She Called Me Family

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI still remember the day when we first talked.

She stood outside the gate of our new home as I pored through our English to Indonesian dictionary, determined to explain to her that while I was excited to have her work for us, the house was far too messy and disorganized for her to even enter it. She should come back on Monday.

I remember the look of confusion in her eyes, and finally, she understood. And thankfully, she came back on Monday despite the utter ridiculousness of my request.

It was a foreign concept, no pun intended, upon our move to Indonesia to even fathom having someone working in our home. It certainly wasn’t a luxury I ever thought I’d have, and yet, in that particular country it was expected. I was a foreigner, and that alone branded me as someone with enough money to provide jobs for others. Not only would we hire a house helper, we would also hire a guard/gardener.

Two jobs for two people.

And though the first weeks were a bit awkward, I quickly found myself warming up to the idea and grateful that among our many responsibilities, cleaning the house, laundry, cooking and taking care of the yard were not included.

Maybe we were a bit spoiled, but those who live or have lived it can testify that it’s necessary. For both sides.

Ibu S quickly became more than just someone who worked in our home. I would take the time I could to practice my limited Indonesian while she practiced her English. As much as we could, we would talk and learn things about each other. Two years in, T and I stayed in the country for the summer and took some language lessons.

As our communication ability grew, so did the friendship I had with Ibu S.

Mel&Ibu1And somehow two years turned into five, and that last year, I was a stay-at-home wife. A pregnant and puking one, but I was still home. And a surface friendship grew between two women into a deeper one…language, belief, and status bridged by the fact that in so many ways we were similar.

Really, we were both moms (well, I was a mama to be!) just looking for a friend.

And while I knew it was our last year in Indonesia, and she knew it too, we still took the moments to talk. To laugh. (Mostly over my language flubs.) 😉

We shared life.

And she became a dear friend.

And when it was time to go on that April morning in 2010, I didn’t hide the fact that saying goodbye to her broke my heart. And she didn’t hide it either.

And over the years…the ones when Mae was teeny tiny and growing up too quickly…I ached. Often, for this friend that I wanted so badly for my daughter to meet. I thought about what I’d tell her…because things went unsaid. I wished, for years, that I could have found the words to thank her for being one of the most important people to me during our time in Indonesia.

And God…well, He’s Good. So. Good. He provided a way for our family to return…all three of us…for a visit. While there were many people we wanted to see, Ibu and her family were toward the top of the list.

And this happened…and it was perfect. Oh, life is never perfect with a jet lagging three year-old, but seeing my friend again and watching her hug and love on our Mae is a memory I will hold close for the rest of my life. And when Maelie played princesses with her…oh, melt. :)

It was when we were talking at her house just three Saturdays ago that she told me something.

You see, all along I’d wanted to tell her that she was a dear friend…and someone who was treasured and loved, despite the distance and difficulty of communication. I even made her a necklace.

Teman, it said. Friend.

And then she spoke for me…she said she loved us and missed us. And I watched the tears well up in her eyes as she said it, her hand over her heart.

Ibu Mel, you are my family.

And it was at that moment, I knew. I’d known it all along, but then…well, I knew.

I knew that Indonesia was part of us…a piece so deeply imbedded into our hearts that it will never go away. Nor do we want it to.

And so we said our goodbyes with hugs and teary eyes and a few more pictures, and while it hurt to leave my sister behind, I did it knowing that I wasn’t just leaving a friend.

I was leaving family.

And family is forever, so I know we’ll be back.

So many of you have been asking for Indonesia stories, and you have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you. :) Honestly, it’s been an emotional time of processing so many good things, and it’s taken much longer than I thought it would to even find words. But thank you…for being here, for being patient with what’s going on in my heart, and for reading. There are many, many more stories to come. It may just take my entire life to tell them all, but I’m good with that. :)



  1. This is so beautiful! I love reading the words of your heart. Lovely:).

  2. Loved this Mel…good to see you writing again! :)

  3. Beautiful story of a beautiful friendship. You are blessed!

Speak Your Mind