I used to sit on the dining table, singing or reading aloud to my Mother as she pottered about the kitchen prepping dinner. She was the moon, around which my two-year-old childhood orbited. Mommy, look at me! Mommy, I can do this! Mommy, are you listening to me? And no matter what she was doing, she always turned around to smile. Yes, I am. I’m here.
When I fell and split my chin, she was there to pinch it shut. Four years old, in great pain and terrified of the blood I saw, Mother’s great calm soothed my fears. I only found out years later that she too was in shock as we went to get stitched up.
Like most kids, I hated rote learning in Primary School. I didn’t like wasting my perfectly good days memorising tables or doing sums. Mother tried to help but as she had started working again, she hired tutors instead, and I delighted in torturing them. I “forgot” lessons, took long “toilet breaks”, asked too many questions and copied too many answers. Unfortunately, Mother never failed to be there with a suitable punishment.
With heightened sensitivities and no greater sense, I drifted apart from Mother in my teenage years. I disliked her rules and was keen to explore things I was not yet ready for. Mother caught me sneaking out of the house countless times. She outed me on many occasions when I’d claimed to be at a friend’s place but was in fact, actually at a club. She tried to understand me, but I didn’t think I could be understood. Our conversations were barbed, our relationship strained.
But things changed when I said ‘yes’ to the man I’d marry. Suddenly, the thought of not having Mother in my daily life terrified me. After the celebrations on my wedding day had died down, I huddled in a corner and cried. My husband tried to comfort me, but he couldn’t reach the deep ache inside. After years of fighting Mother for my independence, I finally was on my own. And I missed her.
Of course, things got better as the days went by. My husband and I grew into our new roles as partners and Mother? She was only a phone call away. I found myself drawing on my childhood memories as I cared for my home and family. I folded clothes the way she did, prepared ingredients the way she used to and favoured household cleaners that were similar to what she used. Mother was no longer the moon I orbited around, nor was she the enemy. She was now my inspiration, the nurturer I pattern after in my parenting.
Mother moved back to her home country six years ago, to care for her mother. Grandma isn’t doing too well, and Mother would rather nurse her than let a stranger do the task. She gave up her job in Singapore, cancelled her accounts and till today lives thousands of kilometres away.
She still texts me regularly, asking how my day is. I too, check in on her often. Are you exercising? You need to continue building muscle mass so it protects your bones okay? Have you taken your vitamins? Did you go out to meet new friends? And no matter what she’s doing, she always takes the time to reply, Yes, I am.
This story is posted in conjunction with Mother’s Day. To my Mother and all mothers, thank you for always being there and being an inspiration.
Thank you to one of our Actxa users for sharing her story, drop an email to email@example.com if you would like to share yours!
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