Two months ago, I visited my mother and that visit changed her life. I had
gone home as usual over the weekend. I noticed that she was not herself. She
complained that she felt empty now that all my brothers and sisters are away
"Why don't you take up a new hobby?" I persuaded. In the past,
we could always excite one another with a new project. Once, she had called
me to sign up for a cross-stitch competition. We spent the following three
months stitching our 'masterpieces'. We didn't win anything but it gave us a
sense of satisfaction and the pieces are now proudly displayed in our homes.
I thought she could take up something like ceramic painting or flower
arrangement this time, something that could lift her spirits and keep her
To my utter surprise, it turned out that there was one thing that she had
always yearned to do: drive a car. "It's all your fault," Dad accused me.
Now, if you knew my mother, you would understand why all of us felt a little
horrified at the thought of her behind a steering wheel. She was always
getting lost in a supermarket and she couldn't tell left from right. My
father tried to dissuade her from learning to drive but to no avail. "I'll
drive you anywhere you want to go. Haven't I always done that?" he tried
again. But her mind was made up and there was nothing anyone could do to
change it. Since I was the one who inspired her, I was given the task of
getting her a driving instructor.
A week later, there she was in the driver's seat of a Kancil, a huge 'P'
on either side of the windscreen, proclaiming her status to the world. My
siblings and I gathered to give her moral support. Beside her sat a smiling
Mr Maniam, a charming instructor in his fifties. She started the car and
went jerking down the road as we waved goodbye. My dad gave me a reproachful
An hour later, they jerked back. Mr Maniam looked beaten and my mother
tried to smile but her smile hardly reached her eyes. I sent her home and
invited Mr Maniam home for tea. He confessed that in his long career, he had
never taught someone like my mother. "She zigzagged from one side of the
road to the next. She would signal left and turn right, ignoring traffic
lights and any other road signs. Even a lorry had to make way for her. Aiyo!"
he exclaimed. It took two cups of tea and some of my famous chocolate cake
before he calmed down. I made him promise that he would not give up on my
So, for the next few lessons, they developed a routine. I would wave
goodbye to her and an hour later, I would send her home while Mr Maniarn
came to my house to recuperate. I would hear more of the crazy things my
mother did, nodding politely and sympathizing with him. Some days, it was so
bad that he refused my tea and went straight home. Once, they came back and
Mr Maniarn had a little bump on his forehead. "Emergency brake lesson
today?" I asked as I handed him some ice.
The driving test day finally came. She was a total wreck and she called
me to come and prepare lunch for my dad. She bathed twice and sat waiting
for Mr Maniam. We felt nervous too but we tried not to show it. To our
amazement, mother passed with flying colors. She proudly drove Mr Maniam in
her Kancil to my house and made the announcement. Mr Maniarn looked happy to
get out of the car and out of her life.
Today, mother is happily chauffeuring her neighbors and grandchildren
around. Anyone who needs a lift can always count on my mother. I can see
that she enjoys her newfound freedom and there is that twinkle in her eye
whenever she comes home after a spin in her car.