Yan's Corner - In Touch

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Remembering My Mother On Christmas

(She is now in a better place, often I wonder whether she still cooks....)

Christmas would not be Christmas without remembering my mother. Remembering mother can’t do without remembering the childhood. Childhood memories were made up of food, friends, fun, play and work.

I was “tagged” by Dobbs to do “Childhood Memories Food” some three weeks ago. I have wanted to keep that till Christmas.

Today’s “Remembering my mother” is modified from an article on “food review” that I did for my newspaper, The Borneo Post during last Mothers’ Day. As I read the article again today, on Christmas morn, I know it’s going to bring me much tears. I do not mean to affect your Christmas mood. Pardon me, if I do.

My mother had never baked a cake before. So, Christmas’ memories are not about Christmas food cake, or a baked turkey. But, my mother was a great cook. It was my mother who taught me to always have a little margin in life.

What’s this little margin?

It’s leaving a little space in our busy life, whether it’s emotionally, physically or spiritually. Then, no matter what situation we are caught in, we always have a little space to stretch. And cooking is one of the ways that you can have that little margin in life.

While the father embeds into the heart of a child of God’s trustworthiness being strong and safe and always trusting, mothers are warm centre, the safe place. They are “Home”. Mothers are model for a child that God is “there”, that He exists and is ever present. It is a mother, after all, that a child runs to when feelings are hurt or the knee is skinned. All through life, whatever accidents happened to me, it was my mother who was there who said, “O, I know it’s painful.” Two Christmas ago, when I broke my right knee patella, my mother had gone back to the Lord. I remember, after the surgery, it was miserable. In the hospital bed alone, I thought I saw my mother at my bedside telling me, “O, I know it’s painful.”

It’s the mother whose presence makes the house a home and makes a home a safe base to launch into life from. It’s the mother whose presence makes the pain more bearable!

Yes, home, the warm place. The place where it is always safe, where it is always filled with the good smell of food during dinner time, lunch time and even early morning the aroma of coffee and toast.

My mother was a great cook. Her small refrigerator was always not even half-filled. But, we had never gone hungry with her around. She could always produce some home-cook food in a most economical way for her nine children. Yes, nine children! Anytime, we visited her, she would be able to have something for us.

My childhood food were not of burgers, fries, fried chicken or chicken rice. It has always been the home-grown vegetables. One of them is the bitter-groud fried with egg. Eggs were also from home-reared eggs-laying hen. It was not bitter, because my mother had her magic way of taking away the bitter juice. My mother also presented the dish with all the six "musts" of good food, the colour, the aroma, the taste, the presentation, the quality and the nutritional value. So, the bitter-groud fried with egg filled my days.

Yes, we did not have refrigerator then. So, what did my mother do with all the long beans from the farm? She cleaned them, boiled them, and dried them under the sun. After that, these beans were salted. When come to cooking, she added in some red stuff, the end product of home-made wine. That was another one of that. Preserved long beans cooked with the “red stuff”, with warm smell of wine!

And the third one? This one was not home-grown, but very, very precious. The cream-crackers! Cream-crackers? Yes, but not the “Jacob’s brand” we are having now. I don’t know the brand. Why would cream-crackers bring such memories?

It’s because we could never have enough of them! Imagine our children saying “yuk” to the cream-crackers when they have all sorts of “cookies”? I am glad Rachel and Christopher like cream-crackers too!

Now, why we could never have enough of them. Remember there are nine of us. My mother had to keep the tin of cream-crackers under lock and key! Every night, before we started revision of school books, my mother would give each one of us one stack of about 5 or 6 pieces of the cream-crackers. That was for supper after finishing the revision. We treasured them so much.

I remember when I related to my mother few years ago how she kept the cream-crackers, she was so “angry” and denied that she ever did that to us. She reasoned that how could she be so "mean" to her children as to keep a tin of cream-crackers under key and lock! But, we had a good laugh over it.

Though childhood food memories was not of "burger", my mother and I did share a secret on "burger". 15 years ago, we were in Singapore staying at Paterson Tower, near to Orchard Road. I was then pregnant with Rachel, our first precious baby. One night, I craved for 'burger". So, we decided that we walked down to buy. We bought one "King Burger". That "King Burger" brought me to SGH, where I stayed for 100 days and it was CRIB! My mother and I never ever talked about it during the 100 days, even during the years that followed. I know my mother meant good to me. The secret remained until the other day I talked to an inspiring doctor, also in Singapore.

Yes, my mother is a glorious creature, a representation of part of God’s nature. She is the woman who keeps the flame of faith burning. She checks on the aggressive nature of me, perhaps the most difficult of all her nine children. The surprised story of cream-crackers is just like my mother who surprises me time and again…

My mother protects, encourages, blesses and celebrates the good and she believes in the good of all her children, nine of us.

She is now in a better place. Often, I wonder whether she still cooks.

My mother went to the Lord in 2000. You would have noted that the last three paragraphs of this post are written in present tense, that any English "guru" would give me a big "X". Allow me to forget about the grammar on this Christmas morn, to me, my mother still lives in us, each one of her children, and nine of us altogether…

All mothers, and all fathers, blessed Christmas. You may like to log on to my friend’s place, fishtail for a heartwarming story of “Fear-Not –Angels” on this Christmas day and give due honour and respect and love to your parents.

Also visit The Tent, the cyber home of a Malaysian doctor who has just returned from a Pakistan Mission on his "Grown-up Christian Wish". A wish not for himself, but for the poor, the broken, the downtrodden and the sick.

7 comment(s):

very touching. Nostalgic. brought much memories of my loved ones too.

Thank you,Yan, for the memories.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:33 pm  

Hi Yan, may you and your family have a very blessed Christmas.

By Blogger JoMel, at 4:53 pm  

Hi Yan,

Another poignant piece from you. While reading your story, my own recollection of my mum was playing along. She went home to the Lord earlier this year after having clocked 93 years on this earth and going through the mill for a greater part of her life.

Don't we almost always wish that we had treated them a lot better and had said those words we should say and not said those words that must have caused them grevious hurt.

She, too, used to fry my favourite bitter-gourd with eggs and fermented black beans. It's still my favourite dish. As a kid, I used to plant them along the chainlink fence and they crept all over the fencing providing a kind of green curtain.

Wow, certainly a nostalgic travel back in time - to the 1950s !

By Anonymous JPsc, at 7:18 pm  

Thanks, JP.

Delighted that we shared the same childhood food. I wonder what would my children write 30 years from now on their memories of childhood food and of their mother!

As I wrote earlier in my tribute to my dad in law, if we look from the vintage of our death, how would we be remembered?

Honouring parents and treasuring loved ones are to be done at this present moment. But, so often, we look at the future or worry so much of the future that, we have no time for parents and loved ones. We live neither in the present nor in the future!

What irony!

But, we know, God is always there for us. Always!

While getting nostalgic with my posting of my mother, be encouraged too!

Thanks, my friend, for sharing.

By Blogger Yan, at 9:38 pm  

I just got back to KL this evening. Thanks for replying to my tag on Childhood Food Memories with such a great and touching blogpost. Wishing you and yours a truly blessed New Year! :)

By Blogger dobbs, at 10:35 pm  

Hi, Dobbs, Welcome home! Have been missing your postings! Looking forward to read more ..

I went back to read childhood food again, "Milo"! Milo was one of mine too, but during childhood, we could only drink Milo when we were sick! Unfortunately, I was as healthy as a bull and could never have that Milo! I remember how I wish I could get sick one day!

Those are really, really sweet memories.

Thank you for tagging me!

Blessd new year to you and yours. Catch up with you one of these days in KL for a cup of coffee?

By Blogger Yan, at 10:26 am  

I just blogged a continuation of the "tooth story" :)
Do drop by for a visit if you are ever in the vicinity - I stay in Subang Jaya. Would love to chat face-to-face. I think it's less likely for me to visit Sibu!

By Blogger dobbs, at 10:50 am  

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