PERFECTIONISM is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is something I aspire to. My mother has it, I don’t. Perfectionism is what makes my home spick and span. The moment we enter the house, we need to put our footwear right into the shoe rack, while our socks will go straight into the laundry bin out at the backyard. This creates a sort of auto-pilot discipline in our family, which I’m particularly proud of. My kid sister finds it tedious, but she has to play by the rules, which is always a good thing.
The same kind of discipline applies to many other places in our home. At the dining table, every chair has to be pushed up against the dining table as soon as we vacate our seats. Where we are seated for our meals, we have five photo frames gazing at us from an adjacent buffet table—each of them carefully arranged in a slight diagonal, three on the left, and two on the right, facing inward. Then, there’s the fridge. Every item has a dedicated spot. No apple will ever find itself in the company of an orange. Apples will always hang out with apples, likewise for oranges, or any other fruit.
My mother may sound like an anal freak, but that quality of neatness, precision, and attention to details are admirable. They are everything I wish I had. What I also long to have is my mother’s skill at cooking. She can do steak very well. Well done for herself, medium rare for my father and my sister, and medium for me. Almost always, she’s spot on with the doneness.
For all her gifts and qualities, there is one other that I hold dear. It’s her devotion to the family, her “family first” spirit. When I get a pimple breakout, she’d come home with an entire range of skincare: tea tree oil for antibacterial properties, soap-free facial wash with the right kind of pH value—stuff she took time to research and certainly cost her quite some money.
Then there was that one week six years ago when a mysterious fever gripped me. It was my mother who nursed me back to health. She gave me a cold towel change on the forehead almost every hour. The week zipped by in a blur, save for my mother, whose face was always there before me, and her gentle ways.
Can I ever be like my mother when I become a mother myself? I’m not sure. I’m nowhere as neat as her, as meticulous, as thoughtful, or even gentle. All I can do right now is try.
Germaine Chong, Secondary Four
For more essays by Germaine, visit Germaine Writes.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2014 exam, Question #3:
Which person has the greatest influence on your life at the present time, and why?