23 February, 2013

Three Little Boys

Happy 2013…and it’s already February!  In a little more than 2 weeks I will turn 45 years old.  But of course that number doesn’t really mean anything really; I guess that I will need bifocals soon (squinting under my glasses to thread a needle), showing a few signs of Scheer family hereditary premature arthritis in one of my finger joints and it’s not as easy to sit on the floor for hours playing…but other than that, I am more energetic than when I was in my 20’s and am surrounded by so much love that I can hardly stand it.

The hours turn into days, days into weeks and before I know it, months have gone by.  Because we are an all faiths community; Christmas was not exaggerated with a small celebration when a volunteer brought a small gift for each child (hair ties and nail polish for the girls; art pads and pencils for the boys).  In the same way, the western New Years was no big deal, with very few staying up until midnight (I surely didn’t!)

As 2013 started rolling along, winter was upon us; the whole 3 weeks of it.  I cannot express how wonderful those few weeks of “cold” nights and wearing a sweatshirt to breakfast were, ah the memories…  Even though by 9:00AM it would start to warm up, many days were overcast with a nice breeze.  But, alas, by the end of the month, winter was gone -a Cambodian spring is non-existent- and the temps started to climb up again (the dry season is upon us).

I am working on the end of the year financials and since 2012 was the first full year of using the accounting program QuickBooks, I will be able to make a pie chart of our yearly expenses.  We will be able to see just how much we spent on everything from fish food to university education; everything from laundry soap to electricity.  I loved accounting in high school and actually considered a career as an accountant…and as I look over the 20+ children around me at this moment (watching Jumanji for the umpteenth time!) it’s evident that the pursuit of that path was not meant to be.

We are only about 45 kilometers outside of the Capital city, but it’s very rural and a majority of the adults in the surrounding villages are either illiterate or don’t have more than a 6th grade education…

I have no idea what I was going to write about when I started the above paragraph…you see, I was in the mood to write one evening, to finally update my blog and then the DVD ended and I put my computer aside fully intending to get on the next day.  And lo and behold the next day we found out our Internet provider up and moved their business to Thailand.  They were the only provider in this rural area and since I couldn’t get online, I kind of lost the momentum to finish.  We have this stick that is the equivalent of dial-up so needless to day, no chance of uploading anything.  Wayne finally got a blog post finished and it took days to get it online. click here to view!

It’s probably a good thing I couldn’t post the above paragraphs because at it’s writing, nothing new had really happened…that is nothing until Friday the 8th of Feb.  On this day 3 little brothers were added to our family at Wat Opot.  Three little ones ages 1, 4 and 6 came into my life as their mother rode away with broken promises to see them soon on her lips.  

Soooo what does this mean for me.  At first nothing, another parent out of desperation, leaving her children in our care.  I stopped wondering how a parent could do that….drop off a child or children, maybe never to see them again (by choice or by desperation).  The who, where, how why, etc. doesn’t really matter anyway, at least not at the moment.  The three little boys are now our responsibility and part of that responsibility is helping them adjust as quickly as possible. 

What that soon meant for me was lying down with a sobbing 3 and 6 year old in the dark, the first couple of nights, while they cried for their mom.  I was pushed away as a physical comfort and I couldn’t verbally make them feel better as they could not understand my ‘strange’ language. They allowed me to lie between them and just offer a body they ever so slightly touched.  A leg pressed against my side, an arm resting on my arm.  I lay there until their sobs subsided into slumber.  I  quietly got up, walked to my room and let my own tears flow.  The baby was sleeping on my floor (no baby bed here and I didn’t want him to fall off my bed) restlessly and continued to cough so hard he would gag himself.  All three boys had bronchitis or something from living and sleeping outside.

I was up and down with the baby all night and by 4:30am, I was thinking “I can’t do this, why did I think I could take responsibility of a baby." We have a few women living at Wat Opot and I was determined the next day to assign one of them to the new baby.  Satisfied with my assessment of the situation, I fell into a fitful sleep…only to be awoken by the very loud gong which is rung outside the boys dorm at 5:30A.M. - signaling the start of our day.  Of course by then Sokah was sleeping peacefully. I sighed and looked down at his beautiful peaceful face and thought maybe I would give it another try.

The days were filled with activities and of course the baby's feet never touched the ground with 48 big brothers and sisters to dote on him all day.  Our 3½ now looks about 10 next to him.  She wanted to carry him although she’s not much bigger than he is.  At meditation I had to tell everyone to let him walk some during the day, because when they are all in school, I cannot carry him all day by myself, that he needs to learn to be content without being held.

The 2nd night was the same; laying with the crying boys until they fell asleep then preparing my self the best I could for another sleepless night.  It wasn’t as bad that night although his cough still scared me.  I had never heard such a bad sound coming from such a small child.  I again sat in the dark and cried.  I think it was kind of hitting me that unlike all the years of being a nanny and caring for a babies much like this one, there would be no one coming home to release me from my paid duties; no mother or father to thank me for my services as they took over, no parent allowing me to take the stress-free backseat of helping to raise their children. 

This is the real deal, so to speak.  Most of the young kids here have called me mama or mommy (one yells “MOM!” just like I used to) for a couple of months now.  But it was just another word in a sense.

A few years ago, when I told a special someone I loved him in his native Spanish language, it was an easy thing to do.  It didn’t really mean the same to me; like cursing in a foreign tongue-it's not really cursing if no one understands.  When I said "Te quiero", I was repeating foreign words back to a man who had just said the same words to me.  Even though at the time, I felt it in my heart there was no fear involved in saying those "three (or in this case, two) little words", no fear in opening myself up to whatever the future holds because I wasn’t really saying it in my head.  I’m sure he wasn’t even aware that I never said those words in English.

I guess that’s how I took to the kids calling me their mother.  They didn’t call me Mai  or Mak (mother in the Khmer language) instead they chose the English word for mother.  It didn’t really sink into my mind, that for some of them, I am the first mother figure they remember, and for others, the first mother figure who treated them with kindness.  In my mind it seemed to be just another English word they learned.

By the 4th day, the older brothers were crying less, laughing more and S.N. got the  little one to smile; albeit briefly, but it was a smile nonetheless and now that the antibiotic had kicked in, he was sleeping through the night with more of a dry cough instead of the terrifying gurgling.  At the one-week mark, U didn’t try to run away (a 3-year old wandering down the road looking for his mom – thank goodness we are rural!), and A is settling into the 1st grade, and S is laughing out loud!

I, on the one hand, have stopped crying when I am alone, but on the other hand am still trying to get my bearings at the enormous responsibility I have accepted.  It’s like walking down the proverbial aisle, there’s really no turning back once you have uttered “I do”. I have managed to avoid any real lifelong responsibility over the years -I don’t think it was entirely conscious, but more of  a continuous forward movement with small pauses in various places.  

As I now look at S sleeping quietly beside me, I know I have reached another milestone; I have once again accepted a challenge and will go forward lead by my heart and my inner mother presence which was probably trying to get out for years.  I am in it for the long haul.