Sunday, May 9, 2010

I have a mom who read me stories

Mother’s Day came and went. I rang mom to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day”…she was happy that I rang, happy that I remembered. I hadn’t organised any presents although on her birthday, which was just a few days ago, I organised some chocolates and cake online for arrival on her birthday.

Mom loves cakes, in fact, she loves anything sweet. When she gets angry, she often takes out her biscuit tins or chocolate bars, if any, and munches. It must be for the sugar rush, and the high it provides.

Mom spent a lot of time on the call telling me what the domestic helper is doing wrong. For Mom, I am the boxer’s punch bag…I listen to her as she vents her frustrations.

There is much to say about Mom’s threshold levels – she has a very high tresh hold, for pain and suffering, and hard work. I hope I can develop such high tresh holds.

On this particular Mother’s Day, I am reminded of one of Mom's golden rules, one which I use on Princess as well. Never default on the time you should get home from school.

I remember once, after Chinese school, I was playing in the rain, oblivious to the rule that I was to head home right after school. Some friends of mine were playing in the courtyard, and I lingered to watch, then got tempted to stay, a bit longer. Then I got attracted to the game they were playing in the school courtyard, so I too stayed, to participate in the game. It was nearly dusk, and the sky was turning somewhat grey and dull. There was a surreal feeling to the school yard, all empty except for a bunch of school kids having a good time. I forgot the golden rule.

Mom came looking for me. I froze the minute I saw her. It was almost like death had come to visit. I knew for sure I would get a good walloping when I got home. No words were spoken as I trailed behind her on our way home. Me the errant sheep returned to the fold. My skin burned with shame, as I trudge behind her, in hurried steps. I could see fury written all over her face. I learnt my lesson that day.

I remember this incident because this is one of mom’s many golden rules that Princess has taken to heart. If there are changes to the time she needs to get home, she has to inform me, where ever she may be. I love this golden rule.

Once, I broke a set of tea cups when my skipping rope dragged an entire tray of cups onto the floor. My friends and I were livid with fear, watching the family cups crash into tiny pieces. My great grandmother was furious and cursing us in a language not suited for kids. I thought I would die from a good hiding. But mom didn’t even seem that bothered. She told me to pick up the pieces. No fuss over the shattered cups. I think the cups were not important for her. She knew how to distinguish between what is really important, and what is not. Breaking tea cups was a small matter in her scheme of things. Not keeping time was a major sin.

I have a mom who loves a good yarn. How many nights have I spent listening eagerly to her interpreting for us, her readings from a Chinese newspaper serial of the story of a mute and how unwanted and unloved he was. How many nights have I wished I was the maiden traipsing across the bridge of birds as she went to meet her love, the cowherd. How many nights have I wondered about how lucky I was to be born in an era where girls were allowed education, not like the Butterfly Lovers (Liang San Bao, Zhu Ying Tai) where the heroin had to disguise herself as a man to get an education. How many times have I heard stories of the bizarre, of a maiden whose tummy grew full of scorpions due to evil magic, of crickets who grew so large, they terrorised me in my dreams.
(image:sourced from

If there is one thing I grew up with, it is mom’s love for romance, adventures, tragedies, or tales of sword and sorcery found in novels and movies. Once I woke up at 3am in our apartment, then in Singapore, to see the lights on in her room (her sister was visiting as well). I turned the knob of the door to see a sea of tissues on the floor, and two red-eye women, sniffling their hearts out to a tragic Cantonese serial! They burst out laughing when they saw me. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or despair!

Here’s a poem I love that depicts in part my mom’s love for adventures and her love for newspaper serials and wuxia (sword and sorcery) serials. Thanks mom for all the stories you gave me as a child. Happy Mother’s Day!

The Reading Mom

I had a Mother who read to me
Saga of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a mother who read to me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be-
I had a Mother who read to me.

I had a mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

By Gillian, Strickland, "The Reading Mother."