When Lokes and I moved to the US, we pretty much moved blindly.

We didn’t know if he would earn enough to support all four of us. We didn’t know how much our monthly expenses would be. We didn’t even know if we would be able to communicate properly with the Americans. Sure, we speak English, but English is not American (just like Malaysian is not Indonesian).

But the one thing we knew right off the bat was that our kids would have better childhoods compared to the ones they would’ve had back in Malaysia. Instead of weekends spent trolling The Curve or One Utama or some other bigger, better super mall, or cooped up in some indoor playground because of the haze or the heat, the girls are now able to go to the beach almost every day, or tool around on their bikes or trikes at the park. Summer comes and we are eating strawberries right off the field. In the fall, the girls trudge around in the mud, picking out pumpkins. And if we’re really lucky, winter would bring a gift of snow, and the girls would spend hours just messing around in our backyard, building – and eating – snowmen.

If I remember correctly, the last time we visited a mall was last fall. Bizarre since this is the country that created the mall.

Don’t be mistaken. It’s not that these things are not available back home. We have parks and the most beautiful beaches you will ever see in this lifetime. We even have strawberries in Cameron Highlands. But even having lived all our lives there, we rarely did these things.

We took the girls to Taman Perdana ONCE.

We took them to the SS2 park TWICE.

We took Rae to Karambunai and Pork Dickson (beaches) ONCE and even those were Lokes’ company offsite trips. We simply tagged along because we would otherwise not have the time or inclination.

And therein lies the irony. That we worked so hard that even though we had the money, we didn’t have the time to do anything as a family.

We may not have as much money today. And we may not drive an expensive car or own any branded stuff. Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time we took the whole family out some place fancy for dinner, something we used to do almost every week back home. In fact, there have been days, I swear, that we’ve looked at our bank account and wondered if we could get the girls new clothes or shoes without dipping yet again into our savings.

It’s THAT bad.

And then, there are days when you see your children standing knee-deep in rows and rows of ripe, crimson strawberries, their faces and fingers stained red from stuffing their faces with the ruby fruit, juice dribbling down their chins and onto their pristine, white not-so-much-for-berry-picking clothes.

And as they squint into the ripe afternoon sun looking for me because they’ve walked so far ahead, their hands working quickly through the bushes, their mouths chomping even faster, I can hear these words come tumbling out of their busy little mouths.

“MmmmMmmm Mommy. Stwabewwies! Mmmmm!”

 

It is these moments that let you know that it’s not about being able to afford a trip to Disneyland, or getting your daughter that Limited Edition $29.95 Magic of the Rainbow Barbie, or having the perfect house.

It is these moments, these little gems of sheer joy that come bursting through when you least expect it, just from being able to spend an hour in the hot sun, plucking and eating dust-covered, earthy strawberries until you feel as though you may just burst at the seams.

These are the moments they will remember.