it had 4 wheels at first, but we graduated to 3 wheels soon after, and eventually we cycled with only 2. That was fun! We also had a blue one. A mini one for Daphne and Elaine. At 6, you were already teaching me about responsibilities - taking care of my younger sisters. Certain mornings, you'd go to the market and you'd leave me and the sisters at home. You will lock us in and take the keys. We'll eat our breakfast which you have prepared, and sit by the glassdoor waiting for your return.

Serene came along that year I was 6. I remembered our family discussions in giving her a name. It was meant to be Kathleen, but of course, Elaine, 3 at that time, had trouble pronouncing it. So we opted for Serene instead.

All through primary school, I know I have always made you proud. I was a smart kid huh? Hehe, yes lah, the older I get, the stupider I become right! I aced examinations and would always come home being in the top 3 positions of a class of 40 or so. You quit your job so you could be a full time mother for all of us, and you certainly did well. We always had hot lunch waiting for us when we came home from school. After eating, you will send us to have a shower, before we settle down to do our homework. (The chasing us to have our shower bit, you still do today!) You were always there helping us, and yes, you were very strict and scary at times. I remember our guest room in the Nila house in JB. That was our study room then.

I remember once, I came home with awful results and you were so upset and angry. You took my school bag and threw it out of the gates onto the road. You told me that if I didn't want to study, I should throw away my books and bag. That really frightened me. Hehe. I cried and went out to pick it all back. Hey, remember that Indian woman who taught us tuition? She was scary too!

Remember how I loved watching Hindi movies? You would be taking your afternoon nap, and grumble because the songs from Bollywood interrupted you, and you would chase me to do my homework. Eventually, I learnt to mute the volume while watching it so you wouldn't know that I was not doing my homework! Muting it was fine, I didn't understand what they were saying anyway! Hehe.

We went to Alor Setar when I was 12. Hey, I was still smart then! I scored all As for UPSR! It was time for me to do my IC, and till this day, you still tell me that your favourite picture of me was my IC photo when I was 12. I had short, boy cut hair, and till this day, you still tell me that I looked so pretty in that particular photo. I still can't figure that out.

We went back to Jakarta again when I finished primary school, and those days were fantastic huh? Being chauffeur-driven around, having maids to wait on us, heck! It was a dream come true for any 13 year old! My high school days in Jakarta went by in a blink, and all 4 of us had a good time at school. Despite having maids and drivers to serve us, you never did neglect your motherly duties. Every day after school, you will be at the door to greet us when we arrive home, and a hot lunch will be waiting for us on the dining table.

During those teenage years of mine, I'd have gatherings and parties at our house rather often and I'd invite friends from school to come by. You never failed to impress my friends with your culinary skills, always whipping up something or the other when they came by. I remember there was once a couple of my Korean classmates came by to our house for a study session. It must be nearing exam period. Our subject for the day was biology, and I remembered how you sat at the table with us to see us draw and label the digestive system, and after which, a huge tea was served and you fed those boys well.

As us girls were growing up, like any parents of teenage daughters, I bet you both were anxious and had sleepless nights when it came to your girls and the boys they seem to fancy. You were always reminding us to be careful and selective with the boys we go out with, and "get someone like your dad!" is what we were told to do. Yes Mi, Dad is the best man and we will strive to marry someone just like our dad!

After I finished O-Levels at 16 (which I passed, but did horribly), I was shipped back to Malaysia to attend college. I know I had my initial doubts and fears about leaving home at that time, and on one particular afternoon while we were all busy packing my luggage, I suddenly said something along the lines you not wanting me anymore, thus sending me away. Of course I was just being silly. You flew back to KL with me and helped me settle in my new place when I attended Taylor's College because I was fresh out of home, and presumably, did not know how things work. Hehe.

From the day I left home at 16, it has been 8 years since I have been staying out on my own - 3 years in KL, 2 years in Perth, and now back in KL for good. Today, you look forward to every trip I make home, and stock up your fridge with all the food which you plan to cook for me. You always say that we don't get to eat when we live on our own. I presume you mean we don't get to eat well and nutritious food which can only come out of your wok.

I know my college years were tumultous and I gave you and dad big headaches and caused heartbreaks. Probably just one of those "growing-up-phase" which I was going through - skipping classes, the Marlboros, and the amount of money I've used up. Of course, during my not-quite-a-child-but-not-quite-an-adult period, I was rebellious and I used to think that you and dad are out to ruin my happiness and sabotage my freedom. How stupid and foolish I was.

One cold winter's night in Perth, as I was watching Survivor on television, a few of the participants got the opportunity to meet their families, and watching that episode, I was moved to tears. I ran to my room crying and missing home. I was 20 then. I finally realized then, that family is Number 1 in my life and that I miss you and dad terribly after all these years of staying out on my own. It was then that I made a promise to myself to always do my best in making you and dad happy and proud of us.

Mi, sometimes you also make me sad.. Till this day, I have always wondered why you and dad never attended my convocation when I graduated from Murdoch University. You both never even made mention of it, about coming to Perth, or even spoke about attending the mini convo which was held closer to home, in Singapore. I know it's just a silly ceremony where we take silly family pictures and I get to wear those loose and baggy robe with a silly hat on my head, but it still would be nice. And yet, Elaine is a year away from graduating, and you and dad are already making plans to attend her convocation in Scotland. Maybe I'm just jealous.

But, I have come to a conclusion that you have brought me up as a feisty and independent eldest daughter of yours, and I guess, I never really needed much "attention" in that sense. But you have brought me up well. You taught me how to take care of myself and also others.

As I am writing this, I get an SMS from you reminding me to pay my monthly charges for the Supplementary card which dad issued me. I assured you that I'll have the money transfered to you soonest. And your next SMS was more advice to manage my career and finances better, and you also added, "Our whole life only wori over de 4 of u. will know when u r mom".

Yes Mi, I know.

Mi, from you I have also learnt many a things. You are testament that one can never be too old to learn new things! Remember how you were so afraid of baking? Growing up, you only cooked from your pots and wok. Your biggest fear was then to bake a cake and not having it turn out well. But you faced your fears and you picked up baking. After rounds and rounds of practice, today, your cakes and pastry rock! You even said RM 8 for a slice of cheesecake from CoffeeBean is too expensive and thus, you have resorted to learning it and baking it for us. In addition to that, to save on call charges with us being everywhere, you have also conquered technology and learnt how to use the mobile phone to SMS us. But you're still stuck on inserting each alphabet manually instead of using the dictionary! Hehe.

You also taught me values and traditions, something which I know will carry me far in life. I know our family name will not be carried on after this generation, seeing how all of us will adopt another surname when we get married, but rest assured, what you have taught me will not disappear just yet. You are living example of "the woman behind every successful man". You taught us that a wife's role is to be a successful homemaker, to manage the home and the children well. I know I certainly will not give up my career so quickly after I have babies, but you have showed me the importance of not neglecting tradition and being a good wife while balancing my career.

From you, I have also learnt that the whites must never be washed with the coloured items and that the washing machine alone is not enough to get our clothes clean because you insisted on a semi-automatic washing machine, and still end up using your hands for the final rinse.

You have also taught us all to be thrifty and to spend wisely. Why pay RM 10 for a coffee at CoffeeBean when a whole jar of Nescafe only cost under 20 bucks and you can make so many mugs of coffee from it? Why pay RM 300 for a pair of Levi's when you can get a pair for RM70 from say, Giordano. You always remind us that if it weren't for you being so thrifty, we children will not have the opportunity to go to university. So we now know the importance of saving up. I know more often that not, we end up buying the most useless and uncessary things, but I guess it will come to us when we are older, I mean wiser. I know I'm not exactly managing my money well and have no savings whatsoever... but really, I know, I just can't seem to get it right yet. But wait lah! I'm going to get myself a man just like dad, and have everything provided for! Hehe.

You have also taught us that one of the tricks to keeping a family unit happy, is to have the fridge full all year round. You always say that eating out is no good, AND expensive, so you cook everything! Right down to our Christmas turkey!

Today, only Serene is still left at home, with the 3 elder ones out of the house, working or studying somewhere. In no time, it will be Serene's turn as well. You have sacrificed your whole life to give us this flight of independence, the day when we would leave our nest, to step out into the world on our own. (Of course, you will be still be waiting in the nest for when we need your help.. especially financially! Hehe)

This is going no where, because I can keep on writing and writing and writing... so Mi, happy Mother's Day to you! From the bottom of my heart and deep within my soul, Mi, thank you for everything! Everything that you have done for us, all your sacrifices, it truly is insurmountable.

Mi, I love you.

Your daugther,

Posted by Doreen at 1:39 pm