Em­u­lat­ing mum on Mother’s Day

New Straits Times - - Pulse | Living -

WHEN I was a lit­tle girl, I was in awe of my mother who seemed to know ev­ery­thing — peo­ple, places and pro­to­cols. She also ap­peared to have eyes not just at the back of her head but ev­ery­where else too! She al­ways seemed to know what we were up to. She ei­ther had spies in ev­ery cor­ner of the world, or she had special an­ten­nas and com­mu­ni­cated with aliens. We were in awe of her.

She gave the im­pres­sion that she was om­nipresent and be­fore we did any­thing we weren’t sup­posed to, we’d al­ways ask each other: “What if Mak knew? If she didn’t, what if she found out later?” She was bound to, at some point or the other. There were no se­crets to be kept from her. That thought al­ways struck fear in our hearts and kept us on the straight path.

What we couldn’t fathom was how she seemed to know ev­ery­thing. She was so worldly-wise and so many peo­ple sought her coun­sel and held her opin­ions and de­ci­sions in high re­gard. She couldn’t have been much older than I am now, when I was a child. Yet I don’t feel any­thing like her nor do I com­mand that kind of author­ity. She had vi­sion and she was tena­cious. Some­how “steel mag­no­lia” comes to mind when I think of her.

My mother was strict and had no pa­tience for non­sense. I sup­pose rais­ing seven chil­dren and run­ning a house­hold filled with peo­ple, rang­ing from rel­a­tives to staff, was no mean feat. She was a hard­work­ing woman who was one of the ear­li­est cater­ers in the Klang Val­ley. She also op­er­ated two of­fice can­teens for decades un­til she could no longer cook.

In the early days while mum was still hale and hearty, I used to re­mem­ber her go­ing to the Chow Kit Road wet mar­ket to pur­chase her sup­plies. Wear­ing her waist-pouch and knee-high rub­ber boots, she never failed to greet and ban­ter with the mer­chants, bar­gain­ing for the best price.

Ev­ery­one seemed to know her. She’d point to the things she wanted, sign off in a lit­tle book, and the items would be sent to the wait­ing van. I loved the colours of the mar­ket and the fresh pro­duce. But I al­ways made such a fuss about hav­ing to scrub my feet to get rid of the muck af­ter each out­ing. Mum would just laugh it off. The day I got my own rub­ber boots as a gift from mum was like win­ning a medal of hon­our. I wore them with such pride but, most im­por­tantly, I loved wear­ing them for they pro­tected my feet from the stinky pud­dles in the mar­ket.

The ven­dors would al­ways call out to my mother: “Tengku! Apa khabar? Mari ten­gok barang kami!” (How are you? Come and see our things!) and shout their spe­cials for the day. I al­ways found this an­i­mated scene quite ex­cit­ing. The en­ergy level was high. Some­times we’d get to sam­ple the sweet­est fruits. At other times they’d share their breakfast kuih with us. We never ate full meals with them — just morsels of this and that. Mum would some­times bring food or sweets that she had made for them, es­pe­cially for the fes­tiv­i­ties.

That was the thing about mum. She seemed to know the right thing to do at the right time. She was gra­cious and as at ease with fish­mon­gers as she was with roy­als.

It was in­grained in her to take other peo­ple’s wel­fare into ac­count. She told me that when­ever some­one vis­ited the house, she would al­ways in­quire if they had eaten. She’d say: “Even if you have noth­ing in the house, just cook some rice and fry an egg. At the very least of­fer them a drink. You never know what chal­lenges they might have faced that day.”

Over the years, mum took this one step fur­ther. It be­came im­por­tant for her to visit the sick and needy, and feed peo­ple, es­pe­cially chil­dren. When she was alive, she cared for so many peo­ple, many of whom we came to know about only af­ter her pass­ing. One by one they came, with tes­ti­monies of how mum had helped them. She was as car­ing as she was giv­ing.

While she was alive, we’d cel­e­brate Mother’s Day with food and flow­ers. She’d al­ways chide us for spend­ing money on flow­ers, protest­ing that the blooms would wilt and die in a few days. “Bukan­nya boleh makan pun!” (It’s not like you can eat these). But we could see her eyes light up as she lov­ingly cra­dled her bou­quet.

Maybe this Mother’s Day, I’ll put some yel­low roses on her grave. Mum al­ways loved them. Per­haps I’ll also cel­e­brate her mem­ory by send­ing some food over to the chil­dren who at­tend Qu­ran classes dur­ing the week­ends.

I’m nowhere near the woman my mother was but when I mimic her acts of kind­ness, I feel her spirit and love. Memories are all I have of her. Cher­ish your mum if you still have her. Keep on mak­ing memories to trea­sure and warm your heart.





Cher­ish your mum and keep on mak­ing memories to trea­sure and warm your heart.

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