My mum took me to watch a ballet class when I was 5. I thought the girls looked rather queer in their navy leotards, feet splayed and fingers delicately, unnaturally arranged. Before long, I became one of them.
My mum was nothing like a crazed Dance Mom – she wasn’t amazing at ballet buns, and I think my dad was better at sewing elastics/ribbons on shoes (sorry Mum!).
She took my brother, Kenneth, and I to children’s theatre performances , put us in piano lessons (which neither of us excelled at), bought exquisite Lladro figurines (like this one of a Dancer), and helped with our art homework at school (she wielded a mean Chinese paintbrush back in the day – 4 of her paintings line our staircase). We never had bedtime stories, we had “pillow talk” – about real life issues, or at least what we children thought them to be. I owe my cultural literacy to her, and the astute choices she made during my childhood. She’s the right brain of the family (stay tuned for the left brain on Fathers’ Day!).
She’s been to every performance. Sylphs, cats, Hours – she’s seen it all. And has driven around a lot between her workplace, schools I attended, dance studios and our home. She said yes to the barre and mirror in my bedroom. She said yes to paying for National Library premium membership so I could borrow ballet DVDs at the Arts Library @ Esplanade when it first opened (taking out multimedia items is now included in free basic membership). And she said yes to waiting after shows with a severely star-struck teenager so I could meet Sylvie Guillem and Tamara Rojo.
Now, she’s my theatre buddy. She’s well-versed in dance lexicon, and our car rides home are filled with conversation about pirouettes and presence. She’s the first person to flip through the newspaper’s Life! section on the morning one of my reviews is published. We might have agonised over a turn of phrase the night before, she wonders if it’s been edited. She doesn’t have a Twitter account, but avidly reads my feed (as should you!). She always ‘likes’ links to my reviews on Facebook. And sometimes I wonder if she’s the only person who reads this blog, even when I don’t post anything new for a month.
I don’t think my mum expected that my first ballet lesson (remember good toes and bad toes?) would lead to this. I don’t think my mum expected both my brother (one of his recent letters) and I to be published in the Straits Times, and to be such avid wordsmiths and writers, just like she was at a young age with mini-essays published in the Chinese press.
But I might be wrong; perhaps she did. Perhaps she had an inkling that her children would have minds of their own, go against the grain – we were certainly raised to think and to aspire.
Being a mother to Kenneth and I has certainly not been easy. We were rather different kids, but now it seems our paths might converge on a grey sheet of newsprint, or on a website like this. And when they do, I know Mum will be poring over every word.
Happy Mothers’ Day Mum!