Happy Mother's Day

Mum and dad with my sisters and I [next to mum]
at the Lily Pond of Istana Gardens Johor Baru
A day to return a mother's love

One of the perks of living in Johor Baru, in my view, must be enjoying clear reception of Singapore television and radio and like many JB folks I used to tune in, especially in the years when there was no cable television. 

I know Chinese-speaking Johoreans still enjoy Media Corp’s quality Chinese TV dramas because I saw how they mobbed the star of hit series, The Little Nyonya, when she made a guest appearance at a local shopping mall. 

I don’t follow any Chinese series but I have fond memories of Growing Up, a Singapore English language drama series that was set between the 1960’s and 1980’s and featured the struggles of growing up with the Tay family.  

Our family photo with me sitting on
mum's lap - She was wearing that dress!
The series which debuted in 1996 had six seasons with the final season screened in December 2001.  I was among thousands of viewers on both sides of the causeway who followed the family drama with Lim Kay Tong in the lead role as Mr Tay and his wife, Mrs Tay or Soo Mei, played by Wee Soon Hui.  Youths could easily identify with Gary, their rebellious and bad-tempered eldest son played by Andrew Seow, but I’m sure every mother could relate to Soo Mei, who was the epitome of motherhood.

Even in her deteriorating health, Mrs Tay still made sacrifices for her family and I can picture that scene where this sickly lady struggled to sew at a manual sewing machine.  I’m sure viewers in Johor Baru were glued to their TV’s for the final episode when the drama climaxed with the passing of Mrs Tay.  And I wept shamelessly along with all the fans of Growing Up who were gathered around her hospital bed with the Tay family. 

Recently as I flipped through dad’s old photo albums, I discovered a photo of my sisters and me, taken next to some canna blossoms along the former Lido Beach.  We were standing somewhere on the seafront with Singapore clearly on the horizon.  But my attention was focused on the same shorts we, the three sisters were wearing.

Mum somehow liked to dress us in similar outfits, very often in a variety of different colours like the same pajamas in blue for Ruby, pink for Pearly and green for me.  While it was not unusual for us to dress alike, I noticed that those shorts in the photo were made with material in a pattern that looked very familiar.  Later as I reviewed other older photos, I understood why I recognized that material.

Three sisters [Left to Right] Ruby, Pearly and Peggy,
wearing matching shorts at Lido Beach
It felt rather bitter-sweet because I realised that the three pairs of shorts were made from fabric that once was mum’s dress. 

At that time, mum’s dresses were tailored by her aunt from imported fabrics and as was the fashion those days, many yards were used for a pleated skirt.  I saw from old photos that mum used that favourite dress over many of our growing years and when it was time to retire that dress, she saved the fabric to sew into shorts for us.

I thought it was so Maria-like because my first encounter of fabric recycling was in The Sound of Music, the Rogers & Hammerstein musical.  I remember that scene where the captain and his girlfriend spotted children climbing trees and enjoying themselves outdoors, wearing shorts and casual clothes but could not recognize them because they were not in their uniforms.  That was because Maria, their governess, used the curtains in her bedroom to sew into casual clothes for them to enjoy being active children again.

Mum and I at Japanese Garden of Johor
Baru's Istana Garden - She was wearing
that favourite dress - again!
Similarly mum made good use of the quality fabric from her former dress to sew our shorts on her faithful Singer sewing machine.  Nowadays we shop for children’s new clothes so often that it’s humbling to realise that it was not easy to dress three growing girls in those days.  I remember wearing a lot of hand-me-downs but mum always ensured that we lacked nothing and always had new clothes every Christmas.

Like Soo Mei, our mothers also do a great deal for their families, often out of duty but when mums do things out of love, drudgery turns into delight.  Mothers through every generation continue doing what they know best, often selflessly for their families.  So on each Mother’s Day, we try to find ways to show how much we love our mum and how much she means to us, in some tangible way.

In the recent Mother’s Day weekend, my mum took a well-deserved break and enjoyed many treats including a variety of sumptuous meals in Italian, Indian and Chinese restaurants.  Since we have three mothers in our immediate family, Andrew, my resourceful nephew did his homework on Johor Baru restaurants and picked those that offered special deals and discounts for mums.  In fact, one American restaurant’s bold promotion offered mothers a discount percentage based on their age.

As we picked our choices from the wide menu, our thoughts were with our 99-year old grandmother who was celebrating the day over a special meal of soft food with Aunty Polly’s family in Kuala Lumpur.  Considering this special discount accorded to mums, Andrew wondered if the restaurant would honour their offer if we brought his great-grandma along because she would virtually enjoy a free meal with 99% off her order.  We shared a laugh over our wishful thinking, reassured that grandma was enjoying her soft food in the comfort of home.  Happy Mother's Day, mums and grandmas!

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 11 May 2011

More about our Mother's Day celebrations 2011 with mum:

Mum helping herself to a delightful Indian spread at
Mother's Day luncheon in Village Briyani Cafe, Johor Baru

Andrew cutting yummy Strawberry Cheesecake made by his wife,
 Val [next to him] at one of our Mother's Day celebrations this year


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9/19/2014

    The Lily Pond of Istana Gardens Johor Baru!

    I spent so many happy hours there...catching frogs : )

    There were some kind of coniferous trees as well, in the Gardens...its branches made great mock swords for a small boy like me!