Weekly Writing Challenge: My Mum’s Net

Weekly Writing Challenge: Mail It In

My mum can’t write her name.

She can’t even write down telephone numbers correctly. Number 6 and 9 are confusing to her.

As a child, during the Second World War in Singapore, mum did not have the luxury of education. This malnourished 10-year-old girl was made carrying bricks on the order of the vile Japanese. She also braved deep water to pick seaweeds by the lake, in exchange for food.

Mum lives her whole life without ever owning a pen, pencil, paper. Her precious possessions are a chopping board, a cleaver and a washboard.

These days, however, happily surrounded by grandchildren, at the grand age of 80, mum is learning fast. She even picks up fancy modern words.

“Have you NET your sister yet?” Mum asked me in the Fujian language of Chinese, highlighting the unique English word NET.

Mum uses NET as a transitive verb. She is vaguely aware of the thing called Internet, and email.

“I know this computer thing. You can NET each other. I know that, you write on your computer, then you NET, and you’ll receive letters.”

Mum also knows that I write, though she doesn’t know what a blog is. “So, tell me, the WHOLE WORLD can REALLY read about everything you’ve written?” Mum asked casually, chopping ginger with her favourite cleaver. I nodded.

“Yes, and we can also NET each other.” I copied mum’s idiom.

“Then you must be very famous!”

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44 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge: My Mum’s Net

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      是的。那是妈妈的语言。刚开始听她说“你有 NET 给哥哥/姐姐了吗?为什么还没有 NET? 你们 NET 来 NET 去很容易的,对不对?” 觉得很可笑,但是习惯了,知道她在说什么。所以,我自己的语言也开始变通了。“有啦,我们有 NET 啦!“ 反正把 NET 当动词用就对了。

  1. kerenbaker

    Stumbled across this blog when looking for your other one. Love your writing style. Your mum sounds like a lot of fun. I love the fact that her treasured possessions say so much positive about her.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you Keren. My mum tries to keep up with the world. She occasionally has a Skype appearance. She can also be very observant: “Seriously, are you all going to DIE if you don’t use the computer, don’t NET, for a day?” (The sound of chopping in the background)

      p/s: I love the beautiful cards you make, Keren. So captivating.

      Thank you for your comment.

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    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you for your appreciation and linking to this post. I really appreciate it.

      My mum is an amazing woman with wisdom about living.

      Writing this piece was challenging; posting it via email took a lot of effort.

      I’m pleased that I’ve cracked that code! I did it!

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  4. ShimonZ

    I love this post, and I’m so glad you left a like to introduce yourself to me. I too, write in a foreign language. My primary language is Hebrew… and I love it so much, it just amazes me, that little by little I’ve gotten to use English so much and so often… and all, thanks to the net. All of a sudden, I found that I could speak to, and read, and listen to so many different people from other cultures and other worlds, through the net, and by way of the English language which I learned many years ago as a student. I feel very much like your mother, standing in awe of the many inventions that have come along in my life… the constant flowering of the human imagination.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you for sharing this, Shimon.

      My mum’s life is defined by Hokkien, the Chinese dialect that she speaks, and I also speak it as a mother tongue. Throughout her life, mum picks up other languages for survival, including a bit of Mandarin, Malay and a few words in English. My mum’s life is not about language sophistication. Her world is of a practical one. She is happy as she is without the high tech. Mum and I connect to the world completely differently.

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