Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All apologies

"Sorry seems to be the hardest word" ~ Sir Elton John

My dearest E.,

I'm sorry. And I don't have a problem saying 'sorry' when it needs to be said. And why am I sorry?

Because I have been busy at work. Because I had to leave you with your grandparents last night as I worked into the night, first at the office, then at the nearby Starbucks cafe, then at home. Because it is only going to get worse (work) the next few weeks. Because I need to do this. Because I love my job. Because I want to be appreciated by my co-workers.

But I also love you to pieces. And you are the most important thing in the world to me. But I cannot devote myself completely to you at this moment. I want you to know that I'm sorry. I want you to know that I need to do this. And I want you to know that no matter what happens, how busy I am at work, I promise that I will be there to tuck you into bed every night and sing you your favourite lullabies.

Wish List

"When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out" ~ Elizabeth Bowen

My dearest E.,

When I was a little girl, a teenager and a young adult, I had a wish list for each stage of life I was passing through. Most times, what I wished for very material and/or superficial things, or things that would never be achieved save through hard work and perseverance. As a child, I wished for lots of toys, particularly Barbie dolls. I wished for a pink bicycle with pink handlebars and matching pink ribbon streamers flowing therefrom. I wished for a puppy. I wished for a wonderful birthday party with a huge sparkling birthday cake, a bran-tub with brightly-wrapped gifts and all sorts of fanciful games and goodies. My wishes came true, all of them, and I simply attributed it to my parents; i.e. if you wish hard enough, then your parents will make them come true. I'd forgotten all that until now, now that I am a parent and realize that the wishes which came true when I was a child, came true because I wished for the wrong things. Because I wished for material things, things that every parent would go out of their way to make sure their children got.

When I was 15, I wished I was prettier. I wished that I would have a boyfriend. I wished that I would do well in my exams. I wished that I wouldn't have to go for my piano lessons every Monday afternoon (which lasted well into the evening!) because I was terrified of my piano teacher, who'd rap my knuckles smartly with a wooden ruler if I so much as released the curvature of my fingers on the smooth ivory keys of her Petrof. I wished that I was thinner. I wished that I hadn't started shaving the hair off my legs because dammit, it was getting to be a chore to shave them every 2-3 days! Not all my wishes came true. I still went for my piano lessons right until I was 17, and finished Grade 8. I still had to shave my damn hairy legs every 2-3 days. However, I did well in my exams (my parents were terribly proud of me and considered me something of a genius, when actually, despite the As I scored, I was nowhere near the top 20 students in my school. But they're my parents, I'll give them that. Parents always think the best of their children, that they (the children) can do anything. I know what that is like now). I had my first boyfriend at 16. I even thought I started blossoming and began to look more attractive, and less chubby and childish. After all, I had a boyfriend, so that must also mean I got prettier and thinner!

Why did some of my wishes come true and the others didn't? Because sometimes, in life, you are meant to do things you may not necessarily like, but which may serve you well later on. And because some of those wishes were meant to happen anyway. I just didn't know it then. I'm still shaving my legs every 2-3 days these days, and I'm 31. The shaving that I started as a teenager, to fit in because everyone was shaving their legs and armpits, is now a life-long commitment on my part. I'm glad I never shaved my arms, because that would've doubled my time in the shower. So although I regret shaving my hairy legs, I'm also thankful that I never shaved my arms. As for my piano lessons, I'm glad for them because I wouldn't have realized how much I loved music, if it wasn't for them, and how easy it is to write songs with piano accompaniment. Because now, I can play on my trusty old Weinbach no matter how rusty or stiff my fingers feel and teach you the songs I loved so well as a child. Playing a piano is like riding a bicycle after a long time. You suddenly remember the fluidity of the movements in your fingers (legs) and allow your mind to overtake your heart, and suddenly, you're free, flying and soaring in the air.

My wishes became more for "intangible" things as I grew older. Basking in young adulthood, rollicking in college and university, discovering drink & cigarettes, and embarking on my career, I wished for more money. I wished I was cooler. I wished I was prettier, thinner. I wished there were more hours in the day to cope with the amount of work I had. I wished that I hadn't started on my Masters degree. I wished that I would meet the love of my life who would sweep me off my feet and marry me. I wished that my parents would understand me more and treat me less like a child. It was here that I realized my silly wishes would never come true.

And that as I grew older, I had to work hard to make my wishes come true. I could no longer depend on my parents to fulfill them at my whim and fancy. Some of them came true, some didn't. My parents learnt to let go, but they were still my parents, and on hindsight, I thank God that they still treated me like a child then, worried all the time about my well-being, because if they didn't, what would that mean? That they no longer loved me? That I was left to fend for myself in this world? They still worry about me this very day. How thankful I am for that now. I stopped smoking and drinking. I met your father, my beloved husband, fell madly in love and we got married. Then we had you. And I see again how silly my wishes were.

Now I am 31 years old. All I wish for is your happiness, that you will grow into a sweet, kind and thoughtful young woman. I wish that our family will be contented and humbled by our love for each other. I wish that I will be able to provide for you better as the years go by, I am working hard for our better tomorrow. I wish that I will mean as much to you as you do to me.

So, this is what I want to impart to you, E. That whatever wish list you may have, your wishes are achievable. But you need to want them bad enough. And you need to work to make them come true. Remember that you are responsible for how you dream and map your life out to be. And that sometimes, it is ok even if all your wishes don't come true, because that simply makes you more human to be flawed, than Godly and perfect.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bedtime Lullaby: You'll Never Walk Alone

"Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you'll never walk alone" ~ Rodgers & Hammerstein II

My dearest E.,

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is a song written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Little did they know at that time (in 1945) that this song would live on in the hearts of Liverpool Football Club's (LFC) fans all over the world, and how it would touch the hearts of everyone by inspiring them with the simple but oh-so-meaningful lyrics. Because of the message of this song, it has apparently become a standard anthem in graduations in the United States and during World War II, the powerful lyrics gave solace to many who had lost family and friends in the war. This song was so popular that many artistes recorded their versions of it, including Frank Sinatra (1945), Patti LaBelle (1964) and Elvis Presley (1968).

The popularity of the song quickly drove it to become LFC's club anthem in the 1960s and was invariably sung before and after every football game. The words "YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE" feature in the club crest and outside the Shankly Gates at Anfield (LFC's stadium).

Here are the lyrics to "You'll Never Walk Alone". Perhaps someday, you may want to sing this to your own little babe and nurture him/her into our family tradition of supporting the Liverpool Football Club!

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on, through the rain
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone.

Lullaby & Sweet Ditties

"The Lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint" ~ James Fenton

My dearest E.,

Isn't that the funniest thing you've ever heard? James Fenton must've had a fierce mother- even so, capable of the most tender emotions when it came to bedtime. Whatever the case, I'm not an ogre, although when you grow up and become a teenager, I may be one to you. But remember that no matter what you may think of mothers becoming ogres, these ogres only want the best for you!

But I digress- what I really wanted to highlight was how much you love your bedtime lullabies. I think you love them most when I sing to you- and thank goodness that I can sing (I think!). I have a rather baby-ish singing voice, so perhaps that's why you inevitably nod off to La-La Land when I start singing quietly. These days, my repertoire of bedtime lullabies is slightly more diverse than what they used to be when you were younger. I interchange between "You'll never walk alone" (Lullaby Mix, as I call it); "Moon River" (Bedtime Reprise: I coined this!); "Precious One", a lullaby I made up, sung to the tune of "Edelweiss", and "Baby Baby", another lullaby that I made up sung to the tune of one of Noddy's songs from one of your favourite cartoons "The Adventures of Noddy". Sometimes, I sing to you Paula Abdul's "Goodnight my love" but I can't remember the lyrics of the second verse then, so I end up repeating the first verse and chorus all over.

Why do I choose these lullabies? "You'll never walk alone" because it's the Liverpool Football Club's anthem (and your father and I are avid Liverpool fans, or Liverpudlians, as we like to call ourselves!), and because it says what it says: you'll never walk alone; "Moon River" because I imagine your journey ahead to be like a river, full of winding surprises and of course, I'll follow you on that wonderful journey; "Precious One" because the lyrics speak of how you make beautiful things grow with your smile, like flowers, for example; and "Baby Baby" because the tune is cute and light-hearted.

Sometimes, though, you fall asleep in the car when we're driving home from your grandparents, because you've had a long day, playing with your grandparents, going for walks and drives, etc. When we're in the car, we play your favourite CD, Raimond Lap's "Baby Classics" comprising music by composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. And as you sit in my lap, clutching your little security blanket, I would feel your body soften and lean closer into my warmth, and you'd be fast asleep before I could say "Sleep".

Sleep tight, my little one. And the morrow will be ever more beautiful and awaiting your presence.


"He who defines duty for himself is his own master" ~ Dick Cheatham

My dearest E.,

You are growing at an astounding rate. I want to tell you, "Stop, take a breather!" but you race along the path of Growth, learning as you go along, leaving Love and Compassion in your wake, picking up Intelligence, Knowledge and Language along the way, cultivating Kindness while you stop to pick up a smooth, red-marbled pebble, feeding your Tantrums and Anger when you feel the need. As Tyra Banks would say: you're fierce. A fierce beauty coming out into her own, a little caterpillar struggling in the silky smoothness of its cocoon, raring to meet the Sunshine and say hello as a butterfly.

Fiercely independent, you want to do things for yourself, which pleases your father and I, of course. I want to laugh when I see you solemnly imitating me when I get ready for work in the morning. You pull on imaginary clothes, fluff your hair, apply face cream and deodorant, and then laugh out loud with a huge grin on your face. At meal-times, you insist on feeding yourself, you freeze up when I try to scoop a spoonful of food into your mouth, you turn and twist away from me and loudly reprimand me for trying to baby you. And when I give up and allow you to eat on your own, you smile contentedly, shoving noodles or rice down your mouth, showing me a thumbs-up sign. And you eat there, quietly and messily, food dribbling down your chin and bib. But we watch you with pride. Because you're steady and clever. Because you want to be independent. Because you want to grow up and be an adult.

Your father and I recently bought you a life-sized (as in life baby-sized) kitchen cabinet and cookery set, complete with a plastic stove, baking oven and microwave oven, plastic foods, little utensils, casseroles and dishes, a water tap and sink and a kitchen roll holder. You fuss over your new toy for hours on end, humming happily to yourself as you busy yourself with preparing a vegetable casserole or sniffing in glee when you open the plastic oven and the imaginary scent of a lightly roasted chicken waft through the doors. You wash your hands as you ready yourself to chop up little onions on the cute, little, pink chopping board. You serve me beautifully with a piece of blackberry pie on a purple plate, passing me a little fork, urging me to taste the fruits of your labour. Methinks you could be the next wonder chef, cooking up a storm in your kitchen, inviting friends over to cosy lunch and dinner parties.

I look at you with wonder all the time. I am afraid that if I turn away for a second, you will grow out of your current antics and present me with something new to wonder about. And although the prospect of something new is always amiable to me, I want to hold each moment that I have with you in perpetuity. Your father and I talk about you all the time, and we'd say, "Remember when E. was 3 months old and she would do this?" "E. loved to do that when she was a tiny baby, remember?" There is nothing, nothing in this world, that can replace the feelings of reminiscence when we think of your babyhood past. Sometimes, your father and I pinch each other, wondering if we're in a beautiful dream and we hope that this never ends. And then, when the pinching begins to hurt, we smile happily and say, "Oh yes, this is real", because we see you sleeping beside us in bed in angelic repose, and when I touch your forehead and give you a cool light kiss on your cheeks, I think again, "Yes, this is real, and you are mine".

This doesn't mean that I don't wish to cultivate the independence within you. I know so, how independent you are, how unafraid of the world you can be. You seem to say, "Bring it on, World!" when you insist on putting on your shoes by yourself, and walking outside into the garden, enjoying the light evening breeze and the after-rain scent still lingering in the air. You want to walk out onto the road, unabashed and unafraid- but you are clever, my little one. You know that your parents can guide you safely to your destination, so you hold our hands. And we walk along, the 3 of us, trudging up that quiet tar road, passing our neighbour's homes, broken only by the tiny sound of you meowing whenever you see a cat. Such dreamy solitude. I can never be happier.

I am happy for you, sweet E., happy that you are a brave child and coming out into your own. I know that you're going to be oh-so-fierce in this world and face all truth & beauty and devastation & problems in your own stride as and when they may come. But remember: no matter how independent and self-reliant you become, no matter how successful and powerful, no matter what age, no matter the distance between us, your beloved Mummy will always be here to baby you and return you to your days of yore in your moments of fear, weakness and unhappiness.

Because that is what Mummies do. They allow their children to grow and fly away, revelling in their own freedom and independence. But Mummies also remain, whether physically or in spirit, and wait for the little ones to return to them someday. And that is our cycle of life.