At the very outset, let me say that it is not usual for a Son to write an appreciation of his mother – but then my Mother was an exceptional human being – at least to my two siblings Leilani and Pravin and my self. She lived to the ripe old age of 99 exceeding the Psalmist’s score by almost 3 decades! To the three of us, she was everything and more that a mother should be. Even long after my formative
years, she was the one I turned to and rely upon. When I exceeded my weekly “pocket money” allowance, I could rely on her for a little something to tide me over till the next instalment and nary a word to my Papa!. My Papa being the martinet he was, was very strict about what he “doled out” to his three children. Come birthdays and family outings, it was our Mum who came out with the ideas and planning –trips to Gampaha Gardens, Victoria Park, and moonlight dinners at the Lighthouse on Marine Drive! She was the one who always ensured that there was a “Jolly Bomb” on my sister Leilani’s Birthday in December. Her culinary expertise was well known and my cousins still smack their lips when they talk about her Cheese Straws, Cream Buns and the Portuguese delicacy “Bolo Folhado”, and the South Indian Payasam and Kesari. Her Sunday afternoon desserts were especially “yummy” , and we the family could choose our favourite dessert in rotation – my being “Honeycomb Mould” pudding! Her skills extended to sewing , foreign languages and music as well. My Paternal aunt Niru used to tell us that she had sewn for four generations of my Father’s family. She quite adept at the keyboards and our home used to waft to the tunes of “Chopsticks” and “Maiden’s Prayer”.
Despite her mild disposition and dimunitive size, she could be quite formidable when the occasion warranted it and woe betide the butcher who “short changed” her on a joint of beef or if the Dhoby brought back her precious “Dorcas” bedsheets frayed! She was also a live wire at the Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya, old girls association and played a good game of tennis in a (half-sari) at the Bambalapitiya Catholic Association. Mum had her share of idiosyncrasies too – bent forks and knives, talking to herself whilst washing dishes at the Pantry sink etc! She also had this uncanny knack of getting along with people. In fact it was a standard joke at home, that when my Paternal Grandmother used to visit us at home, she spent more time with her daughter-in-law than with her son!!. Even at this advanced age of mine, what wouldn’t I give to be tucked into bed at night one more time listening to her narration of “Jack and Bean Stalk” and lullabies like “Kiss me goodnight Sergeant Major” and “The Goodship Lollipop” and for a touch of those soft gnarled hands and that distinctive whiff of “4711 Eau de Cologne” on her being, the rustle of her housecoat and that warm endearing smile.
“She riseth with the dawn
She eateth not the bread of idleness
She opens her mouth with wisdom
Her words are the law of kindliness
Her children rise up and call her Blessed.”
Proverbs 31 “Jit”
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