Mum’s the Word

Dear Mom,

The last time I spelled your name with an “o” instead of the British “u”, I was seven, maybe eight. I was writing you a Mother’s Day card with the supply of colorful gel pens you always kept me stocked with. I remember placing the slightly crumpled and chaotic card in our mailbox, thinking it would be a lot cooler if you happened upon it when you checked the mail.

I ended up fishing it out of the mailbox and handing it to you in person because you did not check the mail as often as you do now. Of course, it didn’t matter where you found the card because your reaction was always the same. You wore a big, beaming smile for the daughter who thought a card made of flimsy printer paper  was as stately as any envelop carrying a stamp of the queen.

I know you still have that card and have carefully stored it away with everything else I have  ever made you. Most of these homemade cards and drawings that you have kept are unsightly, flimsy, and just plain confusing but I always knew that once they reached your grip, they were forever safe, forever loved. All you’ve ever given me is love, safety, and a world of possibility where the furious scrawling of gel pens melds into paths that can and must be explored.

My absolute favorite picture of my mum.

As far as I’m concerned, you are the pilot of every plane that brings me to a different pocket of the world, bursting at seems with such beautiful possibility. I find fulfillment in traversing continental lines to where everything is perfectly unfamiliar simply because you are my compass. The world is scattered with your presence, modeled around your insistence that comfortable and secure living is terribly boring. My spirit for adventure is genetically encoded. This is as much your trip as it is mine.

For me, this trip through Europe started back in Singapore, when I waited for you to come home at night after work. I remember every time I rushed to greet you, there was this flushed, full-of-life look about you that always amazed me. You were a collection of rosy cheeks, eyes a jumble of sparks with a voice that never stopped exploring the surrounding silence. Long work days and difficult people had no affect on your exuberant spirit. You were a whirl of buzzing light that illuminated us all, encouraging the deepest parts of us to shine through, even if my childhood banter became terribly monotonous. Thirteen years have gone by since Singapore and an ocean and a cluster of countries have now wiggled between us(for the time being) but you, mum, are still my lighthouse. Your light is endless and indistinguishable.

When it came time to leave Singapore and move to the US, I was upset. I was angry at you and dad for uprooting my life. It was an unfair emotion to feel at the time but I was committed to feeling it fully. When we finally arrived to our new home in New Hampshire, I went searching for flaws. It was cold and dimly lit. Our surroundings were beautiful and serene but the pine-skirted woods and winding paths didn’t feel nearly as alive as  the Singaporean rainforest. I was determined to hate my new home and keep it at a foreign distance until I figured out exactly how to convince you and dad to bring me back to Singapore.

But somehow, sneakily and unexpectedly, cold and desolate New Hampshire become warm and inviting home, all because you, a jumble of sparks, managed to bring light to an unfamiliar space. You made thrilling games out of unpacking boxes and found pure and utter magic in the bare trees and icy snowfall.You drove me to track practices that were over an hour away just so I could keep some of my Singaporean routine. You were and continue to be the cheerful wreath perfectly sized to every door we’ve ever owned.

I understand now that it must have been so much harder for you than it was for me. I was nine, still malleable, still without responsibility. You, on the other hand, had just retired from a career you adored and moved your life across the world simply so you could secure the best possible opportunity for Brian and I. You should have been angry and mopy like I was but you were anything but.You took and continue to take the discarded scraps and frayed happenings of life, of places, of people, and build them up to something sweetly magnificent.

I know that people are not always kind to the best of people, people like you. Some people let the crumbs of their compassion grind into the floor when they feel blinded by the light of a person but messy trails have never scared you. They’ve never deterred you from this grand adventure you’ve invited me on. You are that perfectly composed mess of sparks that energizes my life and countless others.

So, mum, mom, ma, thank you for lighting the way. Thank you for giving me the world.







  1. Joanne Kelly

    I enjoyed reading this post to your mum, she reminds me a lot of my mother especially her sense of humor. Thank you for reminding me to tell my mum how special she is to me. Safe and happy travels.


  2. Mum

    I have yet to read this the whole way through without shedding tears, I am truly the blessed one to have a daughter that is so beautiful, caring and compassionate. x


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