After Mark’s party on Saturday night all I wanted to do was relax all afternoon and sink my teeth into a few hundred episodes of The Shield . After a mid afternoon nap I left my wife sleeping, descended in my underwear and was greeted by Mum with no one else anywhere to be seen.
Me; ” Mum….where is Grace ?”
Mum;” She is with Srey Neung and Veasna at the market…”
I look outside and notice Srey Neung’s Fino scooter is missing………………
Me; “Mum….are they riding the scooter?”
Mum ( with very nervous smile ); “Yes”
Me; “Mum…let me be clear…they are on the scooter with Grace and not in a car ?”
Mum ( with a face rapidly draining of all colour) ” um…..yes”
At this stage I hit the roof like a Baghdad missile. I was fucking furious and the wrath that followed was swift and merciless. Firstly I gave my mother-in-law a bollocking in my best Khmer asking her why in hell she let Grace out on a scooter. Next stop was back up to the bedroom where the wife got a very rude awakening as I thrust the phone at her and told her to ring her sister and tell her to return to the house immediately. Just as Leakhana was calling Srey Neung the gate opened and to my horror, in came Srey Neung with Grace in the Baby Bjorn strapped to her chest and Veasna riding shotgun. I was at the door to meet them and I think I actually showed considerable constraint. To be doubly sure I asked Leakhana to ensure Srey Neung understood I was FURIOUS and was very disappointed in her . “It was only down the road to the market” Leakhana said in her sister’s defence.” I don’t give a rat’s fucking arse if it is one meter, our baby does not ride on scooters !”.
Well it had the (un)desired result. This is the first time they have seen my temper which I usually reserve for Arabs who slap my wife and freshy boys on scooters.Veasna scampered to his room and hid for two hours, mum started cleaning the place vigorously and Srey Neung disappeared to places unknown.About 30 minutes later when I had calmed down Leakhana came in with a funny smile laughed and said ” Srey Neung have a lot of tears out the back”. I instantly fealt terrible and went out the rear of the house to find my gorgeous little 24 year old sister-in-law hiding in the palms and sobbing her eyes out. I instantly gave her a big bear hug and a kiss on the head and told her I was sorry for going nuts but that she had done a silly thing. I guess she was beating herself up for having made such a poor judgement call and also upsetting me. At any rate I led her into the house and got her an ice cream and a frozen Tim Tam and we sat down again with Leakhana. I asked Leakhana to tell Srey Neung that I know she would never ever do anything to hurt Grace and that she is wonderful Aunt but that whilst it is typical for Khmer to take infants on scooters, Grace is not typical. She is a treasure to us . Anyways, everything and everybody calmed down and then the real fun began.
Phalla,Tra, and Vichea soon arrived with a bunch of food around 5.30pm. Hi everyone ! Seems like our place had been chosen (again ) as the Sunday afternoon family HQ. I really must lay down some ground rules. At least one at any rate ; If I am hungover – NO FAMILY. I don’t like being overrun in my own living room damn it especially when I have a hangover that will kill most men. Great. That meant a family group dinner when all I wanted was a bowl of soup and more underwear time.Luckily they all retired to the front courtyard allowing me to relax somewhat and around 6pm Phalla joined me on the couch and as is often the way, she started confiding in me that living with her in-laws was very bad.So bad in fact, she had as of that day left the house with her clothes and Vichea’s baby equipment in the car and they now had nowhere to stay and ” would it be ok if we stayed here for a while ?” . Without hesitation I said of course ! I have known for some time she has been very unhappy, has lost a lot of weight due to a stressful living situation ( the relationship with the mother in law is horrendous ) and I get on famously with Phalla. She reminds me a lot of Sibella, my sister back home. Loves to sit with me over a wine and have a natter and always asking after me etc etc. Tra then came and sat with us and wanted to also request if I could accommodate his wife and child and again, it was a quick ” of course mate” a hug and a hand shake between brothers and that was that.
So now we have Veasna, Phalla, Vichea AND Mum all staying ( on one room no less ! ). I guess Mum is here by default as she is usually looking after one or both of the babies anyways and she has spent the last few days tirelessly bathing, feeding and watching over the kids like the trooper she is. All whilst wearing Leakhana’s Snoopy pyjamas. Yesterday Leakhana, Phalla,Srey Neung and I went to the market and bought extra dish cloths, towels,pillows and general household items and it was a fun arvo with the girls.For the last two days I have woken up to the sounds of all the women cleaning the apartment as a team and then last night the family toiled away in the kitchen and then presented me with the MOST amazing squid and pepper dish I have ever had. It was restaurant quality and there was a nice bottle of French red to wash it down with.
It’s all very humbling really. I mean, I think they are all are going out of their way to show their gratitude for us taking in family at a time of need but it was really the easiest decision. I think back to the times my own family have helped me or other family members and I think about all the help and love my Khmer family have unfalteringly shown me for 3 years and I did not have to think about if for a second.It’s family ! I don’t know how long it will last and I don’t really care as it will be great for the kids to spend time together. I am sure Tra will sort something out as he desperately wants to be with Phalla and Vichea but in the mean time I have told him he can stay over too whenever he wants and to take his time.
It’s all fun and games innit ?