My mother died 8 years ago. To me, she’s one of the strongest women in the world, yet I barely knew her. My memories of her are plenty, but having memories about someone doesn’t guarantee your understanding about that particular person.
I didn’t regret anything, though. Life has given me so much to be thankful for. I’ve been blessed beyond comprehension. Still, something was missing.
January 16th was the first time I saw Robin Lim. To me, she is a legend. I’ve heard so much about her, I read articles about her, I googled and YouTubed her like there’s no tomorrow. There’s something about this woman and I didn’t know what, or why. What I did know, I had tears on my cheek reading her interviews. To my surprise, weeks before I flew to Ubud for my 1-month vacation, my friend told me that she was working on a project with her. THE Robin Lim.
I was so surprised I couldn’t say a word. I wanted to beg her to introduce me to Robin but all I said was, “I really want to meet her. I don’t know why, I just know I do.”
One night, my friend and I went to Jazz Café where Robin’s husband, Will Hemmerle, was performing with his group. My friend introduced me to Robin, but the café was very full of noise. Robin seemed to enjoy Will’s performance so much. Didn’t want to interrupt her, I sat in the corner with my friend, looking around and drinking my beer while my friend was talking with someone else. About an hour later, I met someone who later became no other than my lover (but that’s another story).
It was funny as months later I realized, that night I met two persons who later become the most important parts in my life. Same night, same place. Life can be very funny.
I didn’t meet Robin until weeks later. I was busy hanging out with my new friend, who soon turned to be my travel fling, then finally, my boyfriend. After he left Bali, I was busy pulling myself together because my world was practically crumbling down. I fell in love. But then the other part of myself started speaking, gently, reminding me of the ‘unfinished business’.
I asked my friend would it be possible to meet Robin Lim in person. A very brave act considering my tendency to have this embarrassing reaction called “star-struck”. I had it before and it was beyond embarrassing. Still, it was worth the try.
My friend said that she couldn’t promise me a thing, but she would ask Robin if she could bring a friend the next time they work together. To my surprise, Robin said yes. I tried to pull myself together when my brain went, “HOLY SHIT I’M GOING TO MEET ROBIN LIM. I’M GOING TO SEE THE LEGEND IN PERSONWHATSHOULDIDOWHATSHOULDISAYOHDAMNIMSODEAD.”
And so I went with my friend. I visited Bumi Sehat for the first time. Robin wasn’t there, but I was so overwhelmed by what I saw there I actually forgot my first plan. The place is just… how should I put it… heaven on earth. I felt like I can stay there forever. Bumi Sehat has this warm ambiance and everyone I met there was so full of smile. Their eyes were shining with love or some kind of mushrooms after-effect. *kidding! * That’s gotta be love. I felt so warm, and before I realized it, my eyes were filled with tears.
Then my friend told me that Robin was expecting us at home. My first reaction was, “At home? Seriously? Maybe I should just wait here.” Because, ladies and gents, there’s no way I would let a stranger entering my house. Or my bat cave, that is. My house is my most personal, private space.
15 minutes later, I was sitting at Robin’s kitchen table drinking fresh coconut water. Then Robin came and she hugged my friend with the tightest embrace I’ve ever seen. I was wondering how it felt like when she looked at me and greeted me in Indonesian, just two seconds before she planted a kiss on my cheek. That was the first motherly kiss I’ve ever remembered.
Hours later, I forgot my nervousness and I asked her a lot of questions regarding birth and womanhood. I forgot everything except the woman sitting gracefully in front of me, patiently answering all my questions in details. I don’t remember the exact questions I asked but I remember having tears in my eyes over and over again. It came like a wave. My eyes never stayed dry for more than 10 minutes.
Very soon, it got dark. Robin had to help delivering a baby at the clinic. I watched in silence as she tightly hugged my friend like a mother hugging her long lost child. Maybe I was exaggerating but that’s how I felt. Then came my turn. I said, “Thank you so much for having me here, Ibu.” I wasn’t ready when she pulled me into her arms, and holding me like no one ever did, she said, “I love you. Come here anytime.”
I stuttered. “R–really?” was all that came out of my lips. Because, ladies and gents, there’s no way I would say such thing even to my friends. My bat cave is mine and mine only. Let alone to a stranger I just met few hours before.
We were still hugging each other as her answer flew into my ears, “Of course! I don’t want to lose you.”
That night I cried myself to sleep. And I cried again when I woke up the next morning. But those were happy tears. I’ve never felt that way my entire life.
I got a chance to meet her again for the last time before I went back to Jakarta. It was then when I asked her, carefully and nervously, “Can I call you ‘Mom’?” Call me silly but it just felt right. She said “Yes” right away.
I thought of Ibu Robin and Bumi Sehat every day after I got back to my old life in Jakarta. Almost never a day went by without me thinking of Bumi Sehat family. Sometimes, when the feeling is unbearable, I sent her texts. She always replied, no matter how unimportant my texts were.
Today is my last day in Ubud, and my third visit to Bali this year. I always went to the same place, to see the same person. Sometimes I asked her questions. Sometimes we just sat and talked about anything. Sometimes I did nothing but watched her working on schedules, or played with the kids. It doesn’t really matter. Being there is all that I needed.
Last night before I departed we hugged each other, as usual. She planted a kiss on my cheek and as I took my bag I said, a little sadly, but also cheerfully, “Goodbye, Mom! See you soon.”
I stepped outside, and that’s when I realized, it’s so easy to call her ‘mOM’.
I think I’ve found my hOMe.