Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have you ever really loved a woman?


This was written way back in May 2007 - for mother's day, and posted in my now defunct Yahoo 360 blog. Now that Mak is no longer around with us, I thought I should re-post it here. And yes, Mak had read it; I am sure she was amused, if not embarrassed of what I wrote here.

I did not write this just because I wanted to eulogize her since she is no longer with her. That's too typical, and I am not a typical son. I wrote this as a tribute when she was healthy, alive and kicking, so to speak, and she had read them - may be at my sister's.

And we did talk about this entry in 2007.

She told me that life was not that bad as I had written. Aaah, I am sure I was not exaggerating, but it was just Mak's way to trivializing of what she had gone through, or she enjoyed doing what she did that it was not even a chore for her. Not the way we (men), or kids of my generation, would think.

I am sure she took things in stride - the goods, the bads, and the uglys. All and sundry. No question asked. No holds barred.

Nonetheless, I knew at time, things were difficult. So it is a credit to her to be able to hold the family together. I can never think enough of her.

Mother’s Day Special
I wanted to write a proper essay mother's day essay for Mak - perhaps an award-winning one (in my dream obviously), but looking at my schedule, I am a bit tight for time (and talent I guess). Normally I would need a week to write - well, actually an hour to write, if I have the materials ready in my head and in my heart, and another week to incubate it. As this project in Kerteh is sapping whatever remaining of my energy, I asked a sister of mine for help. Instead, I got a response that says, "Well, why bother with an essay, when she is better off with deeds?"

Well, thank you so much for reminding! I told her.

Mak when she was growing up. The first picture was taken in 1954 when she was 15. 
 I think she would give (seniwati) Saadiah a run for her money. Strict and strong willed are how 
I would described her as a mum. She's a Minang, that's why.

With help or otherwise, I needed to write. It set me thinking hard for the next 3 days. I was trying to write an essay that culminates her childhood in Port Dickson and Mersing – my maternal grandfather Adam Chemana, a Minang from Tasik Meninjau, was a custom officer, so he would be stationed near ports. Sure we have heard many times of the childhood days when we were kids, but trying to put them onto paper, I found my memory failing me, I think I would need to interview her be able to write properly.
This one was taken in 1960 in Johor Bahru when she was 21. 

But how do I broach the subject? Mak, tell me again your childhood day sebab Aman nak tulis about you in my blog. Nah, it is not fun that way. One need to be subtle to get the best stories. In hindsight, it is just as easy for me say to give her some money; take her for a holiday, or doa for her. It is much easier to go and buy her chocolates or flowers, and write a greeting card to her. It didn't require much effort on my part. It does not require looking at her eyes, and say, Mak, I love you so much, with all of my heart and you mean the world to me. This piece, while it is no masterpiece, had me thinking about her for the past week or so.

Mak is one woman who gave birth to 12 children, raised 13, almost singlehandedly. It was at the age when there was no washing machine, and no gas stove or microwave. Early in the morning, there will be ‘kain setimbun’ (a pile of dirty clothes) to be washed, not to mention all the soiled lampins. Definitely there was no pampers then. Sure, she got help during her many confinements but that's more of an exception than rules. You know I can’t handle even a sebaldi of my own shirts and trousers when I was schooling. It was hard work and in the end I would revert to the dhoby at maktab. How many times did I ‘rendam baju’ and conveniently ‘forgot’ them? Boy, it smells, and the water would even turned jelly-like. No, don’t get me wrong, I am not a pampered person. It is just not fun to do the laundry then.
In the 60s and 70s, it was only the kerosene stove for her. If you don’t control the fuel properly, you will soot the periuk and at the end of the day, it will be another task to scrub them away. Fortunately our lives then were a bit modern compared to many still using woods as the fuel. I am sure when she growing up, she would help nenek cook using woods. When she needs to blend anything, it was also the batu giling and batu tumbuk; blender was only introduced in our home in the early 80s.
She was married to Bapak in 1961 in Asam Kumbang
Taiping. I don't know how they met, but I believe
bapak was living nearby, while working for Pejabat Tanah Taiping.
And for all the chores she had to do, she still managed to cook cookies for us. In Aulong, she loved to bake bread (or kuih lopeh) early in the morning. It will be fresh bread for us for breakfast before cycling to school in Taiping. In Lenggong, I still have the vivid memory of her grinding the rice to produce the rice flour for kuih lompang, while we kids watched or helped out occasionally.

I am not saying that our lives (or hers) were full of hardship all time. On the contrary. I am sure she had fond memories of her childhood in Port Dickson and Mersing. Bapak as a government officers brought enough food to the table. I don't remember not having much food on the table at any one time. The food sumptuous, and thanks to her cooking, delicious. It didn't become a thin teen due to her food - I became a teen due to the less than edible Dewan Makan food mainly. 

But I think perhaps her greatest challenges started after bapak’s death. She was 45 and it was only 8 months earlier she had given birth to her 12th children. From her other 12 children, only two were working and their earnings were meagre. The rest were either still in school or uni, or in the cradle.
Life must have been difficult then. Fortunately we didn’t have pay anything for the house – Bapak was prudent enough to have it insured. I don’t remember the part immediately after his death that much as I was away at the uni. She had to be a strong-willed woman to bring up everybody. And it is a credit to her I don't remember much of the challenges immediately after his death - I think she shielded them from all. We only had to do our part in studying hard for our degrees!
Twenty three years on, except for her youngest daughter who is still completing her degree in aeronautics, everybody else is independent. It is not my intention to flaunt anything here and there is nothing to be flaunted to be honest (we are an ordinary family with an extra-ordinary mum), but her next door neighbours would always be envious of her. She had been to Mekah a couple of times, and she had been around the world, practically. Sure no family is perfect, and hers too has her own ups and downs, but hey, that’s what life is all about. If I can achieve a fraction of what she had achieved with my own family, I would be grateful.
This is the real thing. This is the very batu kisar that Mak bought while we were living in Lenggong. She bought
it from Kedai Pak Lah for I think RM27. With this batu kisar she would grind the rice to make us
kuih lompang and many other tasty kuihs. I vividly remember us kids sitting around the batu
kisar while she was grinding the rice. Of course we helped out pouring water during the grinding
process. (No wonder my first job with Perak Hanjong Simen involved grinding clinker into cement!)
It is now sitting happily in my garden as an ornament and a reminder of tasty kuihs that she used
to make. Below is the lesung which mak gave me for safekeeping in my house. They are in my display cabinet in the living room. Both
the lesung bowl and arm are still intact and in working order. They are treasures from my past.

After all that has been done, there is still much left to be said about her and to her, especially from this writer, for he is not known to open up his heart to saying his feeling that often. I believe that mak would appreciate this as much as other material gifts that her daughters would buy for her on this special day. This one is from your son; from the depth of his heart.
"Mak, I love you so much."
I know it is not about paying tribute for just one day in a year. Neither would mere words be able to repay her for carrying me for nine months, and bringing me up. More would need to be done while she is breathing. I know that. But as human, we are not infallible and many times we forget. This piece is a reminder to me.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all a Happy Mother's day tomorrow. May be Cikgu Dr Fatanah, Aya, Shema, Jaghah, all my sisters who may be reading this. I am not sure I know all my audience (if any!), but whoever you are, have a good Mother's Day. Not forgetting the mother of my two children, Sarah.
Tags: makmother'sday
Saturday May 12, 2007 - 10:42pm (SGT) Permanent Link | 6 Comments

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