Stories I Tell About My Mother

A few years ago, I told my family that the gift-giving logic is flawed when it comes to the celebration of birthdays, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.  It is our tradition that we receive gifts for our birthdays and we give gifts to our parents for Father’s/Mother’s Days.  Always the Devil’s Advocate, I said to my family that it seems strange to be receiving gifts on one’s birthday – as if we should be rewarded for having been born.  Wouldn’t it make more sense on our birthdays to be giving gifts to our parents? For without them, we would not be here.  And following this same logic, without us, our parents would not be parents, hence they should be giving us presents on Mother’s/Father’s Days!  OK, so this argument might be slightly flawed, too, if you are not the first-born (which I am not) because your parents are already parents even if you had not been born, so…

Putting aside my silliness (it runs in the family), Mother’s Day is a day we dedicate to show our love and appreciation for our mothers.  Of course, we should do this every single day and not just on one particular day, but it is still a good reminder to us of the sacrifices they have made for us and what they mean to us.  A mother is more than the woman who gave birth to us.  She has enormous responsibilities to raise and nurture us, and most importantly, to love us unconditionally.  For some, this person could be an aunt, a grandmother, a godmother, a step-mother, a foster-mother, an adoptive mother or a guardian.  And on this day, we recognise and show our appreciation for them all because they have made us who we are today.

My Mum with my Grandmother in the '50s

One of my earliest memories of me with Mum dates back to when I was 4 or 5 (it plays back like a black and white movie in my head – yep I am THAT strange!).  I remember watching some sort of TV show and seeing a couple kissing.  Keeping in mind this was in the early ’70s in Hong Kong, the kisses on television were very tame – close-mouthed and always very quick and brief 🙂  I remember sitting in Mum’s lap and practising kissing her like those people did on TV – you had to turn your head a certain way and then tilt your head to the left and right three times before you pucker up. OMG just thinking about that now makes me literally laugh out loud.  It was such a silly thing but it is a precious memory for me.

My mother became a first-time Mum when she was only 20 with the arrival of my sister (I arrived a little less than 2 1/2 yrs later).  Back in those days, parenting books were not as popular as they are now.  My Mum did not attend Lamaze classes.  She did what most Chinese women did in those days – listened to what other women in the family told her to do based on old wives tales and Chinese superstitions.  Occasionally, my sister and I would dig out the little diaries Mum kept of our progress when we were babies (there was no such market as “Baby Diaries” in those days – she only used the freebie little diaries banks gave out to customers every year) and laugh about how we got to where we are today.  There were occasional entries of doctor’s visits, vaccinations, records of first teeth, or in my sister’s case, records of her falling off the bed on more than one occasion.  And before you rush to judgement on that front, a few knocks on the head certainly did nothing to stop my sister from coming first in her class every year, becoming Dux in high school (when we didn’t even know what the word meant), getting some scholarship money for university, then winning the University Medal when she completed her MBA.  I had my fair share of knocks and falls, but who hasn’t?

There’s an ongoing joke in my family, and no doubt in many other families as well, that I got all my bad traits from my mother (and for Father’s Day, I shall probably describe all of his bad traits that I also inherited from him! :D) – the bad temper, the laziness, the sensitivity, to name a few.  Even just the other night, on the phone, Mum was reminding me of our trip to Taiwan when I was about 5 or 6, when I refused to eat when the rest of the tour group ate, and so all I ever remember eating on that trip was a very popular Taiwanese snack which was eggs boiled in soy sauce and tea leaves.  Seriously. I would never get up early enough to eat breakfast so I would be hungry by the time our tour bus made its first sight-seeing stop of the day, and the only thing my parents could find for me to eat would be hawkers on the sides of the roads selling these eggs.  And then I would not be hungry when everyone stopped for lunch so I would skip lunch. So then I would be hungry again. And the cycle would repeat itself.  I was honestly the most painful child on earth!  Ah…a child that only her mother could love 🙂

Jokes aside, if anyone was to say that I am the spitting image of my mother, I would like to think that they not only mean we look alike, but that I have inherited her values, compassion and generosity .  The most important value she ever taught my sister and I was that families must stick together no matter what (and we have been through our share of the bad but I don’t want to go into that now).  I remember quite vividly fighting with my sister – I mean physically throwing punches at each other – when I was probably 10 or 11 and my sister 12 or 13.  I don’t remember what we were fighting about but Mum came rushing into our room in tears, pulling us apart, and reminding us that we were sisters and that we should never do anything to hurt each other.  She made us kiss and make up and apologise to each other.  I have never forgotten that lesson.

Me with my sister & Mum - mid '70s - what a bunch of posers, huh? Lol

Although I have no children of my own, I have been told, and been witness to this in person, that when you are pregnant, everyone will have opinions and advice for you about pregnancy and parenting.  My mother just did what she instinctively felt without the help of these books, and I would like to think that my sister and I turned out pretty well.  She wanted the best life for us and did her best to provide an environment that allowed us to have that, making many sacrifices along the way.  She wanted her girls to go to university and to be independent and happy.  Without being a “Tiger Mum” or wrapping us in cotton wool, she just wanted us to do our best.  And the proof is in the pudding, as they say, when we look at my nephew – the next generation – and we know that our Mum has done more than an OK job raising us 🙂

So, to my beloved Mum, I want to thank you for making me who I am today – all the good and the bad, for without the bad, there is nothing else to strive for and nobody is perfect.  I love you and I am proud to be your daughter 🙂  Love is unconditional and you are living proof of it everyday.

Forever your “baby” 🙂 xox

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5 thoughts on “Stories I Tell About My Mother

  1. Holly Merriday

    What a beautiful post! 🙂 I like that you included mothers beyond the “traditional” too. 🙂

    Of course, I’m not even an aunt yet. My sister in law wants to get her Masters before they have any kids. *sigh*. And I only have the one brother so that’s my only sister in law…

    So I guess my characters would be my children?

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  2. Carol

    What beautiful post! We are in the car and I read it out loud to Ryan’s mom (we are both sitting in the backseat). We both loved it and the photos too 🙂 I will have you know you made me cry and made us both laugh! Thank you for sharing your stories of your mum with us *hugs you*

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  3. Laíse

    Hey Valerie! Amazing post… And your argument is good, kinda crazy but good! Haha; I loved, really, the old photos you posted; So cool! Your writing is amazing and I hope your mother has read this and yeah, they do their best without books or help; They go through a lot to raise us and to make us better persons than they are – even though they are already pretty incredible; So, Happy Mother’s Day to every Mom out there and thank you for providing us all your experience, caring and love!

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  4. Dora

    Love you Baby! Beautifully written. I alwasys say you should become a writer. Don’t think you would ever forget the “drowning” episode either. I am proud of you both.

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