"cleaning houses," i mumbled.
she put her hands down.
"i'm not as ashamed of that as you are," she said.
"but..." i stumbled for words. "you couldnt do the work that mattered to you."
my mother looked at me with a glint of defiance.
"i did what mattered to me, "she said. "i was a mother."
that last sentence caught my breath when i read it. this is not a new thing; when i wonder about how being a mother is a miracle. well, i'm still wondering about it. this cycle of trust, in a woman's life (as i once wrote); when she first gives her trust to a man called husband, and then offers her trust to a fetus growing in her womb, somehow keeps me thinking of how does it actually work? why does it work that way? or who controls it?
or, has anyone tried and break the cycle?
i was born to be the seventh out of eight, the fourth out of five princesses. and i grow up watching, learning from the girls in my family who by time turned into women, into wives and into mothers. the once naughty, snobby girls turned into charming, loving wives and now are matured, responsible mothers.
and when i was grown up enough to understand things, i only knew that my mother is a housewife to an English teacher. i only knew a mother who seems relieved having grown up children in front of her eyes. who now enjoys her moments travelling across the cities with her old husband or sometimes with her same-age friends.
who sometimes eats sweet potatoes with sugar for hi-tea in the evening when the rain is getting heavier and she is so lonely that she even counts the drops that hit the roof. sharing the same stories over and over with my father who sometimes pretends to understand that she misses her children or sometimes seems annoyed but has nowhere to turn to, as he is too getting old and lonely and has no one but his wife.
until one day, when i was home in my once-a-year-routine, i happened to look at our old family albums. old pictures of my young gorgeous mother and handsome father. and they got married. and they got their first, second, third and so on child. and they lost one. due to jaundice. and she had miscarriage too. a few times.
and i looked again, when it was a small wooden house. and they moved out to another not that bigger but had a second floor for home because the first floor was used to open a small grocery shop. and they moved again to a brick, rented house. and the moment i was born, the house was bought and renovated to be bigger. big enough for the ten of us. and the moment i got into secondary school, we had another house which we rented it out.
that moment, the story came out. how my mother was a mother. how she worked multiple jobs to help my father, to raise us up. how she ensured us to get fed (even what i recalled was limited and equal food for everyone). and there was a moment when she taught me to sew clothes (which i reluctantly did at the age i prefered to play) because she hoped that i could help to ease her (we took wages for sewing). and we (children) never bought new 'baju raya' because my mother sewed them all by herself. two pairs for everyone, and you can count how many pairs she actually sewed every year.
looking back, i recalled a moment where we sold fruits at the 'pasar malam'. (we own an orchard which my parents worked on.) and my brothers and i always gave extra grams to those who bought from us when my parents werent around. i also recalled her asking me to sell 'mee goreng' at school which sometimes i made a fuss because i was too embarrassed to do so.
and there was a moment when i wanted something but didnt get it because she couldnt afford to waste the money on stupid things i wanted. but what she did was making me a bookworm at the age of five. making a routine to drop me at the public library everytime she had things to do at the city center. and without knowing, i was addicted to books that every weekend i would be at the public library.
she turned me into a book-lover but she told me that buying books (apart from refence textbooks for school) was a waste of money when i asked for books. so she ended up making cards on behalf of my other siblings so that i could borrow more books to last for at least a week.
there was more. i couldnt recall it right but there was more. actions that some i did understand but mostly i didnt. actions of only mothers know i guess.
and that day, when the story came out from her mouth, i had my tears held back. she was smiling, recalling those moment of hardship. because it was well paid with all of us grown up well. because she was proud of herself that she managed to face all those moment. and because,
she was a mother.
and that cycle of trust, i hope in any way, i can handle it well. like her.