Did they feel that they had made a blunder in calling me 'John' or was it because they could not think of three other names that began with the letter "J"? I feel heavily burdened by just being the eldest in the family because I guess being older, I understand better what is happening around me more than my brothers and sister. But do I?
When I first moved into the new neighbourhood, I remember I was playing with my dog in the car porch when the friendly, grey-hair woman living next door tried to strike a conversation with me. "What is your dog's name?" she asked.
"Lucky", I replied without smiling but trying not to sound rude.
"And where are you schooling?" she continued.
"I have just moved here from another town", I replied reluctant to offer any more information as I have been reminded time and again by my mother not to talk to strangers. Then I quickly went into the house leaving my dog outside. I knew what my mother was going to say to me.
"John, how many times do I have to tell you not to talk to strangers? I don't want you talking to that woman again, okay?"
"Alright.", I replied knowing it was pointless to defend myself as I would cause her to lose her temper and strike out at not only me but my brothers and sister too.
On another occasion Agatha and Adam were talking to the lady next door when my mother came back with me in the car and saw them. She furiously got out from the car and started caning Adam for leaving his book in the car porch. I knew that my mother was just using that as an excuse to beat my brother. What angered her was the sight of him talking to the neighbour!
Being the eldest, I knew what would upset my mother who would unfailingly lift the rod and vent her anger at us. But how I wish I could understand why I have such a mother. Why can't I have a mother like everyone else - someone like the lady next door for example?
I have never heard her shout at her son or daughter unlike my mother who shouted and cursed us for our slightest mistakes. How I long to have a more peaceful home if I could call my house a home. Sometimes my father would also lash out at us for being naughty. But how could children not be naughty?
Being normal children, we quarrelled with one another, we laughed at one another, we made one another angry, we purposely took from one another what was not ours and did damage to one another's belongings almost everyday. And even though we knew we would be punished for our actions, being children we could not resist the temptations to have a good time first and worry about what would happen later.
Sometimes my younger sister would remind us not to play with water as Mother would be angry but when none of us took heed of her warning, she would quickly conjure up something in case Mother interrogated her later. Poor Agatha! Sometimes she did not know how to act to please our mother.
Once Mother said to her, "I hate you! When you die, I will not come to your funeral! I don't love you anymore!"
I clearly remember another incident when 3-year-old Abraham lost to me a game of cards and starting crying uncontrollably.
Mother, who was in the garden, heard him cry and called out, "John, why is Abraham crying? Go and comfort and love him."
I ignored her instruction because I felt it childish of Abraham to cry just because he lost to me.
Abraham then walked out to Mother who said, "Don't cry, baby."
Hearing Mother comforting words, Abraham unable to admit defeat and crying incessantly sobbed out, "You don't love me anymore."
To that Mother said, "Of course, I love you. Even if you are crying I love you. See, mummy is busy. Mummy cannot hug you. Don't cry, okay?"
I was surprised at my mother's loving and comforting words to Abraham that day. Her reaction was unexpected and confusing. I do not understand her ways. Why did she at times react violently towards us and at times behaved so lovingly?
Sometimes I think my parents are wonderful parents! They make sure that we sit down and do our studies every night, help us with our weak subjects and show their concern for our study and safety. They allow us to play with water in our small garden during weekends, and every Sunday morning my father takes us cycling in the neighbourhood. But at other times, they behave so violently towards us with their actions and words.
Sometimes I feel that I do not want to get married and raise a family as I would not know how to be a good parent. How I wish I could understand my parents especially my mother so that I can grow up to be a good father to my children one day.
Copyright © 2004 Marian Wong Hee Ung