Tiger Mom? Moi?
Ask la famille and both husband and child will chorus, No, she isn’t a tiger!
She’s a dragon!
My grandmother was born in 1916, the year of the dragon. If she didn’t leave last spring, she would have been 100, come fall.
Dragons don’t mince words. They exhale, fire.
To keep some kind of order in a crowded home, my grandmother at times exercised corporal punishment. If we told lies, or told on each other, the punishment received would be home-made chilli padi (to burn your tongue) fed in a generous dollop. I think all 9 of us must have been caned at some point in our lives. I know I have been caned twice. You would then wear your welts to school, marks of disgrace for bad behaviour, shaming you into trying harder to be good.
When I went to school in America, my roommate listened, horrified. She said- I would have called the cops if my parents ever hit me! It’s child abuse!
I would like to clarify that my grandmother didn’t abuse us at all. Asian parents of a certain generation don’t hesitate with inflicting a reasonable amount of pain. Perhaps it’s cultural. All my Asian peers grew up with similar experiences. Now as parents ourselves, yes we chide and cajole, but when push comes to shove, I know a few of us would agree, a sensible spanking can do wonders.
My grandmother the dragon loved us in a fiery way. She would listen to all our woes, our fears. This past weekend, I found myself wishing she was still around. I would like to ask her, Popo? What do I say to my daughter? How do I help her see her worth?
It was in her cooking that her love most loudly expressed. Only if you’ve grown up in a Peranakan household, would you grasp the sheer labour required to fix the traditional foods. How on earth my grandmother did all that clad in her sarong kebaya is beyond me.
Each time she comes home, there are emotional and physical demands. I am reminded of what my grandmother said once- As she grows older, you need to work less and be home for her more. You must be home for your daughter. Listen to her, cook for her.
The cooking… gosh.
It fills up the day. Too soon lunch has been served, and dinner needs attending to. I’ve become a repeated sight at the village grocery store!
Nothing dulls my energy- slicing, pounding, whipping, frying, grilling, steaming, roasting; because my grandmother taught me, the importance of feeding my daughter well.
The foods say what words sometimes can’t quite convey.
Mom loves you, Summer.
And one day soon, you’ll be a dragon too; flight’s awaiting you.
So eat up, Summer. Grow, strong.