Home > Uncategorized > Me and My Ma Ma

Me and My Ma Ma

Me and my Ma Ma


Young me with the parents


Most children I know consider their mothers to be the centre of their tiny universe. To them, mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. I had no such thoughts about my mum.


Growing up, I thought my mother to be quite ugly and old. I could not feel any love for this lady, and did not feel her affection for me either. I held her in mild disdain, thinking her ways obsolete and really quite ridiculous. Seeing that she was educated – something so rare for girls in her generation, I wish she could be more happening, more hip and more fun,


There were reasons for the way I felt. Being an adopted child, I struggled constantly with rejection. Since mum adopted me when she was in her forties, she was much older than many parents of my friends. For a young person, I suppose it was hard to see beauty in someone old.


The fact that I was adopted was a poorly kept secret. Mum desperately wanted it to be a secret, but the world around her was not cooperative. One way or another, I found out the fact way before I started school, and my little world crumbled at my feet. Part of me condemned myself for not being good enough for my natural family. Yet another part of me condemned my mother. It was an offensive-defensive mechanism – an effort to make me feel better about myself. It got so bad that I often made my mother cry. It did not make me a happier person. In fact, it made me feel lousy about myself. Still, I could not stop being mean.


When I was in my teens, I was allowed to go to KL alone to spend my holidays with my cousins. Those trips were crucial in helping me change my mind about my mum.


My 6th aunt lived in KL. She was the most astute of my aunts and most willing to talk to her teenaged nieces. She was quite a rebel in her own time. I understand she ran away from home and stayed away for years. That alone was enough to earn my respect! I was a gutless rebel, and I knew I would never have done what she did.


Parents on their Wedding Day


She spent a lot of time talking to me about my mum.

“Your mum was a selfless daughter and sister.”

“She was very beautiful, and many rich young men sought her hand.”

“She loved you very much.”


Piecing her story together, it appeared that mum was very pretty when she was young. Many young men sent their go-betweens to ask her hand. Unfortunately, just about then, my grandfather died. Most of her older sisters were married by then. So she became a teacher and helped support her mother and younger siblings. She rejected marriage, according to my aunt, because of her sense of responsibility. She wanted to help shoulder the financial woes that had befallen the family. She finally got married after all her siblings had grown. By which time, having children was a problem – hence my adoption.


I’d like to say that these conversations with my aunt changed me, and I was a loving and sweet daughter. Not so. I was still as prickly as the durian, and probably as foul smelling. I simply could not talk to her without getting jumpy and irritable. I still made her cry.


After I got married and lived inSingapore, I would invite her to come to stay with me. I looked forward to her visits, yet was filled with trepidation. Without fail, we would quarrel every time she came.


“Your maid stole my shoes.”

“Stole your shoes? What on earth for? First they would not fit her, and second, they are ugly!”


She would ask my opinion for most things and then do the opposite of what I suggested. She drove me wild.


Then she died. Life was not easy. There were stages in my life that were so difficult. While I would probably not have burdened her with my struggles, knowing she was there would have helped. She was not, and she would never be there again.


I looked at her old photos and finally saw what rejection had blinded me from – her beauty. There was much gentleness in her eyes. Her face was lined with wrinkles, each wrinkle representing worries. She was a worry wart, but she mainly worried for those she loved.


Somehow looking at her photo reminded me how skillful she was with her hands. She knitted beautifully, and to this day, the cardigans she made for my cousin when she went toVancouverto study are still remembered with hushed tones of admiration. She was also a great handyman, and if anything was in need of repair, she would be the one fixing it.


Mum loved but did not know how to show it. I only knew how much she loved me when she bought me a diamond pendant with an entire month’s pay. This was particularly significant since it was her last salary.


She had a hard life, but I hardly heard her complain. She was no gossip and even though I tried to dig, she would not talk. Even when she fell out with her sisters, I never heard her telling anyone anything bad about any of them. She was fiercely loyal. If she had any fault, it was that she never trusted anyone outside of the family. She gave dad a hard time, never considering him truly family, but an outsider that one had to be mindful of.


I miss her very much. I felt I never showed her enough appreciation when she was alive. Too late to regret, but not too late to love and to show it, to those still living, mothers, children, warts and all.


Happy Mother’s Day, y’ all.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Stephen
    May 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Sophia, thanks for sharing….. was reading your story with a lump in the throat. Can’t describe the feeling, just felt touched. Thanks again.


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