I have a difficult relationship with my mother. Yes, I love her but it is a love fraught with tension and the baggage of years.
Being her eldest daughter meant being the embodiment of all she hoped and feared.
She made sure I was never burdened with chores and that I had all the time I needed to study or revise. But when I was out too late and didn’t call home, she would tell my sisters that I was likely getting myself knocked up.
Her Jekyll and Hyde nature made it difficult growing up.
A beautiful woman who could charm government officials and cabbies with her wit and humour, but I heard every Malay swearword I know from her mouth.
She was damaged, I realise now, and more than likely bipolar. Most of it came from her father abandoning her and her mother, leaving mother in the care of her grandmother. My own grandmother from what I hear paid more attention to her other daughters with her new husband, leaving my mother the sole child of her separated parents.
When my father left her after nearly 20 years, she was a crying mess. But I wasn’t there to see my mother falling apart as I was away in university. A university I didn’t even want to attend but I did because my mother insisted it was the best place for me.
Ten years later, and my mother is a noted poet back home. A short story just won a major prize in a local literature competition. She’s published with the DBP and has established quite a name for herself in the Sabah literature scene. The chief minister even presented her with an Outstanding Woman award years back, which I only found out about through Google.
What makes me sad is that it is obvious now how talented she is but why didn’t she make the most of her talent when she was with my father?The truth is my father was everything to her. She gave up her ambitions to be a stay-at-home mom because my father demanded it of her. She had so much resentment over that and it poisoned their marriage but when you were made for something, and denied it too long, it hurts you.
I guess that’s why I’m afraid of marriage. Weary of commitment. Too prone to just running away screaming from being tied down or on the flipside always running right into the arms of men who will treat me badly/leave/offer me nothing lasting.
Though I often call myself my father’s daughter, I am also my mother’s. I have her sentimentality, her depth of emotion, her chattiness and intuitiveness. But like her, I am plagued with bouts of paranoia, self-doubt and yes, on occasion I swear like a sailor.
I used to be afraid of becoming my mother. But now I realise she has weathered so much. Loved so much and lost so much. But she has never given any less than everything when it came to her heart.
She is both the good and bad parts of me.