The day begins like a well-oiled machine. The regret of staying up too late the night before always greets me in the morning as the sun rises from behind the mountains. I hear my 15-month old daughter babbling to herself in a language only she understands. She shares a room with her 4-year old brother who has a remarkable ability to tune out his sister until he’s good and ready to wake up on his own. I envy that about him. My innate, intuitive sixth sense I received once I became a mother keeps me attuned to even the faintest of sounds coming from my little ones.
Just a single step out of my air-conditioned bedroom reminds me I live on the equator. My feet are met with the warmth of the tile floor as I make my way towards the kids' bedroom. I make a quick stop in the living room to pull open the curtains, letting the sunlight flood into every corner of the room. I feel myself wake up a little bit more as shades of blue and turquoise water shimmer on the horizon. I can see mountains from my bedroom and ocean waters from my living room. Thankfully, the views have not grown old on me yet.
I get the kids up, fed, and changed. I herd them out the door, only to immediately herd them into the elevator. Then I herd them out of the elevator and guide them quickly through the parking basement towards the car. Motherhood has turned me into a sheep dog.
It’s been seventeen days since we touched down on this island, located just a hop and a skip north of the equator. It’s only a temporary residence. Our home is a mere 45-minute flight across the Malacca Strait. Once this third baby bouncing about my womb makes her grand entrance into the world, we’ll bid this foreign land farewell and return to our home on another island.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel all that foreign to me anymore. Life here has become normal. Not in the same way I would define “normal” by my American standards, but a new kind of normal.
Check to see if the laundry on the line is dry. Pull a few articles of clothing off and get the kids dressed for the day.
Load up the kids in the car for some errands. First to the grocery store located in the basement of a mall. Then, to the post office to pay all the bills. And finally, to the park to play – while also keeping a lookout for the monkeys lurking in the surrounding greenery, who are undoubtedly looking for some snacks and water bottles to steal.
Return home and turn on the hot water heater to bathe the children.
Tuck them in bed just as the fifth and final “call to prayer” is heard over the loud speakers from the mosque positioned just at the bottom of the mountain, along the coastline.
Sleep. Wake up. Repeat.
Sometimes, as I grind through these daily routines of mine, I’m amazed that this is really my life. It’s in moments like these that I have to agree with my dad who once pointed out that it seemed so uncharacteristic of me to uproot myself from all things familiar and plant myself on the opposite side of the globe.
I was the kid who could barely spend a full night at a friend’s house for a sleepover without getting homesick. I was the kid who had some intense fears of getting on an airplane. I was the kid who couldn’t see herself moving any further than one state away from her family when the time came to fly from the nest.
Yet here I am.
As I ponder these things in my mind, my children sit contently in the backseat of the car. It’s time for the errand-running part of our day. They gaze out their windows as we pass by hawker stands and storefronts made out of whatever scraps of material the owners could find at the time. We approach a red light and my car comes to a stop next to a small shop. The unexpected beauty of it captures my attention.
It’s both worn down and beautiful. It has a tin awning covering the front steps -- these are made out of tiles with a beautiful orange, white, and light blue geometric pattern. Then, completely unrelated to the pattern of tiles chosen for the steps, a pale green tile imprinted with pink roses appears below each of the two windows, positioned one on each side of the front steps. And for reasons I’ll never know (maybe because the shop owner was indecisive at the time or maybe he just enjoys the “pretty on pretty” style so often found in this culture) a third tile pattern appears, entirely different from the other two. They are laid out in a checkered pattern, alternating black and white, each white tile imprinted with a pink flower.
The light turns green before I can look at the additional patterns I see surrounding his front door. But I drive on, still continuing to admire the beauty of something pieced and patched together in such a unique fashion. If I had been with the shop owner as he was picking out his tiles, I would have questioned his selections, but instead I saw the finished product of mismatched tiles. And it was uncharacteristically beautiful.
In a lot of ways, I can see that beauty in my own life. In the middle of it all, it seems like such a mess – like the pieces just don’t fit together or match. Life is lived in seasons without any consistent timeline or routine. Each season is different, yet they all blend into one another, woven together by a single thread.
We make up the strands of the thread – my husband and I, and our children. Together we are pulled through the different seasons, each one its own design and pattern. Sometimes the pattern compliments the one before it. Sometimes the patterns are completely different. But when I take a step back and look at what’s being woven together, I see an unexpected beauty—one that draws me back in and leaves me looking forward to what’s ahead.
And so each new day begins like a well-oiled machine – perhaps a sewing machine – piecing together something truly magnificent.