Sunday, 17 May 2015

Mothers And Daughters

Unwavering Commitment And Undying Love

I loved to dote on Mom. I enjoyed pampering her with gifts and lunch treats as often as I could.  In the words of my Dad, handwritten in a handmade birthday card for Mom a couple of years ago, she had taken care of him with "unwavering commitment and undying love".  Indeed, she had taken care of the entire family with unwavering commitment and undying love. So, I would never hesitate to take the day off from work to spend the day with her, call her in between my meetings at work just to ask her about her day, and surprise her with gifts from time to time. What I could do for her was nothing. The amount of sacrifices made would not even come close to those that she had made for the family. This woman's "unwavering commitment and undying love" was not reserved only for Dad, my brother and I. She rendered it generously to the rest of her family, particularly Grandma.  That is why, as  I grew up and became successful, I had always put Mom above everyone and everything else.  All I wanted was to be able to take care of her and make her happy.  I wanted to wipe off every wrinkle from her face, the tell-tale signs of the struggles she had suffered during her younger days.  

These are just some of the stories of her past that I had picked up recently.  I did not want to make the mistake I did in the past when I finally shared stories about Dad when it was way too late.   I am sharing these stories today as my belated Mothers' Day tribute to the strongest and bravest women in my life, my Mother and my Grandma. 

The Engagement Ring

On 11 August 1968, Dad and Mom got engaged to be married.  I flipped through the dusty family albums to get an insight into that occasion.  It was a day filled with so much happiness as they exchanged engagement rings and  promised each other a future of marital bliss and eternal love.   A few days ago, I spotted Mom wearing the engagement ring and proceeded to remove it from her finger to play with it.  The underside of the white gold band was inscribed "E. Nah - 11 August 1968". I thought that was rather odd.  That had to be Dad's engagement ring, wasn't it?   When one exchanges a wedding or engagement ring, wouldn't the inscription within the underside of that ring be that of your spouse's  name and not your own?  

I then asked Mom,"Where is your engagement ring? Isn't this Dad's?"  Mom then proceeded to tell me that shortly after her engagement to Dad, she gave the ring to Grandma so that the latter could have it pawned in order to have some money to feed the rest of the kids at home.  Grandma had 6 kids including Mom. It was a difficult life having to raise 6 kids post war, on my Grandpa's meagre earnings as a clerk at the university.  Mom said it was a matter of survival for the family. She felt that as the oldest sibling about to be married, while she was one less burden on my Grandma and Grandpa, Mom felt that it was her duty to help the family out when they were in need.  Dad knew nothing about the pawned engagement ring and neither did anyone else within the family.  It was a secret shared between mother and daughter.   I felt compelled as the daughter and granddaughter to finally let the cat out of the bag within this blog post because it was to me, a symbol of my mother's "unwavering commitment and undying love" shown towards her family.  If I were put in the same position, pressured by those circumstances, I would have done the same. It is this special unspoken mother-daughter connection underlying our relationship and her own relationship with her mother, that no one else on earth could ever understand.

The Hairdresser Duo

Today, during lunch with Grandma, I spoke to her about the engagement ring. She  shared even more stories from the past that underscored this special mother-daughter bond.  Grandma was a trained hairdresser.  At the family's home in Serangoon Gardens then, she had put up a sign that said "Hairdresser" at the front of the house.  Many women living in that area would visit the home to have their hair washed, styled and permed.  Grandma and Mom who had helped her then, would sometimes suffer from skin irritations on their fingers because of the hair treatment lotions they had to use in the course of their work.  When times were really tough and money was tight, Mom would help Grandma to pack the curlers, combs, pegs, pins, hairnets, lotions and hairdryer into a little old schoolbag and travel across the village neighborhood to sell their hairdressing services. They were "hairdressers making house calls".  Serangoon Gardens then was a village where many British military personnel and their families had lived.  So many of these women who had their hair treated by Grandma were wives of British soldiers.   My Grandma and Mom were such an enterprising duo.  They even took IOUs on payment for the hair treatment sessions because some of these women could only pay them on Thursdays when their husbands who had worked in the British army, got their weekly salary.  I was completely amazed at the thought of this dynamic mother-daughter team gallivanting across the village neighborhood with their little schoolbag, driven by circumstance to become entrepreneurs.   Again, it is this unspoken mother-daughter bond that inspired so much strength and courage to keep the family going, sheltered, fed and schooled.

Never Go Hungry

Grandma also spoke about how she would never allow the family to go hungry. Even with little or no money, she would open a pack of vermicelli that cost 40 cents then, and fried it with a couple of eggs and soy sauce.  That would feed the family of 6 kids and 2 adults very well. If there were no vermicelli or noodles to be found in the cupboard, she would fry a little pork lard in some oil, mixed that with rice and soy sauce and whipped up a delicious rice dish for the family dinner.  Grandma was so resourceful. She had no choice then when poverty struck, but she assured me that the family was a very happy one.  I know, because Mom, no matter what, had always embraced life with positivity. If Mom was a chip of her block, I was truly grateful that Grandma had been critical in inspiring that positivity and courage in my mother.

Today, Grandma and Mom are closer than ever. Everywhere they went and everything they did together, be it playing up a storm at their weekly mahjong games with friends or enjoying a buffet lunch uptown, I would see the same two women walking across the village neighbourhood with their little schoolbag filled with hairdressing tools. 

I love my Mom and Grandma. I wished I was as strong and brave as they were.  I am just a wee shadow of their giant selves, because what they had brought to the table were their unwavering commitment and their undying love for the family.


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

My Beautiful Grandmother And Mother - Sometimes Looney But Mostly Sweet

Dad's Engagement Ring - He Didn't Know Mom's Been Pawned.  I Hope He Understood Why.

The little schoolbag full of hairdressing tools looked something like this.

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