For my three-hundredth career post on this site, I’ll write about one of the most significant women in my life. In down under, Sunday, the eight of May is Mother’s Day. It’s a time to remember the person who gave us the gift of life. Allow me to share a few stories about my mum.
As I’ve already written in another project, mum impressed upon me the importance of the word finder. When I was in year 3, I had started to peruse our encyclopaedias. There were a few foreign words to me. In turn, I asked her for their definitions. After patiently answering my queries, she pointed out this massive red dictionary at home. She showed me how to spot words in the tome and how to tease out their definitions. It became my first option for looking up unfamiliar words. Knowing the meaning of words is important for every reader. Once you discovered a new word or phrase, this gets added to your bag of tricks. As my instructor once said, ‘Once you find a new word, they’re yours’.
Teachers and tutors
We had so many firsts with her. She heard my first word (‘there’). She witnessed our first steps. She brought me to my first school. She taught me how to write my name and the alphabet. She read us children’s books. She cooked us our first meals. She showed us how to shop and buy things.
Together with Dad, they were our first teachers. She taught us table manners while Dad instilled in us the value of prayer. Whether it was the Lord’s Prayer or the Grace before meals, he showed us the way. Meanwhile, mum impressed upon us the consequence of sharing. If you have more, you should give more. Just like our father, she shared tales from a generation earlier. Both of them had grown up in postwar Philippines. As Baby Boomers, they were both the youngest in their families.
It wasn’t only prayers either. She tutored me throughout grade school. Whether it was brushing up my maths skills or improving my grammar, she always dropped her work to give us a helping hand. She fussed about our school uniforms and helped us pick our black leather shoes.
Growing up, she was my biggest supporter. Since I started writing articles, she raved about my rapid improvement. It was originally her idea to transfer us to a Catholic school, where there was more variety and integrity. As our teacher put it, ‘It’s better to have a balance. Your heart should be equal to your mind. You don’t want to have an oversized mind and a miniature heart.’ To this day, as I post weekly on my blog, she continues to encourage and believe in me.
In the Benedictine school, I flourished. They had much bigger libraries and far better facilities. I was like a man on a mission, perusing encyclopaedias and borrowing carts of books. This was also when I started my writing journey. No doubt, it was one of the best decisions they made about our education. Being broad-minded, Dad went on board with the idea. Later, they both saw the huge difference.
While writing, I also became a two-time scrabble doubles champion. I casually played basketball. More importantly, I took to reading books. While fighting with class work, I’d spend the weekends reading novels. There was more to me than just writing or studying or simply reading, which is the school’s thrust anyway. We would have mass on First Fridays, say the rosary during October, and assemble for morning praise. We would likewise have Bible sharing and partake in agape.
She’s always been open-minded. Like Dad, she tries new things. She doesn’t pick the same brand of coffee every time. She welcomes variety. I recall playing against her and my sister in scrabble. Regularly competing against them upped my game. She has proven to be more than a one-trick pony. She does lots of thing well. Aside from the above, she has the daintiest handwriting. She asserts that ‘practice makes perfect.’ Her eloquent penmanship isn’t a fluke. Her diligence showed the way for me. Having her as a parent is truly an honour.
Aside from taking pride in her handwriting, my mum also has other gifts. She sews and fixes clothes. She has a flair for haircuts. She saves people money by choosing to go with her. She is adept at styling both men and women’s hair. She is also our model of a very neat and tidy individual. She yearns to live in an orderly world. Others have always remarked at her organisational skills, which extend even to gardens. Her incredible work ethic sets her apart. She’s also a wonderful cook and a quick learner. Whether it’s Filipino, Italian, Chinese, or even Indian cuisine, mum would make you go, ‘Could I have some more, please.’
Her other hobbies include swimming, reading and, playing the organ. The latter is her favourite pastime. It’s her way of relaxing. She’s adept at applying natural cures and conventional medicines. For us, not having to go to the doctor is so convenient. She always cures my family. I remember my dad mentioned that he had LBM and mum bought him medicine. After taking it, his runny tummy was gone. The same applies to me and my sister; mum knows what medicine to give us when we get sick.
I’ve lived in two countries. They are quite different. In one case, your relatives are nearby. They entertain you and have your back. The weather is mostly humid and a tad bit unpredictable. However, you could feel the warmth of familiar people. In the other place, there are long, cold winters and fewer friends. Around five pm, it’s already dark outside. The days are short and nights are drawn out. In this scenario, you often only have your immediate family. Heaven forbid if you’re with the wrong cluster.
You don’t choose your family. You can’t get Meth Damon to be your dad or Meryl Streep to be your mum. You must accept what’s given to you, just like your physical appearance. We are so glad and grateful to have our family. There’s just four of us but we grew up in a loving and nurturing environment. Our needs were well-provided; we were taught the importance of prayer, too.
Our alma mater has the motto, ‘Ora et Labora’ (Prayer and Work). There’s much fulfilment not just in toiling but in seeking God.
Only one day a year is dedicated to celebrating mothers but every year of your life is something you owe her. Even if you’ve moved continents, there will always be a special place for her in your heart.