As a child I wished I was a ballet dancer or a pianist. I could have become a (renowned) guitar or organ player. Yes I could have been a musician if not a dancer but I am neither any of those, but does that matter?
I appreciated arts and I was intrigued by the ballet dancers in their beautiful ballet top and shoes. They looked dainty and graceful as feathers. When they danced Swan Lake, my soul danced with them. When I listened to the tunes of Fur Elise, my fingers moved in rhythm.
When I was young, I often accompanied my 2ko (2nd aunt) who brought grandma for her regular check up by a Chinese Physician at China Street once a week. China Street was the old Kuching town. The Chinese Physician’s shop was surrounded by all sorts of businesses from groceries, tailors, tinsmith, kopi tiam (coffee shops), goldsmith, watch dealers, hairdresser, bicycle shops and a soya sauce brewery to name a few. I loved going to China Street as while grandma waited for the Physician, I wondered around the various streets like China St, Carpenter St, India St, Main Bazaar and more. There was a shop selling joss sticks and items for ancestry worship in Main Bazaar with a ballet school situated on the first level of that shop. That was were I watched all the little upcoming ballerinas and wished I was amongst them.
I did not have the privilege of attending ballet or piano classes although my sister and I had a home tutor who came round to give us guitar lessons but unfortunately I found the lessons a drag and escaped classes by feigning ‘sick’ most weeks so I never learned the art. When I was 18 years old, 2ko (2nd aunt) bought me an Electronic Organ as a reward for not leaving home for further studies. I enjoyed my new toy which I played for a year and then it became a display and gathered dust. My father was a civil servant and we were neither rich nor poor. Overseas education was a huge cost for parents so I surrendered to my fate mainly because I did not have the heart to leave 2 ko alone in Kuching and also because I knew it would be a financial struggle for my Dad. I continued my tertiary education part time while working. I graduated as a Private Secretary and then Advanced Diploma in Business Administration and finally completed my MBA when I was 37. I climbed the corporate ladder and worked my way up from a secretary to a successful executive managing the Sarawak market before giving it all up for a laid back (both beautiful and relaxed) life in New Zealand.
When I became a mother, I gave my eldest child everything I was deprived off when I was young. At 5 years old she went for ballet, piano and swimming classes. At 18 years old she went overseas for further education. We chose Palmerston North wanting a safe city, not some vibrant city full of night life for our daughter so she could be safe away from home. I did not realize that I was re-living the life I missed and dreamt of through my daughter. Many years later while Jojo had a little too much to drink, in front my mum and my family who visited us, she blurted out that I sent her away to live in a ‘cell’ in the bleak winter, some 14 hours flight from home to a country where there are more sheep than people. I was absolutely shocked, flabbergasted and deeply hurt. I have now realized that giving my child what I wanted for myself is not necessarily what my child wants for herself. This is often a mother’s peril. Ironically. with freedom to go where she chooses now, Jojo is still living in Palmy, a city that she now calls home outside Kuching.
This post is specially written for my loving daughter, Joanne Ngeaw.
“The minute I held you in my arms, I felt your warmth and connection. I knew I had grown up. I was no longer a mere 22 year old young woman. I am a mother to this baby child, my daughter. You are our creation, our responsibility. Mummy loves you like no other and in everything I do for you, I expressed it in the only way I know how.” – Mummy’s Quote – Jess Kho –
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