Conversations With Mom #4

It was our first day in Lisbon and we were about to have lunch at a restaurant recommended by Luisa, our Airbnb host. The restaurant looked old and wasn't particularly interesting besides the wall which was covered with pretty Azulejo, blue-painted Portuguese and Spanish tiles. As usual, while we were waiting for our order, the waiter served us some typical Portuguese appetisers: black-green olives and white breads. I took some of the olives which were served "as is". No pesto. No hummus. No pepper. No spices. No seasoning. I found myself liking them, regardless. I don't know why but olives in Portugal taste better than the ones in the Netherlands. Or maybe it's because of the waiting that makes it delicious. Maybe. By the time I got to my fourth olive, I noticed Mom giving me a peculiar stare.

"What?" I asked her who was eating the bread as heartily as I was with my olive. It was unsurprising though, as the last time we ate our breakfast was eight hours ago, before leaving Porto this morning.  
"On my first day here, I saw you eating raw carrots and it has been on my mind ever since" 
"Huh? Why?" Reflexively I took out the pit of my fifth olive with half-smile. What is wrong with eating raw carrots? 
"I mean, you never liked carrots if they are not cooked. And now, I was even more surprised to see you eating olives since we traveled to Porto.... The only thing I know about your interest to olive was you like using olive oil for cooking, but definitely not eating raw olives"

I stopped taking olives. The salty taste in my mouth was very strong and started to make me queasy. So I chewed a bread instead to neutralise it. 

"What happened with you? Since when do you like eating foods that you used to avoid?"

I couldn't help myself smiling. 

"I think it's genetic, Mom... you eat almost everything. And lately, so do I"

We both laughed.

"Yeah... but I think your taste is broader than mine.. see, I still don't like eating olives. I still need to eat rice almost everyday, even on the first day I arrived in Netherlands", she stopped eating the last piece of the bread and gave it to me.

I was about to explain more, but the waiter came to serve our Bacalhau (Cod-fish) with potato, eggs, and salads. It was our third Bacalhau during our trip in Portugal. The people in here are such talented in cooking! The foods are not only incredibly delicious (and not to mention cheap), but the fact that they use the same basic ingredients for various recipes is just amazing. I think I ate more fish during my eight days in Portugal than I did during the entire past year.

We came to a silence as soon as we started eating. That's how we usually are. Keep silent and totally focused with our food. As far as I know, all the members of my family are fast eaters. Even more when we are starving. It wasn't fifteen minutes later when we pelted our respective plates. 

"Hmm… I think it's one of the effects of aging", I said while cleaning my mouth from the left-over salad with white napkins.
"Huh, aging?", now she was the one who looked bewildered with my answers.

I drank a glass of tap water on the table before delivering my long thought. 

"Yes, Mom… twenty five is the age when I have started to experience lots of changes and transitions in myself and my life than ever before… the simplest example being that jogging was my most favorite exercise in almost the past ten years. But as the year progresses, I got less and less interested with it. On the other hand, I've been getting into yoga even though I had always found it boring. The other example is in traveling. I used to enjoy going solo fast-paced trips, but now I prefer to have a company and do it in slower pace to take in the surroundings. I used to strictly read novels, but now I'm more eclectic, trying a vast array of books and authors that wasn't even on my reading list two years ago... I always did prefer hot chocolate over coffee, but now I drink coffee everyday and only have hot chocolate once in a while... so yeah, I guess I'm officially an old woman now"

She was dumbfounded, and in seconds later, she laughed so hard. 

"Ahhh, you're so funny! How come someone who just turned 26 can consider herself as an old woman? You even sound older than me! Shall we exchange places then? You becoming 60 and I'm back to being 26"

I curled my lips, but couldn't help myself to not smile at the same time. It struck me that her comment was actually true. 

Since I was a kid, I have been astounded so many times by how much energy that my mom has had until now. And actually, it's not only me who sees her that way. Indeed, the rest of my family, including my dad, almost always at awe with her strength, stamina, and spirit. Not only the fact that she gave birth to six children, but also with her ability to raise them all while also continuing her role as a wife, career woman, manager of the household, activist in several organisations, and other things that attest to her multitasking skills. For over twenty six years she has always been working from day till night. Before my father retired, they often go together before seven in the morning and come home late around nine or ten. Not to mention that she regularly wakes up earlier every day to do the night prayer (tahajud) with dad and doesn't go back to sleep afterwards. Either to clean up the house, watering the plants, or go to local market for groceries to be cooked by our housemaid. Even just thinking how much things she has handled makes me feel tired already. But she never shows the weariness in doing all of those things. There were some days when she got sick and needed to rest at home, but it usually doesn't take longer than three days. Even during that time, it's almost impossible for her to just lay on the bed or stay at home without doing nothing.

"How do you get all those strength and energy, Mom? Look at you, you don't even look like someone who will soon turn 60. I even feel that the older you are, the younger you look and the more active you get"
"I think I just do whatever that makes me happy and always now my limit, when to stop working and eat, rest, travel, and have fun. That's why I consume vitamins and never skip a meal, having massage once a week, and travel often.... because I know that I need to take care both of my physical and mental health, and by doing all of those things can help me maintaining my health"

"But how can you handle so many things by your own?" One thing that makes me adore my mother is how she managed to solve almost every problems in the family.
"I think it's just a part of me after over than forty years of being like this. Since your grandpa passed away, I had been the one who was taking care of your uncles and aunts, and it forced me to be good at multitasking and handling some problems. So whenever I have problems with me, I just focus on the solution. Otherwise, I could go nuts and die young… Life is already tough, if I keep complaining, it's just gonna make life becomes much harder"

I can relate to what she said. At that time she was only sixteen years old, and yet, she was demanded to be more independent than most girls at that age. Especially with the fact that my grandma was used to be a housewife made her become so dependent with my grandpa. Therefore my mom, as the eldest child, was a much needed helper for my grandma. She helped my grandma in raising and managing her six siblings until each of them reached the phase of adulthood. No wonder if she has been able to raise her six children.

"Mom... do you remember the other day you asked me how I can get as strong as I am today?"
"Yes, I remember… why?"
"I told you that I have become stronger because there is no other option to survive my life but to be strong. But actually... the main reason why I've grown like this is…. you. You have influenced me a lot in so many aspects, from the small things to the big, including how to live life without being (too) dependent on others. And it's very obvious that I'm not the only child who does"

She took a bottle of water which was on the other side of the table.

"Unicha has always been one of my muses in becoming an independent woman and going out of my comfort zone, and I believe she is like that because of you too... while Gladyzka, I have a strong feeling that she's going to climb higher and emerge much tougher than me when she reaches my age, looking from how she's always been active and independent since she's in junior high school. What makes it more funny is the fact that all of your daughter-in-laws are also liberated women. So it seems that even with your sons, they tend to find wife as strong as you are"

She smiled while pouring water from a bottle to her glass.

"And do you remember that day when I told you I don't want to pursue for professorship?"
"The main reason is because I know that I'm not as mentally and physically strong like you, so I need to prioritise things. Since I realised the significant role of a mother towards her children, either from you and also other experiences I have heard and read, prioritising family is not an option, but indeed, for me it's the most significant thing. Of course, as you said, in order to handle other people, we need to make ourselves happy first. But it doesn't always mean that we need to do every single thing that makes us happy. For me, reaching the stage that seems beyond my limit will undoubtedly make me happy, but if I have to do so much sacrifice in the process of pursuing it, I don't think when I reach that point, it would still make me happy"

She drank the glass of water until it was empty, and gave her response afterwards.

"You know that sometimes I give the impression that I'm directing you and your siblings towards a certain goal in the future, but to be honest I've always been giving you the freedom of choosing whatever that makes you happy. Because nothing contributes to my happiness like seeing yours"

I smiled back to her while drinking my half-empty glass. 

"And I bet you know too that you are very lucky because you were born as a very strong person physically and mentally, when most people weren't, including me.... but I hope I would be as healthy as you are today when I reach 60"
"I highly believe that in the next 34 years, you will absolutely, definitely, undoubtedly, be as strong as I am today" 

That was the end of our conversation at that restaurant. We called the same waiter as the one who served us earlier, paid the bill with an extra tip for him, and explored the city known for its colorful Lego-like houses.


  1. i adore your mom kak, makes me remember my mom :')
    salam ngefans buat mama kakak <3

    1. makasih Arfika... nanti aku sampaikan ke ibu aku :)

  2. Zu I love this! So much admiration and respect for you and your mom <3

  3. akkkkk, it's touch my heart

    Life is already tough, if I keep complaining, it's just gonna make life becomes much harder

    salam buat mama yaaa, sehat2 selaluuu

    1. Thank you mbaaa.. nanti aku sampaikan ke ibu aku :)

  4. Kok bisa inget percakapan detail banget gini sih Zuuuuu...! Luar biasaaa. Iya, Uni juga sampai saat ini tuh menganggap ENERGINYA BUNDA DARI MANA YAKKK x)) Apalagi inget2x masa di Pulomas.. Ya bener banget yang kamu bilang: tengah malam bangun..ngerjain penelitian, presentasi, atau bahan ngajar..Trus, paginya masih sempet ke pasar dulu, olahraga, dll sampai malam hari beraktifitas. Sampai sekarang masih gitu di usia 60 tahun, pergi jam 6 pulang jam 10 malem. I hope it makes her happy though, I just can't imagine myself doing it at that age *kayaknya 60 kebayang happy2 menikmati "masa tua" dan produktif tapi bukan "kerja keras" gitu. Tapi Uni selalu merasa bersyukur Bunda, Uci, dan tante2 Hawadi menjadi role model utama image wanita independent, strong, adventurous,dll. Semoga kita bisa ambil yang baik-baiknya yaa..!

  5. Hahahah buat hal2 tertentu bisa inget Uuun.. ini aja dari sekian banyak percakapan yang baru bisa bener2 ditulis kan empat :))

    Nah, iya kaan, kaya enggak pernah abis2nya deh energi Bunda... sama banget Uuun, kalo emang itu ngebuat Bun hepi ya gapapalah yaa, standar kebahagiaan tiap orang kan berbeda yaa.. aku pun enggak mau sih menghabiskan usia 60 dengan se-hectic dan sesibuk Bun wkkwkw.

    Iyaa beruntung banget bisa dibesarkan di lingkungan wanita2 mandiri. Aamiiin Uunn X)


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