Saturday, January 05, 2008

My December.

About 5 months back, akak left the family - for good. Unfortunately, if you were looking for some juicy story regarding jeweleries, Bangladeshi workers or sick voodoo, you might be disappointed. No, I'm not going to uphold the average housewife legacy for bad-mouthing about maids, while hiding their own treatment towards them. Akak, however, left us for valid reasons, both agreeable and respectable to mom and dad, with great reluctance. I mean, she's been with us, managing the household for the past 6 or 7 years, friendships were formed, of course there'll be reluctance but to ask her to stay would be sheer cruelty and selfish for our part. She did go back 4 months earlier than her contract with us, though. Given the circumstances, we had to let her go. So, when she packed her bags and got on the plane, the family felt handicapped. It's been 6 years and none of us has done any chores for that length of a time (apart from that stint back in October '06 when she went back for a short while). To say we were rusty on our skills would be an understatement!

When she left, I was in the midst of my examination preparations, which mom intended not to interfere with chores. She always told me not to think so much about the chores and leave it to her. Back then, all I did was do the clothes, seeing that I was the only one whom akak passed down the knowledge of work the washing machine. Even that, mom was a tad bit worried that it might affect my studies, every now and then, offering to do the chores which we both know is impossible to ever get done with her working 8 hours a day. Let's be frank, working moms are not model housewives. Mom did do the ironing though (since neither dad nor I knew how to iron) while dad did the sweeping and the mopping. The household was manageable with me doing the weekly dusting of furniture and cleaning of the toilets. Naturally, it fell into a routine and we were getting used to it. Admittedly, there were times when things take a toll on us but I think we got through just fine. Even up to my exams, I didn't feel much pressure and the house was still liveable.

Come December, that's when things really got hectic. Jie was back for the holidays and she offered to help around the house. If you consider dragging me and dad along, cleaning the entire house for the entire first week helping, then she did help out alot. It was more like a mini house remodelling cum spring cleaning, instead of the weekly dusting. I don't blame her. To make the complete transition from having a maid do things for us for the past 6 to 7 years to a normal functional family with divided chores, we needed to reshuffle everything to our liking and understanding. After all, Christmas was near and we had to do our spring cleaning anyways. So we spent the first week at home, cleaning. Jie did take up the ironing as well, if I may mention. And when I thought December would be a breeze after that, amah comes running along having the fall and turning our just-settling-down lives upside down all over again.

Not that I blame her or anything (nobody wanted this accident to take place) but I've got to admit that it was the last thing any of us needed. The forth and back trips from home to the hospital just doesn't do the situation any good. Apparently, the grand old lady isn't dead yet. Wait, that was a little harsh of me - she hasn't passed away and according to some hocus-pocus Buddhism witchcraft, she's expected to live another extra 2 years, with her ailing condition. She finally moved back from the hospital into her own home and has been looked after by mom and dad ever since - we're talking about meal times, personal hygiene and medication - which pretty much puts another set of routines on my working parents, bounding them in their seats full of commitments. She isn't paralyzed or anything, just unable to do things by herself, especially when it comes to personal hygiene. Considering us being kids, we can't help out much in our part. Which made it no surprise that our family is the one who were usually late for gatherings, meeting and parties, given the schedule mom and dad constantly needed to plan around. So there, no death or whatsoever.

When things finally got a little settle down (when routines were familiarised) , jie and I became busy with last minute Christmas shopping. I know it seems here like we are horrible children who couldn't care less about other stuff at home at this point, but someone really needed to run the show and with mom occupied with her job and amah, who else was supposed to do the gift shopping, the wrapping and other monumental preparations for the season (albeit the mood being already dampen by the tragic fate of my dear grandmother). The show had to go on. So basically, we were running up and down malls, 2-4 times a week, a different mall each time for different reasons and by all means, let me tell you, shopping easily gets tired when you've been on your feet all the time, waltzing pass stores with shoes that aren't too comfortable to start with, and of course, the sheer thought of the parents slaving away in the day. With that sense of guilt swimming in me, I did constantly remind jie that we were bad children and we deserved to be punished, which she didn't retaliate to the remark in return.

To think about it again, the shopping wasn't easy task filled with stress-free moments. I mean, with parents trying to burst through your cellphones, insufficient cash flow and year end sales going on, shopping should be considered a hazardous activity (sometimes, we even skip lunch to fully utilize our time and save pennies!) which only manages to breed greed, self-absorption and fickle-mindedness. In other words, it only brings out the evil in me (and jie, no doubt)! Still, having the knowledge that there's still house chores to get back to after a tiring day of walking, gnawing at the back of my head most of the time should account for something good doesn't it? Surprisingly, I actually worry about not getting my laundry done or the dishes washed which usually results me in acting strangely during our one-to-many shopping sprees. Of course, after spending almost 8 hours at the mall, chores would be the last thing one would wanna go home to. Inevitably, I still return home and finish my chores (regardless of what time is it) and mind you, I do stay up at times to wait for the laundry.

In the midst of all that chaos, I still play host when cousins come over for sleepovers. Not only do I manage a big part of the family chores, I still need to ensure my guests have a splendid stay and that they don't notice the immense pile of laundry stacked up in our room, waiting to be ironed. Oh, and did I mention, I cook for my dear cousins as well, occasionally. Usually, it's breakfast as we normally eat-out for lunch (thank God!) but I do a little baking form time to time. And may I add, any new housewife would agree with me that cooking isn't an easy task, especially at the end of the meal when kitchen utensils pile obscenely in the basin. Whether it's just a reheat or a sauté, it still requires work. This season though, I've tried baking pies - banana toffee pie to be exact - ever since one of mom's friend passed jie and I the simple recipe. A good leap from the baking I did 2 years back, don't you think? Well, you definitely don't expect us to show up empty handed at parties and and family gatherings we've been invited to. It's a good way to get comments and feedback as well. If that's not getting my hands full, I don't know what is.

Plus, did I mention that I had to do all these with minimal amount of sleep. Hey, when the cousins are over, it's more like a who-can-keep-awake-the-longest-competition rather than a regular sleepover. If we weren't overdosing of midnight knickknacks (chips, pizza and candies), we were probably overdosing on movies or boardgames. Now, how much sleep do you think I can get out of these over-energized brats? Furthermore, I'm not the kind of wet blanket cousin who gets fussy over health issues and start giving them a lecture on living a healthy lifestyle. I'm more of the kind which allows them to go crazy if they wanted to and most of the time, joining in mindless adolescent games. After all, I don't stay young forever and it's the holidays! Oh, and the family gatherings on various occasions that keeps me awake till the wee hours, where could I possibly find sleep? Seriously though, I can still put my chores aside and have fun. Whoever said I was a serious no-nonsense freak. And I never get afternoon nap or anything like that, except for the 40 winks in the car and the mere ability to keep awake during church. Gee, have I sinned too much this Christmas?

Nevertheless, you still gotta admit that I am getting kinda good at this whole househusband role. As they always it's never to early to start and I will need all the training I can get to be more domesticated. My December was a helluva ride, that's for sure. At the end of the year, I was surprised myself that I'm still standing strong after everything (although getting unnecessarily cranky every now and then) that's happened. Realised that I barely have the time like I used to when I could sit and write all day in front of the computer, not the previous December or for the Decembers to come. Things have definitely changed around this household and I'm definitely armed with an excess baggage this new year. There's still a lot of getting used to and there's still a lot that needs to be done. In the meantime, I'm considering working and taking my driver's license by the end of this month and February, I hope - if things ever ease up enough for me to make time for a new commitment. I sure do hope.

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