Our sways on the hammock screeched to an abrupt halt one night when my son's empty stare was suddenly filled with another one of his endless questions. Kakak was just sitting nearby waiting patiently for her turn to go on the hammock, tapping her foot away to the Mamamia's song they were both singing initially.
"Ma, what's that?" My heart stopped beating for a second or two thinking that he might have spotted something in the darkness of night. You know how kids see extra things which our naked eyes seem to let pass or choose to play blind most of the time for fear of the unknown and unseen. I just played possum and stayed quiet hoping the question would be lost in the flurry of his other follow-up questions. But he shook me and toothpicked my eyes with his fingers, pointing to the unidentified object in the sky. "Tu mama, tu! what's that ma?"
I took a peep under my winged arm, followed the direction of his fore finger, and asked him again "...yang mana anin?" To my relief I didn't see anything unusual in the sky, no flying objects or floating things, not even a passing aeroplane. It was almost 10 pm, the neighbours have retired in their air-conditioned houses, the streets were devoid of zooming cars and busses, the only sound audible that night was from the Pau vendor's horn.Which one Anin?" Kakak too was feeling a little bit annoyed with adik's persistence for us to see what he saw in the sky. "Ituuuuuuuuu yang ada light-light tu. Up there dekat moon, the small one mama!" It took us a few seconds before we both yelped...
"Anin!!!!! ..that's a star!"
Kakak and I looked at each other and gaped at his oblivion to the blinking lights in the sky. I have always thought he knew what stars were, from all the "twinkle twinkle little stars" song he used to sing everytime he came back from kindy school. He recognized the star shape even before he went to school. He coloured them constantly and received them on a regular basis for the good work that he has done, all marked in his exercise books. A star to him then was perhaps like a fondant crimper to my husband, identifiable but not necessarily comprehensible of the exact use or the precise location where the item could actually be found.
"A star Ma? tapi dia tak macam a star pun? Star tu macam yellow and ada sharp edges kan? he queried.
I wasn't ready to glaze them with the scientific facts of a star being a self-luminous celestial body that consists of a few types of gas which generated a nuclear energy reaction that causes the twinkles in the sky. (I obviously rephrased that from somewhere) My thoughts were to use the moment to my advantage he he he. So I weaved my words in their minds and hearts make believing that a star is somewhat more than the eyes could see.
"...yes Anin, that's a star! and it is only for special boys and girls. If you see many stars tonight it only means that there are many boys and girls who have done their homework, dah mengaji, dah helped their mums and dads and have finished cleaning their rooms. And for all the good things they have done, a star will appear in the sky. Best kan?" I said convincingly."Iye ke Ma? itu star anin ke tu? He was getting excited at the prospect of owning a star. "...erm, I don't know, have you been good? have you done all the things you were supposed to just now? I quesioned him sternly. Shyly he said "...tak la sumer. Tapi Anin nya homework almost finished dah Ma, betul."
Kakak was rolling her eyes and almost chuckling at my answer for she knew better than that. She always fell for my not so factly answers when she was smaller. For instance, I used to tell her that the seasoning in the mamee snack was ubat cockroach so she wouldn't want to eat them and she believed it to the extent of leaving the seasoning packs in the corners of our house, to shoo the cockroaches away. She even extended this useful information to her friend and that was the time she found out the truth, the embarassing way. I was guilty, I know.
As the kids were swaying in the hammock that night whilst staring at the stars, I told them that they will be the stars of my heart if they coorperate with me in their daily hectic routine. A star does her or his homework and pray without having to be told, a star loves to help mama with house chores, a star hates to fight with each other and a star is always nice, clean and bright.
"...what if a person doesn't want to do all that Ma?" Kakak tested me.
"...well then, she or he would not be called a star. Instead the better name for that person is Mama's bright spark!".
A name my mother used to call us whenever we misbehaved or acted mischieviously long time ago. But that is a different story.