I can remember back in the far recesses of my earliest memories my mom’s ability to always make everything better… If my ankle hurt, she rubbed Vicks on it and gently wrapped it up as if it were broken and it made me feel better. If I was sad or worried, she would tell me to pray to God for help and then help me herself. When I needed cheering up, she made me the best cup of hot tea imaginable even though it was just Lipton. Sometimes she would feed us hot rice and semur ayam (chicken cooked in sweet soy sauce) blowing on it to make sure it wasn’t too hot (we would line up in a row from oldest to youngest – usually that would be me, Lorette then Michelle)… like little birds waiting for their turn to eat.
I remember putting my head on her lap so she could clean my ears with the korek kuping (we don’t believe in QTips). This simple act calmed my nerves and put me in a state of tranquility that no amount of meditation can reproduce. She knitted me countless sweaters, scarves and hats to keep me warm – to this day, I don’t know how she found the time to do this with a household of 9 people to take care of. On my birthday she would make me my favorite meal: karbonaadjes (breaded bone-in pork cutlet) with rice and special sauce (really just ketchup and mustard mixed together) and usually some atjar ketimoen (pickled cucumbers) to go with it. We would do gardening together and I remember digging the holes for her much loved rose bushes or flowering cherry trees – it was always fun if I was doing it with Mom. She hemmed hundreds of pairs of pants for me over the years, getting out her sewing machine and lining each side up using precise measurements – with always the most perfect results. Mom was so good at so many things though she portrayed herself as not being good at anything at all… humility to the extreme given that, in fact, Mom was good at EVERYTHING.
I remember in the 70’s right after the movie Saturday Night Fever came out, I really wanted this shiny black satin striped disco shirt – it was something like $19 which back then seemed like a fortune. Mom gave me the money and said go buy it even though she would never have spent that much money on herself (and this is just one example from hundreds of times she gave me money for something I really wanted). My brother, Rene, wrote about how Mom was really willing to sacrifice her life in every way for us – nothing was a bother or too much. Whether it was to pick us up from work in the middle of the night or cook something for us at 11pm because we “looked” hungry. And she did everything with loving care that most of us just don’t know how to “do” any more in this fast paced age of luxury and convenience.
I don’t want to lose a single memory of my mom’s love and goodness toward me and countless others. I want to savor and cherish them in the present and future – never letting them slip into the box of the hard to remember past. By writing about her and talking about her as if she were right here next to me, I feel like I am keeping her close. Her legacy of love, kindness, gentleness, bravery and courage must live on in each of us. Mom’s reach is far beyond the biological, it is mystical, magical and spiritual. I will forever keep her alive in my heart, my mind and my spirit.