Tender is the Night – V

Grandmother, deep in her Kelantanese accent, used to say: “Setinggi mana pun Kak Long sekoloh, Kak Long kena dudok ce’rok dapor jugok.” What she meant was despite my education, I will eventually end up in the kitchen.

Of course, the little me back then, whose paramount interest was to cycle around the kampong, had no inkling what she was talking about. I brushed off her wisdom like any other child my age would.

Even when wifehood, and subsequently motherhood came knocking at my door, I was fortunate in that I wasn’t expected to do the entire gamut household chores: just a few of them. Help came in forms of mama, mama-in-law, and an Indonesian domestic help.

My friends told me I was lucky; some just smirked disgustingly at me.

I heeded not the glaring jealousy on their faces. I went back and forth to the office like any other working mom. I left my son in the care of our helper, Sue – under under Mama’s eagle-eyed supervision – and went about my merry way.

Often (sometimes more than twice a week), I found myself sipping latte at Pavilion’s terrace with friends, while watching life unravel before our eyes. I stole time to write whenever privacy permitted me to do so.

I would read myself to sleep in the dark; now I need reading glasses. I had hours of quality time to goof-off with Luqman, while Sue took to the task of cleaning, mopping, wiping and ironing. As far as I was concerned, it was an arrangement made in heaven.

Last week, Sue flew to Surabaya en route her home in Pornorogo: she wasn’t coming back.

My neat little world went asunder.

The house turned into a factory mess. Dirty clothes that needed to be washed piled up. After washing, they the needed to be hung out to dry, then folded before being sent back into their respective closets.

Without Sue scrubbing it, walking on the kitchen floor felt like walking on fly-paper. Dust coated other surfaces in the house. I had mountains (not piles, mind you) to iron. Of all the chores, I despised ironing the most.

Last night, as I was scrubbing the bathroom floor, I reminded myself to replenish the grocery supply for the family. Running a household is no walk in the park. 

But, what broke my heart the most was the clutter on my bookshelves. When Sue was around, she kept the shelves intact and free of dust. She arranged the books according to their heights. Whenever I tried to rearrange it according to genre, she would put the books right back to the way she wanted them – and that was that.

I used to sit for hours in the small library in pursuit of reading and writing. I have not sat in that space for a week. My soul is dying an untimely death.

I would often fall asleep there with a book spread opened and turned over. In the morning, Sue would bookmark the page and leave the book on the bedside table under my reading lamp: one of the sweetest things she had ever done for me.

I miss Sue.

As I await the arrival of the new “family member” who will be replacing Sue, I think of what my grandma said years ago: she was right after all. 

Postscript: Photo above of Luqman and Sue. 


22 thoughts on “Tender is the Night – V

  1. Aunty El,

    Is that Kak Long?
    heheh…can I read the comic together?

    Bye Anty El,



    No, “Kak Long” is actually me to the family. The picture is of Luqman and her Bibik Sue. But sure you can read comics together. Too young to start you on Hemmingway, anyway. 😛

  2. Dear Elviza.

    Just for sharing.
    Bila my maid balik kampung even for two days, Shera keep asking me..” Ma, since kakak is not around, do you know how to gosok your tudung!? tamparan hebat sungguh lah..


    Haahahahahahahahaahaha! Kids say the darnest thing, huh?

  3. Sis, you scared me (again). You brought me to cloud nine with the glitz and all the promises with Aryani’s wedding. Its seems like its gonna be a start of a blissfull life where the prince and the princess dance their life away in a lush green garden with lakes, swans and flowers that bloom all year long. Then you showed me the kitchen, the diapers, the laundry and arrgh… scrubbing the toilet!

    I don’t know whether to thank you or to hate you. But I surely hate barbie and mariposa for distorting reality.



    Ohh oh so sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you, I just wrote whatever that came to mind. Of course weddings are always nice, its the reality thereafter that bites! Ouch!

    Please don’t hate me. I hate Barbie too…

  4. Elv dear,

    Such a good heart she had, it’s very rare to find a domestic helper like sue nowadays. From the way Luqman hugged her, she’s all sincere and no pretentious.. am sure they will miss each other so much. Hope you’ll find a good replacement soon. House chores is too much too juggle in between work and leisure.



    Sue was a godsend. She was so good to Luqman I dare not ask him if he’s missing Sue. Sure he does. Poor kid.

  5. wo. life always makes use think a lot.

    ur granda was right, but the life is not about stucking in kitchen.

    life’s going on =)


    True, life isn’t about that but sometimes we life sends us right there too, despite your wish.

  6. Hola Elviza,

    A thought crossed my mind right after finishing your story. I was wondering, “could I do that?” Toilet? Arrgh… !

    Anyway, I brings you…

    Greetings and lots of love from Kuale Kangsor.


    You sure can do that if situation warrants you to do so :-P. Greetings from Kuala Lumpur.

  7. Because of the household chores… this is what you meant with that entry at Facebook.

    Ironing: The part that you hate the most… Strange – would you believe that I actually like it? Yes, despite having only a cheapo “Cornell” iron. I’d bet that you have one of those RM250 irons. I didn’t even know this category existed until I saw them at Pacific, KB Mall.


    No, I still have the chepo iron I got as wedding gift. It works all right and my motto in life: if it is not broken, why fix it? And I don’t know the iron you are talking about exists in this world too. 🙂

  8. Ohhhhhh Elviza, this is the first time I am leaving my footprint though I have been reading you since last year. This is the first time also that you wrote about something that directly affects me. I know too well what you are going through, worse still you are a working mother. I stay at home 24-7 and that is a full time job I can’t imagine if I have to go to work from 9 – 5.

    The key is that dear, if I may, is to do it at your own pace. Don’t overdo yourself. A little bit of dust and mess here and there makes the house lively, don’t you think?

    Cheer up dearie, you are coping up really well from my point of view.

    And I, SAHM, cannot imagine if I don’t work. I need the last shred of sanity in the office (which is not always the case though). Must do it at my own pace, must do it at my own pace, must do it at my own pace… Errr, when am I getting the replacement?

  9. You can do it woman! You are already doing too much (I won’t say this to your face). Lets have a drink and I am all ears ok? Love ya.

    Let’s have a drink today?

  10. If you ask me, in an absence of a paid helper, all family member must help each other in terms of house chores. Even though I am a man, I don’t feel any less by helping my better half. It gets better in time.

    Hear hear you, sir.

  11. Your grandma is so sweet… and this is such a nice way to pay tribute to her. But we all realized things a little too late as it is only normal in human beings. Your boy soooo adorable and chubby!

    Dear Betty,

    My grandma is extraordinary. Still as sharp and as a alert in her late 70s. Like an idiot, I am a little slow to grasp lessons in life!

  12. You read in the dark Michele, that’s why you need the reading glasses. You always do that!

    Yeah I know. But I love doing that 🙂 Where have you been woman?

  13. Every time you write like this, you steal my heart away with your “writing away”. I am smitten 🙂

    You say the sweetest thing, my friend. A thousand times thank you.

  14. The best things in the world are when they/it no longer there…


    Probably true in some cases but definitely not true in this one. Sue was the best even when she was around.

  15. Elviza,

    Your posting remind me of my old days when I took my unpaid leave and became a full housewife. It is a rewarding job and I confessed I totally enjoying it to the fullest. Wish you good luck with your new coming ‘family members’. Finding a good maid all depends on luck.

  16. Elviza,

    I have always wondered how did my mother juggle her work and raising 6 of us at the same time. Even though she had help around her with our devoted ammah for years, she was hands-on on everything. To me she is the superwoman. If you continue this way you’ll be one as well, with an advantage of being able to write superbly.

    Kudos to all mommies of the world.

  17. I am your fan and it has been rather a while that way. From your writing, I think you are a real person with no airs of pretension what so ever despite what you have achieved or dream to achieve.

    From where I am sitting, you are a lot luckier with a good job in hand and a young healthy family to your name. Last year when you were on TV, my husband and I happened to be watching the programme and we both think that you have stunning look too. Very opinionated you may be but you are pretty. (This is from a 50 year old woman you know!)

    I think what pulls traffic to your blog is that you write clearly. As clear as the bright blue sky and honest to God.

    I wish a lot more Malaysian women will turn up as bright and as talented as you. Keep writing away, Elviza.

  18. This is why I never want to get married and have a family. If in the future I want a kid, I’ll adopt or just borrow my friend’s.

  19. Elviza,

    It ain`t that bad.After our kids reached secondary school age,we stopped having live-in maids…more to do with the kids` requests, as a matter of fact.Must have had more than 30 Indon maids,all-in-all, and that`s quite a small fortune in agency fees.We have a couple of weekend maids who thoroughly spring clean the house(especially all the bathrooms…5 in total ) once a week, and that`s all…I send them back in the late afternoon after everything`s completed.All meals(and I mean all meals) are taken outside,including breakfast(have practised this since we first got married), and I take care of all the laundry and ironing for everyone at home including the daughters` clothes too whenever they are on their breaks from abroad,daily and religiously too. It`s the first thing I do after reaching home from work at about 7:00 or 7:30pm,unless I`m abroad or out of town for work(in which case everything goes to the laundry outlet nearby).If I have a dinner appointment, the laundry and ironing still needs to be done when I get home after that.Plus,I do any general cleaning-up in the house, whenever that is necessary and cannot wait for the weekend maids. .Thus, dinner everyday must wait until about 9 or 10 pm, usually,when all the ironing`s done and have duly showered and changed!

    So, who says the woman`s place is in the kitchen, ultimately?I envy them!Thank God for the boarding school experience and overseas post-graduate studies previously…certainly the best preparation for house-husbands wannabe`s!Where`s the wifey in all these?Easy. She hates housework,especially cleaning-up,laundry and ironing, and is not too fond of cooking either.The kids too!So, if WW3 comes by, looks like I`m the most likely sole survivor in the family, he!he!(I tell them this all the time,and only get a bewildered look in response).

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