Thursday, December 14, 2006

Unravelling Babel

There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all ~ Unknown

My dearest E.,

Wikipedia provides a succinct explanation about the story of the Tower of Babel, of ancient biblical times: "According to the narrative in Genesis, Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. Because the hearts of men were said to be inherently evil and disobedient, they were striving to make a name for themselves instead of worshipping the God who created them. Because of this open defiance, God stopped their efforts by confusing languages so that the builders could not understand one another. As a result, they could no longer communicate and the work was halted. The builders were then scattered to different parts of Earth. This story is sometimes used to explain the existence of many different languages and races."

Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you could understand Thai. My mother has been speaking to you in Thai, and English- and I was admittedly worried at first that you would encounter a language confusion phase. However, that was not to be. I suppose I may have underestimated your ability to pick up two languages at the same time.

Mother would go off in her sing-song voice with words that sounded like gibberish to me (her regret is that she never took the time to teach me Thai, and has vowed to make it up by teaching you instead!- which is a pretty good deal, you must say...), but you'd understand them. You know how to gesture the 'wai' (the gesture the Thais make when they greet each other, with palms put together, held at about chest height)- you do this very well and on instinct, when Mother says the word "Sa-wasdee- kha..." Or if you see a robed Buddhist priest. You're clever that way. You pick up things without us realising. You know the meaning of a whole host of other Thai words, and can respond when Mother says them.

I'm glad that you're learning Thai. A knowledge of languages will serve you in good stead in future. Who knows, it may come in handy one day. When your father and I enrol you for primary school, we hope that you will pick up Mandarin then- I'm sure you would since we are planning to enrol you into a Chinese school.

You "speak" a lot these days, although your words are unintelligible. Sometimes, I try to decipher as to what goes through that cute little head of yours. What do you dream about, sweet pea? Of teddy bears, sunshine, rainbows and sweets? Of your Mom & Dad loving you to bits? What do you think about when you so-earnestly look into my eyes and go "ya ya ya ya...?" Those times, I fervently hope and wish that you are saying, "Mommy, you're my world and I love you."

Let us never confuse each other with our languages. Let us be honest and open with each other, and embrace the profound unity handed to us, which has brought us together as mother and child. One day, we will most certainly speak different languages, although we may both speak English. You will speak the language of independence, liberty and freedom; I will speak the language of sentimentality and longing, and hold you back from your freedom.

No matter, though, what language we shall both speak, let us remember our love for each other. And this love will surpass all language barriers, because it is the feeling bred within the depths of our hearts.

And you were there...

My dearest E.,

Yes, you were. The trip was postponed. Hooray. There IS a God.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On being apart

And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation ~ Khalil Gibran

My dearest E.,

My mother called me this evening, and dropped a little bomb on what seemed to be a rather pleasant day at work: a day where I was quietly busy and productive, with few people in the office- they were either out for meetings, or sick, or on leave. It's like this this time of the year. With Christmas and the New Year just around the corner, everyone gets into the jolly holiday mood, and people get lazier, though not by choice- but by imitation of those around them, perhaps.

I, however, was still somewhat bogged down with work, although, admittedly, that, too is beginning to slow down with the lull of our daily business grind. A conference organized by the Asia Business Forum this Wednesday, where I shall be presenting a topic on issues relating to the enforceability of commercial contracts, details of which are keeping me on my toes and fluttering around to prepare final notes for my speech. Another hush-hush government project, first draft due before Christmas, is also keeping me busy and panicky as the deadline looms ominously.

But ever more dreadful than work- or the thought of work: is that you will be apart from me. My parents are going to their holiday bungalow in Port Dickson for 2 nights beginning tomorrow- and have proposed that they bring you along. Either that, or I would need to beg time off from work. An impossibility at this juncture, mainly because of my conference and the looming deadline of the project: and besides, I will be on holiday break from next Thursday (21 Dec) onwards until the beginning of the new year, hooray. Your father, too- is busy and unable to take a day or two off. So we reluctantly agreed that they would take you to Port Dickson with them.

I want to breathe in every single thing about you before we are parted for the next 2 days, sweet pea. We took you out for pancakes (you've learnt to appreciate the finer things in life!); for a nice stroll at The Curve; we bought you some new cotton sleepsuits from Mothercare; we took you to Anakku and let you play the baby slides there; we laughed and played together with your Godma and Uncle Calvin- you were full of joy and laughter as always, walking just like an adult between your Mom & Dad, your keen eyes fixated on your shoes and the ground. A tiny little thing, you're certainly coming out into your own now. I was hit by a pang of bittersweet emotions when I held your hand and you insisted in walking towards the huge Christmas tree being displayed in the mall.

And wasn't it strange- it began to rain after we came home, when you were getting sleepy and fussy, making funny sounds as you leaned against me. I think the heavens must've sensed my woebegone heart, and the rain drizzled lightly down, telling me, it's ok...

I lay and watched your sleep. You are an angel. I shall miss you terribly and dearly, all at the same time. Tomorrow night, I shall be liberated from my child for a short while, but it is a liberty that I shall take with the sour pain of being apart. I know that your absence shall hit me and take my breath away yet again.

I begged you for a kiss, and you kindly obliged. At least I shall have that kiss to keep me by until your return to me on Thursday.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Daddy's birthday

Maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them, and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated ~ Unknown

My dearest E.,

We celebrated your father's 32nd birthday over the weekend (December 9). For a treat, you were allowed to stay up an additional half hour, to play with your cousins, Maya and Leia, who were also there and having a riotous time. I had spent the entire afternoon, slaving away in front of a hot stove, cooking up food for the party we had that night: spaghetti bolognaise (with angel-hair pasta) with a thick tomato base and chunky capsicum pieces, button mushrooms and thick tomato wedges; fragrant and wickedly spicy Devil curry (an Eurasian dish which you will grow to love!) and fresh garden salad with olive oil, vinegar & chopped onion dressing. We also had delicious beef rendang, fragrant from spices and its thick gravy, made by Mommy's friend from work, wrapped into a burrito with cheese tortilla wraps. Delicious! Your Aunt Christine (Maya's and Leia's Mommy) made some fresh mushrooms & celery cream sauce for the pasta, and your Godpa, Charlie and Aunt Shen, brought good ol' fried chicken from KFC. It was a wonderful feast- with family and good friends.

You'll forgive me for not taking any pictures. Our digital camera had the nerve to fail on us that day. But that's ok. Reliable and snapshot-crazy Aunt Shen (hehe!!) took heaps of pictures, and I'll be able to get some of them off her for your viewing pleasure.

I think you were excited at the prospect of a party at home. I must apologize to you first, for not being able to spend the entire afternoon at your side- your father had to take care of you throughout, as I was busy preparing food for the party. But I still, of course, whipped up your food for lunch and dinner, and was thankful to see that you ate well. We had been worried about your eating habit of late: you were more fussy and restless when it came to meal-times, and you would rarely finish your bowl of food- very uncharacteristic of you. You also refused to have your milk on a number of occasions. I was able to deduce that you were teething, as I took the liberty of examining your little gums one day while I was cleaning your teeth and tongue. I saw, and felt, the little bumpy ridges on the surface of your gums. Hehe. That was cute. To think of the little pearly whites beneath those gums, eagerly waiting to push themselves out and be seen, and eager to wreak havoc on food and drink alike!

But anyway, I digress. The party...

Fun, fun, fun...Good food (if I may say so myself) and even better company. Our guest list included:-
Your Grandpa Joe & Aunt Joanne; Uncle James & Aunt Christine, plus your cousins, Maya and Leia; Uncle Jerry & Aunt Sofea; your Godpa Charlie & Aunt Shen; Aunt June; Godma Bugs (Godma Jean); Uncle Gary; Uncle Calvin; Uncle Cheng Yan & Aunt Felicia (my cousins). Some of our other friends did pop by for a short spell of time, but were unable to stay on for various reasons.

I had dressed you in your new Poney dress, the cute on with purple flowers. You looked sweet and pretty, as usual- but there was nothing sweet nor pretty about the riot you caused with Maya & Leia. I was ready to faint at the thought of chasing after you, you little tyke: but thank goodness, there were more than enough people who fancied playing with you and keeping you entertained, which enabled me and your father to entertain our guests too! Needless to say, your cousins and you morphed our living room into a frightful mess- but that was to be expected, with 3 little tornadoes flying around, screaming and laughing. I had no idea girls could be this riotous. But I enjoyed every single moment of it, sweetums. I really did.

I took you upstairs for bed and warm milk about 11 p.m. Aunt Christine had brought some pretty clothes for you, and you were wearing Freego pajamas, so cute. You were tired, clearly, but not tired enough to scuttle over to my prone, tired body on the bed, and you lay your head on my tummy, sighing loudly as I smiled and ran my fingers through your thick hair. As the moonlight quietly crept into our room, you began to close your eyes, and fall asleep- and pretty soon, I heard your quiet breathing beside me; kissed you lightly on your forehead and put you into your crib, where you tossed and turned a little, then fell into a deep slumber.

I think you were oblivious to the party going on downstairs- and that was good. Maya & Leia continued to cause a riot without you; our friends and family continued drinking, watching football (Liverpool thrashed Fulham 4-0 that night) and the party continued into the wee hours of the morning. I crept in to bed at 4 a.m. after a hot shower and settled in with the warm comforter pulled up to my neck- your father was still drinking and chatting downstairs in our garden.

I was so tired out that I must've fallen asleep not long after my head touched the pillow.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A difficult time

As a mother, my job is to take care of what is possible and trust God with the impossible ~ Ruth Bell Graham

My dearest E.,

My joy after having played with you extensively last night was short-lived when it was time to take you up to bed. You were rather docile at first, allowing me to take you upstairs. You twirled a strand of my hair around your little fingers as I walked up, carrying you against my left hip and clutching a big bottle of milk and another smaller one of warm water in my right hand. When we walked into our bedroom, your mouth formed into a perfect little 'O' and you said, "Whoo...." You always say that when we go up to bed. Sometimes, it's a happy whoo...sometimes, it's not, when you're still full of energy and want to play, but have been hindered by your mother, who insists that you must go to bed by 10 p.m.

You settled on my bed and through sheer laziness, refused to hold your own bottle. I lay beside you, brushing the tiny baby hairs off your forehead as you fed. You drank 4 ozs of milk, a big disappointment to me because your grandfather told me you refused to have any milk throughout the day. You ranted and raved angrily when I tried to give you more, and with one quick, sweeping motion of your hand, you knocked the bottle off my hand and a slow steady stream of milk trickled onto the bedsheets.

What a mess that was. And what a nightmare just beginning.

I could do nothing right. You howled, cried, threw tantrums, screamed. I could not lay you down onto our bed even before you would start crying. You wriggled, twisted, flailed your arms, kicked out at me everytime I picked you up and held you against me to soothe you. When you finally allowed me to lie you down in my arms beside me, I patted your little bum, all the while shushing-shushing you into quietness. Mommy's here. Mommy loves you. There's nothing to be afraid of. Tell me what's wrong, pumpkin. Mommy's here.

You continued crying. Sat up in bed and wrung your hands. Pulled at your hair and ears angrily. Tossed your pacifier away. Refused to let me hold you. Screamed until your face scrunched up and turned red.

I maintained my semblance of calm and dignity, all the while ignoring your tantrums. Left you in your crib. You screamed murder and I had to pick you up again in 2 minutes: it damned near broke my heart to hear you suffering that way. Wriggled yourself out of my arms, sat on the bed. I lay back on my pillow, tired, exhausted, at a loss about what next to do. Closed my eyes... and felt your hand stroking my cheek, your head pressed against my neck. You sobbed quietly, still stroking my face, rubbed your nose against mine. I thought you had reached a state of calmness then as my heart melted, and I kissed you tenderly.

The calm didn't last for too long.... You acted up soon again. My head was pounding, not only because I was tired, but because I was distressed. Checked your temperature: no fever. Checked your tummy for wind: nada, but I gave you a tummy rub anyway and tried to feed you some gripe water, which you refused. Took you downstairs finally, and let you play with your toys for 5 minutes. Brought you back up. More screaming and tantrums. You finally fell asleep from the sheer tiredness.

You woke up again at 2.00 a.m. and the same thing happened. The crying, the screaming. Your father and I argued. I felt sorry for you, because I didn't know what was wrong. I felt helpless. When you were finally settling down about 3.30 a.m., you pressed your body against me, sobbing quietly, clinging to my t-shirt. I stroked the top of your head, tears running down my face.

I'm so sorry, sweet pea. I'm so sorry I couldn't do more for you. My heart bled buckets last night just hearing you cry. All I can offer is my love and comfort- I could not find anything else to do for you, short of taking you to the hospital to see what was wrong.

I sighed in relief when you finally fell asleep and I quietly put you into your crib. My thoughts wandered aimless then as I lay in bed, watching the light from the street lamp outside cast shadows on the curtains. Your father breathed noisily, but you were quiet, sleeping peacefully at last.

With one final surge of mixed emotions, I began to cry again. I don't know why, sweet pea. I cried more when I stepped near your crib to look at you. By 5.00 a.m., I was still awake although tired. I blew you a kiss. I love you.

Heck it. I went in to the office at 5.30 a.m. I haven't slept a wink. I suspect today is going to be rather awful for me.

Shoes, shoes, shoes

One, two, buckle my shoe.... ~ traditional nursery rhyme

My dearest E.,

Methinks you have developed a thing for shoes, just like your mother. Last night, I proudly took out the two new pairs of shoes I had bought for you. You have rather long feet for an almost-14 month old. You wear a size 4, which is the average size for a 2-year old baby... You must get the long feet from your father.

Your current favourite pair is a cute, red pair of Mary-Janes, with little silk rosebuds. I bought it for you just a week before your birthday, and you've already outgrown then. What a pity. Notwithstanding, you still love it. You like to pick them up and wave them around. Sometimes, I have to restrain you from trying to put the garter strap into your mouth!

Last night, though, I laid out all your shoes for you in the living room, including your new ones. You stared at them, fascinated. And I laughed when you stuck your legs straight out in front of you and tried to force your little feet into them. I helped you into a pair, and you kept looking down at the velcro fasteners. When I had finally put them on, I helped you to your feet and you grinned at me, showing me your 4 very cute little teeth. And you stomped your feet on the spot, all the while chuckling, as if someone were tickling you- you were so happy! Left, right, left, right.

You bounced a little and jumped on the spot too- all the while very careful to keep a firm grip on my hands. How adorable that was! It was as if you were testing the tensile strength of the shoes, scrutinizing every little stitch, contemplating the comfort on your feet. And then- you insisted on walking: from the living room to the kitchen, to the study room, to the wash area, and back through the kitchen to the living room again.... And you smiled a huge smile of approval at me, as if to say, "Yes, these will do....!" And continued to play with your shoes.

What a marvellous show you put on for your Mommy! I am so proud of you, my beautiful baby girl... By the way, you sure do have quite a number of pairs of shoes for a baby...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Words of wisdom

My dearest E.,

I came across these wise words on the Internet (unfortunately, I do not know the author, or I'd give tribute to him/her for such prolific and thoughtful thinking) and I want to share them with you:-

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Thinking about you

What we think, we become ~ Buddha

My dearest E.,

I just thought of you. I have been sitting at my work desk, dreaming the past half hour away, waiting to come home and see you. Because I miss you, and can't wait to fold you into my arms and escape into nothingness. You and me together.

I just wanted to let you know this.

Butterfly kisses

Always kiss your children goodnight, even if they're already asleep. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

My dearest E.,

I kiss you each and every night before you go to bed. I kiss you early in the morning when you wake up and smile at me. I kiss you when I drop you off at your grandparents' house for the day. I kiss you when you squeal in happiness to see at the end of a long, tired day. I kiss you when you lie beside me and play with my hair. I want to kiss you all the time, hold you close to me and forever be entangled in your sweetness. And when you kiss me back, soft and wet on my cheek, my heart is suffused with immeasurable joy and happiness.

Think of my kisses as little hopes and wishes to guide you through your day. Take each kiss of mine and bury them deep within your heart. Blow those kisses on those around you to make their day a little more cheery, happier or sunny. Spread those kisses as you spread your love to others around you.

Here are the words to a beautiful song that your father and I both love. It's called "Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle. Isn't this apt? You make us feel the way Bob's little girl does to him.

Butterfly kisses
There's two things I know for sure:
She was sent here from Heaven and she's Daddy's little girl
As I drop to my knees by her bed at night
She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes and
I thank God for all the joy in my life
Oh, but most of all
For butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
"Walk beside the pony, Daddy. It's my first ride".
"I know the cake looks funny, Daddy, but I sure tried".
In all that I've done wrong, I must've done something right
To deserve a hug every morning
And butterfly kisses at night.
Sweet sixteen today
She's looking like her Mama a little more everyday
One part woman, the other part girl
To perfume and make-up from ribbons and curls
Trying her wings out in a great big world
But I remember
Butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
"You know how much I love you, Daddy, but if you don't mind,
I'm only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time".
With all that I've done wrong, I must've done something right
To deserve her love every morning
And butterfly kisses at night.
All the precious time
Like the wind, the years go by
Precious butterfly
Spread your wings and fly.
She'll change her name today
She'll make a promise and I'll give her away
Standing in the bride-room, just staring at her
She asked me what I'm thinking, and I said
"I'm not sure- I just feel like I'm losing my baby girl".
She leaned over, gave me butterfly kisses with her Mama there
Sticking little flowers all up in her hair
"Walk me down the aisle, Daddy- it's just about time".
"Does my wedding gown look pretty, Daddy? Daddy, don't cry!"
Oh, with all that I've done wrong, I must've done something right
To deserve our love every morning and butterfly kisses
I couldn't ask God for more, man, this is what love is.
I know I gotta let her go, but I'll always remember
Every hug in the morning and butterfly kisses.

Baby steps

One small step can change your life ~ Robert Maurer, from "The Kaizen Way"

My dearest E.,

You took your first few baby steps yesterday. You were unafraid, unabashed, confident and grinning from ear to ear. Of course, you could already walk before- but you always preferred to cling on to my hand, or a piece of household furniture. Sometimes, you would only stand in your crib or on some soft surface where the risk of injuring yourself due to a fall would be minimized (you're so careful and smart that way!). Over the weekend, you enjoyed putting on your new Bubble Gummers shoes and taking them off, and begging me in your cooing way, to hold your hands so that you could walk around the house and try those new shoes out. They made squeaky noises as you walked, and you laughed with each step you took. You walk pretty damn fast for a baby, and I had to move quite quickly to keep up with you, too!

But yesterday, you made me and your father squeal loudly in delight. And begging for more! You stood on your own, holding a toy in one hand, examining your books on your little book shelf with your other hand. As I came down the stairs with a fresh change of clothes for you, you squealed loudly and started jumping on the spot- and most amazingly, you began to walk towards me. 7 solid baby steps. Your father and I leapt with glee and you continued to grin and laugh.

There is something about you, my sweet pea. When you set your mind to something, you get it done. I'm glad that you've learned to develop this very positive attitude. In life, we must always first take baby steps to achieve a larger goal. Life is a constant process of changing and learning-and with all that we do and seek to achieve in our lives, we take small baby steps, that will later shape us to take bigger steps towards achieving that particular goal.

As I watched you walking towards me, your arms outstretched, I see your future spread out before you. And the sun shining down on you-it's oh-so-bright and merry. Highly confident and sure of yourself, you took those baby steps to reach me. They are small now, but they will grow bigger, just like you, too...and soon you will be able to walk about quickly, run like the wind on your chubby legs...

It's funny, sweet pea. I've wanted to see you walk on your own for such a long time, and when I finally saw you walking yesterday, suddenly, I became selfish and wished otherwise. Your baby steps served to show me that you were growing into a young girl, determined and thoughtful: that you'd finally decided to walk for us, because you were finally sure about yourself. One day, you will walk away from your parents, walk down that aisle to be married to someone, to lead your own life and to have a little baby who will bring you as much joy as you have brought us.

I both look forward to and dread that day- but I also know that I cannot hinder your steps in life. That you must be allowed to grow to your full potential.

And I will always be here for you, holding your hand throughout, my heart open, my love for you on my sleeve, ready to pull you up if you ever fall down.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Missing You

Love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart ~ Kay Knudsen

My dearest E.,

I've been extremely bogged down with work of late. It's the year-end frenzy, when companies want to close their accounts for their financial year, where deals are sought to be sealed, when people want to take a breather from the rigidities of daily working life and spend time with family and close friends during Christmas season. I have been working late every night, and don't get to spend as much time with you as I'd like to.

On Wednesday night, I was still at the office at 9.45 p.m., with no end in sight of the work I needed to finish by Thursday morning. I called my mother for a breather and she kindly offered to have you spend the night with them. We spoke on the phone a short while then, you and I, E. It was fun, and hearing your lilting voice cheered me up tremendously. You made little cooing sounds, as usual, and went on a frenzy of "words", "speaking" so much to your Mummy on the phone that my heart melted. I was, at least, comforted in knowing that your grandparents would take super good care of you. They are, after all, the only few people in this world I'd trust completely to take care of you.

By 11.30 p.m., I'd given up trying to complete all my work by the morning. Tired, hungry and exhausted, I wanted to just have a piping hot meal, a warm shower and my comfortable bed. And there was a terrible aching feeling inside me, that I wasn't able to place initially. I thought I was just tired out. Then the realisation hit me that I missed you. Tremendously.

Somehow, silence and emptiness greeted me when I came home. I mournfully surveyed your little blow-up swimming pool in the living room, your toy baskets in the corner, your jumbo Barney plush toy sitting by the piano. Images of you playing in the living room flashed before me. I heard your happy laugh ringing in my ears. I felt your warm arms close lovingly around my neck, your soft hair poking up my nostrils as you lay your head on my chest (You have such thick, lovely hair, sweet pea). I suddenly wanted to cry. The aching in my heart grew worse as I trudged upstairs slowly, dragging my feet.

I put my things down and meticulously removed my office clothes, changing into my towel to take a shower. Stood by your crib and looked into it for a long while, picturing you lying there with your chubby legs hugging your bolster, your repose peaceful and quiet, as you suckled on your Winnie the Pooh pacifier and twirled the corners of your blanket. I smoothed my hand over your silk quilt and "My Little Princess" comforter, folded your soft fleece blanket, fluffed your pillow and chased away the mosquitoes (if there were, indeed, any), doing as I do every night before you go to bed. I picked up your bolster and held it close to me, breathing in your sweet baby-scent. It was as if you were there with me, your lingering scent filling my nostrils.

I showered and allowed the water to run down my head, my face in warm rivulets. Standing there in the shower, I realised that I was crying. My heart ached ever more.

I went to bed rather depressed, but was comforted by your father's presence. I confessed to him how much I missed you, and he said that he did as well. We both snuggled close together, whispering in soft tones about your loveliness in general, and reminisced about how much youve changed our lives for the better.

I don't think I could stand to have you being away from us again- even for a night, sweet pea. My heart pains too much to have to do that and not have you beside me. That room in my heart which you fill with your wonderful presence was left empty for those long, 18 hours. I don't think anyone else would be capable of filling that void you left that night.

When we finally saw you the next evening, your smile of happiness at seeing us, coupled with your rush into my arms, made my world complete. Once more, the flowers started blooming again.... And the sun began to shine onto my dark world again.