9th May 1965.
It was a gorgeous May day in Penang, Malaysia. A beautiful little girl was welcomed into the world.
It’s been 50 years since Mama came into this world, and she’s certainly had an interesting life.
I have decided to dedicate this post to Mama. She was the one who encouraged me to start a blog, and she supported the idea of I Sign. I Wander. She bought me my first ever URL and because of her, this blog is still up and running.
She’s lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, England and now Australia. She’s been all over the world – you can see where my love for travel comes from 😉
Everything I know about her amazes me and it still does to this day.
If it was not for her and my grandmama, I would not be here today. My siblings wouldn’t be here either.
She shared a tale with me last year, and it definitely gave me goosebumps when I think about it.
In late 1977, Mama was visiting her grandparents in Penang for a week, She was booked to fly back to Singapore on 4th December 1977 with Malaysia Airlines. The night before she was to leave, her mother called and asked if she would like to extend her stay to another week. Mama thought this was odd because Grandmama, being a strict woman, almost never changes plans once they are made, but she accepted the offer to stay another week.
The flight Mama was supposed to go on (MH653) met its fate in Johor, Malaysia. All crew and passengers did not survive. That was the first fatal air crash for Malaysia Airlines. The flight was apparently hijacked, but no further evidence was found.
Imagine this… if Mama was on that particular flight, my siblings and I would not be here today. The lesson here is…listen to your gut instincts.
Mama has been living in Australia for 30 years now. At the age of 12, she knew she wanted 4 kids. She also knew at some stage that she would live overseas, away from her family.
Mama gave up so much for us, and she wanted the best for us. She raised us into strong & individual adults we are today. She was strict, but she meant well. She was watching out for our best interests.
Now that we’re all grown up, she now has the freedom to live her life the way she wants to – especially after 24 years of raising kids.
Because I am the person I am today, it’s all because of Mama. She sacrificed a lot so I had access to quality education. She put a lot of work into looking for schools for me. She made sure I had full access in education. She encouraged me to achieve my dreams, and most importantly, she taught me not to let my deafness stop me from succeeding.
Remember when I wrote a post about Springsure? That was one of Mama’s most defining moments as my mother – ensuring I was included and capable of getting equal education, especially in a small town.
She didn’t see me as a disabled child. Instead, she saw me as a person with another language. She emphasised on the importance of communication and sign language, and because of her, my siblings and family members have been able to communicate with me.
She also made sure I was able to communicate in both sign language and English. She came from a bilingual background, so she understood the importance of being bilingual. Before I started school, she gave up a lot of her free time to teach me how to read and write – mainly because she was worried about my literacy skills once when I started school as she had heard stories of Deaf people being neglected in that area and she did not want that to happen to me. I thought it was quite amazing, considering English is her second language…and it is my second language as well. She bought me more books than toys! I remember growing up with at least two bookcases full of books – novels and picture books – and it was shared amongst my siblings. She always stressed on the importance of reading when we were little.
Whilst growing up, she encouraged me to embrace my Deaf identity. Apparently I went to my first Deaf party at 4 weeks old! She would, most of the time, allow me to go to Deaf camps, Deaf events, school trips to Brisbane for Deafness Awareness Week, and so much more whenever the Deaf community came together.
Sometime in 1994, Bobbie Blackson and Carol-Lee Aquiline came to Bundaberg and Mama was excited to go to their presentation. There, she learnt about DeafLink (before it became Australian Communications Exchange – now Conexu Foundation and National Relay Service respectively), Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia) and quite a lot more. Mama always made sure she was updated on information concerning myself and the Deaf community – services, opportunities and whatnot.
I remember when I was 15 and walking to Aldi with Mama, and I said to that I wanted to work with Deaf people. Mama said “That would be great, but I would recommend you to work with hearing people for a bit first so you have a better appreciation of what it’s like to work in a Deaf organisation”. Looking back on it, she was right. She always made sure I grew up in a diverse background with an open mind. She did not hide me from anything, so I really appreciate that.
Throughout my teen years, we didn’t have the best mother and daughter relationship. We fought. We screamed at each other. We made each other cry. I’m pretty sure I was a difficult teen back then 😛
We’ve only had two HUGE fights, resulting in months of silent treatment. After the last time we fought, the 6 months of not being able to contact her was one of the most difficult months I experienced. There were times I needed Mama, but at the same time, I had to respect her wishes because she asked me not to contact her at all. Ever since after we made up, our relationship has become stronger and stronger. I appreciate her more now than I did 10 years ago.
I’m sorry Mama for being a shithead back then. Know that I appreciate you so much <3
Mama is in Hawaii at the moment with her best friend, Rick. She has always wanted to go there. I remember Mama telling me 17 years ago that it was one of her dreams to go to Hawaii. I am so glad she is finally there – especially for her special milestone birthday.
Happy 50th birthday Mama! I hope it is everything you have dreamt of and so much more.
I love you so very much!