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THE BEST GIFT: Being with her children means more than anything else in the world to her
MUM is 67 this year. Age has taken a toll on her appearance, although she is still relatively healthy and operating a plant nursery at home.
The South China Sea separates us as I am based in the peninsula for work but I travel back to my hometown in Kuching quite regularly to enjoy her cooking as well as the sight of the flowers she has painstakingly planted.
Mum loves flowers. Whenever she goes overseas, she will go shopping. But she does not buy clothes or perfume like others, just flowers.
When she first visited the Chatuchak market in Bangkok several years ago, she was entranced. Although she does not speak Thai, she animatedly bargained and struck good deals for the array of plants available at the wholesale market.
She is particularly fond of the desert rose and lily. She will buy them from abroad even though getting them through Customs can sometimes be tricky. Luck has, however, always been on her side.
Sometimes, the plants have to be trimmed beyond recognition as they have to be packed in boxes for the journey home.
As she is extremely skilled, the plants will look as good as new not long after arriving home.
Mum brought us up with the same care and love. She taught us to do the right thing, and would sometimes drive her message home via the cane. None of us were spared but we knew she meant well.
Another thing I treasure mum for is her desserts. Whenever I am at home, my stomach will never be empty during tea time. Her favourites are barley, green bean soup, sweet potato soup and fritters. It may not taste as great as those served in shops, but hers is made with love.
Mum plants a variety of herbs in her big garden. Whenever anyone of us suffers from heatiness or sore throat, she will pluck the herbs from the garden and boil them. I can't be sure whether her herbal concoctions actually work, but they warm my throat, and also my heart.
Mum is also very careful with money. Although she has enough, she will only spend what is necessary. She tells us it is not easy to earn money, and as such, we shouldn't be wasteful.
She said she had to work part-time cleaning bottles to earn extra pocket money when she was young. She did not want to ask from her parents as she was aware of their financial status and also because she had many other siblings.
She always regales us with these stories which I never tire of hearing. My youngest sister, Jenny, will always listen attentively.
For instance, when mum told us her nickname was Lucy, we burst into laughter because she doesn't look like a Lucy.
As mum is not the extravagant type, she has never spent a single sen on beauty products. No collagen or bird's nest for her to keep her face aglow and attractive. Botox is definitely out of the question.
It had not crossed my mind before that she was getting older until I took a closer look at her during my grandpa's funeral last December. Her face was deeply lined and speckled with pigmentation spots.
A wave of emotion suddenly overcame me and my eyes moistened. She had gone through so much to bring up all of us. And so, I made some plans.
Last month, I brought my parents to Beijing for a holiday. My mum did not have to tend to housework or toil in her nursery for nine days, the longest it had ever been for her.
Mum enjoyed the trip although she knew there was no way she could bring flowers from a temperate country back to Malaysia.
I took as many pictures as I could of the flowers that she had never seen before. But all this was minor compared to what she had done for me and my family.
As she is ageing, her cooking skills are slowly deteriorating. Her dishes are sometimes too salty or too bland. I never complain, and shudder at the thought of not being able to enjoy her cooking any more.
Mum never asks or hints for any gift when Mothers Day comes by every year. But she will always ask when is my next trip home.
So, I will be back in Kuching this year for Mothers Day. I know the presence of her children means more to her than all the expensive gifts and holidays in the world.
To my beloved mum and all other mums, Happy Mothers Day in advance!