I just finished reading ‘Sugarbread’ and was left deeply impressed by acute depictions of religious corruption, and casual racism on this sunny island since its independence. This book also centers on the struggles of the Protagonist’s mother in dealing with her traumatic past. It brings to mind of my own.
A friend tonight mentioned that, overhearing a conversation I had with my Mother, about the frustration I had my voice. I seldom talk like that to Mom – It was more of how she purchased financial products (super low-risk ones like the Savings Bonds) for quite a while now but still didn’t understand it fully. But it always hurts when she claims that she’s too stupid to understand anything. It’s a complex she had for years, paralyzing her in times of immense stress. I should have been more patient, in hindsight.
It brought to mind about how Dad was elitist when he was still with us. Before he left he argued with my Mom over rather trivial matters but insulted her intelligence. I don’t understand how someone can take so much pride in their own intelligence just to put down others. Just because she was a diploma holder while he held a degree. I’ve seen him talk down service staff and lower-income job holders, too.
Mom doesn’t want anything to do with her own family, especially Dad’s. Dad’s side consists of people who are mostly Christian, and upper-middle class. She was acutely aware of how my aunts were subservient to their husbands, and unconditionally accepted their gaping personality flaws. In some way, Dad and his brothers were either sexually promiscuous, had terrible tempers, or were condescending in general. She disapproved of my aunts, degree holders and professionals in their own capacity, of putting up with the antics of my uncles for the sake of a religiously-fueled vision of a family.
I’m glad I write poems about her occasionally. Her mother, my Grandmother was a domestic helper who had to deal with her cheating husband’s and drug-addled son’s shit. Great-grandmother fled her home in Hong Kong during WWII just to endure 3 years of occupation by Imperial Japan in Singapore. She sold bee hoon in the north back then, raising five children singlehandedly. Both matriarchs in their own right. Mother is the next in line in generations of incredibly resilient women, all who unfortunately had to suffer due to the men in their lives being poor excuses of people.
At least by writing , I can count the mistakes of the men in my family, while celebrating the women who have made worldly things possible.