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May 06, 2021 3 min read

They say the prodigious love of a mother 

Is sprung from the first touch of newborn skin upon hers,

Is whispered in the ‘good morning’s and ‘good night’s for years thereafter 

Is in the sharing of her world and the joint creation of a new other. 

I love that my mother was so fond of the camcorder. Recording videos was an effective way of preserving the integrity of our collective memories that I now have the luxury of revisiting without any of the haziness. I get to look back on these hyper-documented home moments and steep in the nostalgia of our past lives, the ones that have shaped us - mother and daughter - into the duo that we are today. 

I was a soft-spoken child and I had difficulty expressing myself. My internal chaos seemed quaint on the surface but on the inside were loud, noisy and hard to communicate. Half of the time I was torn between wanting to show myself but fearful that I would do it wrongly and be misunderstood. The other half of the time required too much energy for me to use my voice. It was much easier and safer in my head - observable in the meekness of my demeanor in these home videos.  My mother was persistent in having these one-sided conversations with me where I would steep in the sound of her voice, eased by the lack of pressure to respond. Other one-sided conversationalists, had the habit of condescending you, frequently checking in mid-speech for your comprehension. Mother skipped my turn at talking unless of course I had something to say. 

I believe it was her curiosity for everything and anything that let her have these interesting traveling conversations that ranged from film to history to culture to the politics of our local neighborhood. I experienced the world through her. It was a gift that our time together had given me for without her I would never have learnt to ask questions nor… speak. 

Between shuttling my brother and I to and from tutors and tennis, my mother amazingly was able to maintain a very active social life - a symptom of her unchecked curiosity in other people. Each weekend welcomed a new pair of faces from different ages and lifestyles. My mother played host to whomever was hungry for the night and was willing to talk. It was listening in to these many nights of roundtable discussions around a Le Creuset pot of piping stew that I learnt to get out of the vacuous small talk and into meaningful conversations that allowed me to self-express. She was equally kind enough to listen as she was brave to share. 

I slowly chipped away at myrecalcitrance at these dinners, and tried my best to veer the conversation toward something that would tenuously tell them something about me. I searched the South African lady sitting across and could not ignore the generous gem cutting sitting atop her chest. She took delight in my curiosity and proudly shared thehandmade jewelry’sshort history. South Africa, I discovered that night, is home to a bounty of innovative jewelry designs that often use motifs to preserve the aboriginal stories of the country. 

The ball starts rolling and I decide to let it pick up speed before I finally jump in. I can tell my mother is eager to show off the delicate pieces hanging honestly from her lobes. She is wearing one of my favorites of hers - a coral piece that quietly elevates her usual simple dressing. The delicateness of the handwoven artisan beads gives her that touch of sophistication that makes people inclined to listen to you. That is who she is as a person, understated on the surface with a plethora of collected lives within her.  

The conversation bounces back to me and the table is poised expectantly in my direction. All I want to get out in that moment is how much a reflection I am of my Mother and how unfortunate it is that I am unable to show for it. I described my taste in jewelry for a start. My  everyday necklaces are repurposed from the troves of heritage pieces my mother had kept in her family lineage. I deconstruct the assembly and piece them back together but with parts from a different source - the same way I believe my identity is modeled. Like my mother, every bit of my being feels like a subset of another person's lived tale for us to repurpose and carry out in our own way. It was my mother's stories and my seat at her dinner table that helped me to find a voice. 

Sasha Lye

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