My Mum

If I had to describe my mum to a stranger, I would say that my mum is tall, has the kindest face, and a pair of rough hands. That would be the end of it. The unwary stranger wouldn’t know that her gentle face is a reservoir of decades of heartaches and care for her family; and that pair of hands, a gesture of years of hard work with no time to look after herself.

Mum – to her family

To me, my mum is an ordinary woman with extraordinary resilience and determination. My brother, who is now perhaps too young to appreciate these qualities, would undoubtedly realise this when he grows up. To dad, mum is what the Chinese would call a “virtuous wife and good mother”. She always put dad, my brother and I before herself. Good food were given to us first, and any money were spent on us as a priority.

Dad came to Australia in the late 80’s to pursue possible new opportunities, embarking on this so-called “sterling gold” process (a phrase used in China at the time to describe a person venturing overseas for a Western education so that they could return home and start a better life). “Sterling gold” took longer than anyone had anticipated, and Dad decided to set up home in Brisbane. It was seven years later that mum and I finally set our foot on the Aussie soil. I, a pre-adolescent teen, and mum, an education consultant who was more accustomed to training teachers and designing lessons than what was to come.

Soon after we arrived in Brisbane, the necessity to make a decent living became our family’s number one priority. Dad had just quit his job in carpet wholesale, and mum had no knowledge of English to look for a job with decent pay. A short stint at a Chinese restaurant as a kitchen hand gave my parents the idea of opening their own restaurant.

With little capital and lesser knowledge of running a restaurant, my parents opened up Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant in Brisbane’s south. I still remember the green and cream striped awning that dad put up himself, and the second hand chairs that my parents bought for $5 each at an auction. Both my parents worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week setting up the business – blood, sweat, tears, with me in toll. Mum was pregnant with my brother at the time, but stilled laboured way in the restaurant until she was 7 months into her pregnancy.

The business boomed and our family was much better off, but the work never lessened. I think this was how we formed a tight bond as a family. We were always in the restaurant together, ate lunch at 2:30pm when the shop closed for the afternoon; and had dinner at 10:30pm, after the last customers had left. I would always complain about not being able to go out with my friends on the weekends, and mum would say “this is for our family, you will appreciate it in the future”.

As I am writing this, Shanghai Cuisine had long being sold, and our family owned several restaurants after that. Mum and dad are no longer working, and enjoying the life of two happy retirees. But mum’s words still stayed with me, the experience still stayed with me. As I grew older, I did come to appreciate the hard work that both of my parents put in to make a better life for me and my brother. My mum especially, because I can’t imagine myself being the strong woman that she is. But I’m slowing learning.

Mum – to her friends

To her friends, mum is a generous and down-to-earth person, perhaps also a great cook. She is someone you can always rely on and depend upon. When I was young, I always say that mum’s generosity had led her to disadvantage herself at times. But now I realise that this is just how she is, always putting others before herself.

Her warm heart and enthusiastic nature lend themselves well to her being a team player. She is now a proud member of a local choir group that practices regularly and hold concerts for the local retirement village.

Mum can whip up extraordinary dishes that impressed her friends at our various house parties. Her recipes and cooking advices are highly soughtafter. I have inherited her love to entertain, but is no where near a good cook as she is.

Mum is not one of those “super mums”, nor is she one of those “soccer mums”. Now she is a garden mum, a songstress mum, a mum who deserves her own time to enjoy what she loves.

Mum wouldn’t be able to read this (years of hard work never really left time for her to learn English properly), and it’s a shame that I cannot express these feelings in writing with Chinese. But I think I will pick up the phone now and wish her an early happy Mother’s Day.


3 Responses to My Mum

  1. papermache tiger says:

    I have to say Shirley, your parents are some of the loveliest people I have ever met.

  2. Stardust says:

    OMG! Shanghai Noodle House in Sunnybank is one of my fav eateries! Thank you to your parents for all the yummy food! πŸ™‚

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