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The travelling pen: Spring

I recently embarked on a 10-day trip to England with a group of students. We were on the road quite a fair bit and on those long-distance bus rides, I would write. The next few entries are from those journeys.

We are in the coach, rolling our way towards Leeds. When we arrived, it was a gloomy, rainy and grey Manchester that greeted us. Today, it was a gloriously sunny Manchester that we bade farewell to – a Manchester that had brilliant cerulean sky, voluminous cotton candy clouds and a sun that was puffing up its chest with pride.

It’s a long ride, an hour or so. And yet I refuse to close my eyes and sleep. I feel as if I have to stay awake, to absorb the lush greenery that is rolling past my window. I want to commit it to memory and remember it forever. I love this landscape, this sight of the bare fir trees standing tall and undulating slopes.

My last trip to Europe was well over 10 years ago. And in this time, I have forgotten just how much I love being here, especially here in England. I love how elegantly aged the buildings are, how they are so charming in the haphazard way that they are standing. I love how they have embraced their heritage in their buildings and not buried it in their quest to keep up with the times. I love the cold crisp air, though there are moments when I feel as if my nose is about to drop off. I love the brownstone houses, the white window lattices, the smoke chuffing out of the chimneys. I love the spacious parks.

Mostly, though, I love the space. There is no sense of claustrophobia here. I can breathe. I can move calmly with a sense of purpose. There are no tall buildings crowding my steps, my life, my thoughts from all corners.

I don’t know when we will have the chance to come here again. One day, soon enough, I hope. I can’t wait to explore the cobbled streets with my boys.

The travelling pen: Finding myself again

I recently embarked on a 10-day trip to England with a group of students. We were on the road quite a fair bit and on those long-distance bus rides, I would write. The next few entries are from those journeys.

When I took this overseas trip on, I was really in two minds.

Look, I have two little ones at home. I have never been away from them since they were born. The only times I spent away from Aidan were when I weaned, delivered Zac in the hospital and when Zac was warded for his respiratory infections. As for Zac, well, I’ve been there since the day he was born.

Lest you think I’m being overly attached or sad, it’s a deliberate choice. I made the decision to take a pay cut and this job because it’s stable, has good hours and allows me to be home with my babies. With the husband’s crazy hours at work, one of us had to have reliable hours. Not working is not an option, for the sake of my bank account and my sanity. My littles needed a parent who was “grounded”.

So I took on this assignment with trepidation, especially since I faced such vocal objection from my mother (long story) which layered on the guilt.

But now that I am here, I am glad. I have been first and foremost a mother for the past four years. My thoughts are never far from my children, even when I supposedly am having some “me” time. My hours revolve around picking them up, dropping them off, fixing them dinner etc.

Here, I lose all these other identities. I am just me. I worry about myself and what I eat, what I wear, what I do. I don’t have to think about what foods to get for fussy little palates, how to keep them warm, what to do when they are bored.

I’m just me.

And sitting in the tour bus, as I travel down to Oxford, there is a sense of poetry as the scenery rolls past. The glorious blue sky with giant puffy clouds, the trees – sometimes bare and sometimes lush – and the vehicles that zoom by. I reflect and realise just how much I have missed travelling and exploring and soaking up the sights. I miss figuring out the subway system, miss stepping into a foreign shop and being delighted by its offerings. I miss taking photos. I miss the words and thoughts flowing out of my mind and my heart and onto a screen, to be immortalised.

I do miss simply being, me.

The phantom pain

Early this morning, husband took off on his business trip. We’ve never really been apart ever since we got together, barring his business trip to Chicago almost three years back.

And it feels odd.

We are not the sort who do things together all the time. He has a life and so do I. While we have a very, very large common pool of friends, we do have social connections that do not overlap. Even when we are together, we like to have our own space to do our own thing.

But now, as the partner who is left behind, I am feeling such a strange gap. It feels like someone amputated my limb and replaced it with a prosthetic. Like, I can do all these things by myself and I know I can handle this household with these two littles on my own. I can go for parent-teacher meeting, throw the kiddo a birthday party and juggle my full-time job and their schedules by myself (even though it’s tiring as hell).

The limb is working but feels empty, void. Like there is something bereft.

I suppose it’s natural, given that I am the one “left behind”. I suppose this means I am missing the man. I suppose that this also means that I have probably taken our partnership for granted. And I suppose this means I need to start getting used to it because there will probably be more of these trips.

I suppose this tells me that while yes, I can live without this man, I don’t want nor like to.

One day down, 13 more to go before my partner comes back and fills this gap up with his larger than life presence.

Four years of Aidan

Dear Aidan,

Exactly four years ago, I was having the worst night of my life in the hospital. But that turned at 4am, when you arrived into this world and it became one of the best nights of my life. Because once I held you in my arms, I knew that I would love and protect you with every cell of my being until the day that I die.

You know exactly how loved you are, since that early morning of March 5. You know it, because we tell it to you every day and every night. You know it because we make it a point to hug you and shower you with kisses. And you know it because even when you are less than delightful, when you are not a happy child, you understand that we will never abandon you and we will never reject you.

For the past few months, you have been longing to be four. You ask me if you are four yet and when I say no, just a bit more till you are four, you get upset and insist that you are already four. Why the hurry to grow up, my darling? You grin when I say that you are my baby Aidan, and proceed to inform me that you are no longer a baby but a big boy.

And so you are.

The four-year-old you is so incredible to behold. You are sassy, no doubt, and says the darnest things to me. It never fails to make me smile when you say “yes, please”, the way I do. And you love to sing to yourself, when you think nobody is paying you any attention, when you are focused, the way I do. You love your brother and tell me to “play the music” of the baby monitor when he is crying at bedtime. You love to hold my hand and when I have your little hand in mine, my world is a happy, contented place. You remind me to use my hot water bottle whenever my bad back acts up and it hurts to walk. You love yogurt and fruit and have no qualms demolishing three plums after dinner. You have a thing for shoes and socks. Every night, you fall asleep with your head on my stomach. When I ask you why, you just smile shyly and say you like to do that. I can and will never understand why. In the morning, you tell me that you are off to breakfast when you wake up before I do. And when I say good morning to you, you say it right back at me with the sweetest voice, before giving me a gentle kiss.

Now, that’s not to say that you are an angel. There are difficult days and there are difficult moments. But it’s not because you are a difficult child – far from it. You are a really fun little person to be with, most of the time, and I think your papa and I lucked out in that aspect.

And the best part is how much you love us. I know you love me by the joyful way you yell “mummy!” when I pick you up after work. I know you love me from the way you zip out of the holding area into my arms with that big grin. I know you love me when you wrap your arms around my legs and nestle into my body for comfort. I know you love me when you cuddle up next to me and ask me to read you a book. I know you love me when laugh so gleefully when I tickle you.

And I know you love me when you say to me before you drift off into slumberland, “Goodnight mummy park kor*. I love you.” (*He loves to make up names!)

Happy 4th birthday, my boo boo boy. You are our dream come true.

Love you to the moon and back,
Mummy

The last baby

Wrap_husband

I am a baby wearing addict. Every weekend, I will diligently pack one of my wraps into our diaper bag, knowing that I will probably have to carry my littlest at some point. In fact, I hope I will get to carry him.

Never mind that my little fatty is all of 11kg and he refuses to go on my back, which means I have to carry him in front just like I did when he was snug in my womb. Never mind that when we walk and we walk and I am wearing him like that, it hurts my injured back sometimes.

I just want to.

The truth is that, that’s the kind of mother I am. I love snuggling close to my boys, love being able to kiss their bouncy cheeks, love holding them. And each and every single wrap that I have in my little stash is precious, it allows me to do just that – hold them close to me, close enough to kiss. Every single wrap holds sentimental value to me, which is why I am finding it so difficult to let go of any of them. (And thank goodness the man understands this passion.)

Also, I am finding it hard to let go because I know that this one is my last baby. Once he decides that he does not want to go up into the wrap anymore, my baby wearing days will be over.

There will be other memories to create and cherish, of course. There will be other moments to look forward to. But at this point in time, I am starting to mourn the end of my baby’s babyhood, especially since I know that we will also have to wean for good come March, when I go on a 10-day business trip.

He is my last baby.

Husband is pretty much done, he has stated clearly that he does not want another child. I am ambivalent, I neither reject the idea nor crave for a third badly. But I also had an epiphany the other day: I was looking at myself in the mirror one morning, me with the tired eyes and insidious lines on my face. And I realised, with a start, that I was 35. If I were to be pregnant for the third time, I would be a mother to a newborn at 36 or 37.

I am not sure I can, or want to, handle that.

So, nostalgia. Looking forward to the future, yes, but also saddened by the end of the firsts.

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