A LETTER TO MY MOTHER ON HER 70TH BELATED BIRTHDAY

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Dear Mami,

This is my son other mother, Ibu Heri, my son called her Ibuk and called me Mamah daily. She is as much as a mother for my son as me.

She is my neighbour, Simbah Ngadinem second daughter, my landlord. She is my older sister, my most reliable and trustworthy person, my partner in the process of raising my son the last seven years. She never let me down. We both owe her as much credit as a real family is.

This is her, doing my son laundry in her beautiful morning rituals. Both Simbah and Ibu are batik tulis traditional woman artisans, they would make a beautiful one piece of batik cloth with malam for two months full. Sometimes with gamelan music in the background from an old radio that Simbah had while she blow her canting and draw softly the pattern in the cloth. Every single day they do this when they are not busy taking care everything in their life, including my son.

When woman do their domestic chores, I found them in their graceful light. This is how I know her: simple, patient, affectionate, reliable, dedicated and loving. I know my son is safe in her hand.

Lately I have been practicing morning rituals and this is one of my first morning sight. My neighbours doing the laundry, the whole family together. The traditional well is the source of the morning energy. And yes, I am not a laundry person (I prefer ironing), I am not the perfect mother at all. I am perfect when other co-exist. I am existing as a mother to my son because of my neighbour.

I remember the day when we come to this house. With Ibu Hatch-Barnwell and Steven Bino Basira when we went house hunting. I had a messy separation with Bhumy’s father, had nothing and only carry the 15 months old baby in a baby sling. A completely lost, disoriented young mother and in the verge of tears anytime people look me in the eye. They didn’t ask or say anything. They take me in gently.

Oh how they take me in.

Four months later, I had to go for my last presentation for my final paper in the university and my son had a fever. I felt I can’t go that crucial morning, since he just had his first febrile seizure attack first time in Jakarta two months before. Both of them said to me:

“Trust your son with us, do your sidang skripsi and everything will be fine. Trust us.”

I did. And because of them I got my university degree and graduated that day.

Or when I was anxious of going the first time to India for a festival, because its going to be my first trip again after 5 years of not even travelling anywhere before because I am too scared to leave my son. Simbah only said:

“When the mother is calm, the children will be. Leave with a peace of mind, it would be easier for us to take care of your child, focus and finish on what you are doing. Then come home.”

I keep this words in mind after so many years. And because of these words, I found myself again. I had so many interesting job/work/travel offers that I learn not to refuse just because I had a son. I learn not to limit myself. Our life gets better. I got better as a person and a being.

I crossed so many miles and walk my nomad path even as a mother. They both are my pillars throughout my travel. As strong as any influential woman in my family. As inspiring as any of my favourite author or public woman figures. Woman are resilience and strong. This is what I learn from them.

Both of them are widows. They understand well the meaning of loss. They understand that nobody can be a single parent. Its impossible to do. Even nuclear family concept is absurd already. Woman need support. We need to support each other. To raise children you need a village, I prefer to make that village, than being a heroic single mom of the century. Am not in the superwoman band. I am imperfect as I am a human.

I lost you when I was 23. Two days ago you meant to be 70 years old. A beautiful graceful grandmother of my son. He is also a Cancerian. A home and family loving boy growing up to be a little man. He has your skin. Your fragile gentleness that I learn to understand slowly.

Then I found a grandmother, mother and sister again when I am 27. Simbah Ngadinem and Ibu Heri, they are the woman of my life and my son’s family. And I want to share these stories with you. I want to share these women who raise your grandson and help me grow as a mother. Through them I learn the value of trust, that strangers can also means family, and I accept this facts. That we are all one.

I forgive you for not being here physically. But I believe you are here, through them. And I am grateful for them, for you who has deliver me into the world so I can experience all this human experience, thankful for all the motherly blessing that the universe is giving me.

I understand you much better when I am also a mother myself.

Thank you for all the woman in my life with their grace, beauty, gentleness, vulnerability, warm, home, strength, resilience, anger, madness, grief, sorrow, pain, sadness, inspirations, lessons, wisdom, love and compassion. For your all beautiful souls, my soul and heart is honoured to meet you in my life.

You are loved. You are love. All ways. Always. #adaptingalexelle

Big hug, big love,

Astrid

Written last year, on her birthday, 22nd June 2016

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