Monday, August 22, 2011

I am my mother's daughter

Among my earliest memories were the comments people made about the way I looked.
"Your daughter is so tall!"
"Your daughter is so round!"
"Look at that mole on her chin!" And then they would proceed to interpret what the mole meant according to Chinese superstitions. Don't even get me started on the comments I got about my nose.

By far, the most frequent thing I heard was how I looked exactly like my father. "You will never get lost," people would tell me, "you look just like your father." I grew up knowing that I was my father's daughter. No mistake there. For this, I am grateful. I've always wondered though, whether there was any trace of my mother in me, since no one ever told me that I looked like her.

My sister Catherine took few shots of our family of four a few months ago. As I scanned through them, I spotted something strange. Something I had not noticed before.

I saw my mother's smile
on my face.
Pa and Ma during their engagement.

Ma, look! What do you think?

I am my mother's daughter (finally!).

I found something else of mine that resembles my mother -- my dry and cracked heels. (Sorry, no visual aide will be provided)

Ma, I have your cracked heels!

Ma had cracked heels when we were growing up. Day in and day out, she was on her feet, running after us, serving us. For five years, Pa and Ma were ministering to three churches scattered in the interior area of Sabah. My father preached three sermons every Sunday. And my mother taught three Sunday School classes. How the churches in Malaysia needed workers during those years! Even when Ma was pregnant, she made home visitations with my dad, hiking on muddy paths. Her cracked heels took her into the hills.

I have cracked heels because I am lazy. I am sure she did not have several different kinds of moisturizers sitting on her shelves. If she did, I'm sure she would have diligently applied them on her heels.

I've been thinking about Ma a lot these days, especially in these joyful trenches of motherhood. I've been recalling memories from my childhood that I have long forgotten. I find Ma in the most surprising places, reminding me of the years she poured into our lives. It's funny how the past sometimes makes more sense when we gaze at it from a distance. At last, her words came true: "When you become a Mama, you will understand."

When we were little, my parents would save every penny in order to take us to visit Amah, my mother's mother, in Indonesia. Among our friends, my sisters and I had the least "stuff". But we would be the few who had traveled to another country.

I remember like it was yesterday when Ma and I were standing at the supermarket and I coveted some silly Hello Kitty whistle-and-lollipop-thing. I remember her resolute and resounding No. She was so wise.

Every year, Ma would buy each of her daughters a beautiful dress. This would be the dress we loved and cherished. It would be the dress we wore every Sunday. She was teaching us how to live simply. She was teaching us how to live truly, and truly live -- even when I wasn't listening.

During her last visit, Ma gave me a blouse made of batik. It's my new favorite. I wear it to church every Sunday. I'm learning to listen (finally).

When I corrected Emeth the other day, even without a mirror, I knew I was giving him the stern look my mother gave me years ago. This is serious, pay attention. Emeth sees my stern face, just as I saw my mother's stern face. But he does not see the hopes I have for him, the joy he gives to me, or the pride that is in my heart because he is my son.

My sons do not understand. But they will, hopefully.
I think I'm just beginning to understand.
I am my mother's daughter.
Ma, I want to be just like you when I grow up.


Natalie said...

Ahh, so beautiful, I just love it! May our love for our mothers and their sacrifices never grow dim, and may we cherish them openly till the Lord takes them or us home. Once again refreshed and inspired by your simply words. :) Thank you!

Seda said...

Amen to that, Natalie. I have a feeling that our understanding of their sacrifice will only grow as our children continue to teach us about love. =)