Today my mum and Husain are not roaming the streets with us. We dropped them earlier at one of the big houses at a housing complex we passed by. My mum has been asked to help the lady of the house, Ms Thurayya, washing and ironing their clothes. My mum has been doing this twice a week for the past two months. Thanks to my dad’s creativity, converting our old cart to a mobile advertising vehicle, offering our part-time services for extra cash.
Being the only one educated, my dad always has ideas on how to bring additional income to the family. He has a vision to employ each and every single one of us in various side jobs that are halaal, meaning not criminal nor illegal in nature. As long as we don’t trespass others’ rights, the job will be an option.
There was one time, for example, we found lots of ribbons and confetti in a dumpster nearby an office building. Using mere glue as the basic capital, my whole family got crafty creating cards and cardboard toys from the colourful decorations. We did it in between our breaks on the streets. Good-enough outcome of our work are displayed, pasted or hung on the cart. So, we could stop over at schools or children’s playground and sell our crafts. The result wasn’t bad. At the end of our artful week, we earned more than what a month of carton collecting could give. Alhamdulillah!
Anyway, my dad got the idea to make use of our roaming cart as a walking billboard, advertising freelance services we can do. He displayed a list of domestic work he or my mum could do on both sides of our cart — washing, ironing, lawn mowing, etc. The house chores part is of course my mum’s share, and since there have been more requests of freelance domestic help, my mum — taking Husain with her — often separates from us, not collecting cartons with us on the streets, just like today.
We purposely left our home after fajr (dawn) so my mum could reach Ms Thurayya’s home on time. We took the route passing her house so that we could send my mum and Husain off.
As we were approaching the house, we saw Ms Thurayya, in her beautifully decorated, golden coloured, long dress and a plain dark head gear tight to the back of her neck, sweeping the fallen leaves outside her gate.
“There she is,” my mum said, pointing to the dignified lady.
For the third time, or so, I exclaimed, “She is very beautiful, Ummi.”
Ummi agreed, “Indeed.”
My dad stopped the cart right across the house. My mum went over to my dad and kissed his hand, asking his blessing to start her work today.
Noticing our presence, Ms Thurayya came over to us, stroking my head, then Hasan’s head, then Husain’s, gently with her soft hand, and said salaam (greeting) to both my mum and dad.
“I’ve separated our unused books, newspaper, and magazines for you,” she informed them, “They are over there!” pointing one of the pillars of her gate.
“Thank you, Mam,” my dad expressed her gratitude and walked towards the suggested location.
Ms Thurayya asked my mum if she could stay a bit longer today as three of her neighbours had also wondered if she could do some ironing for them.
My mum answered, “I have to ask my husband first, Mam.”
“Sure,” Ms Thurayya smiled.
My dad returned to our cart, carrying two large yarn sacks filled with piles of paper products. Hasan helped as my dad came nearer. My mum pulled my dad aside while Hasan and I were loading the stuffs onto our cart.
“Aba, can I stay longer at Ms Thurayya’s house today? Her neighbours needed me to help ironing as well,” my mum explained.
Ms Thurayya expressed her agreement.
“Definitely!” my dad affirmed his consent, without hesitation, and continued, “In fact, we should thank you, Mam, for giving us more opportunities.”
“The pleasure is mine, Pak,” Ms Thurayya replied in humility, “Besides, I’ve loved your family since the first time Ummi helped me.”
The beautiful lady continued, “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ll be glad to help,” and she smiled warmly again.
My dad was running out of words. He could only say, “Thank you,” while bowing to her in respect.
Mum, Hasan, and I watched the encounter in awe. What more could we ask from God?! Even little Husain clapped in happiness, witnessing the lovely interaction between Ms Thurayya and my dad.
“You can pick up your wife and Husain on your way back home in the evening,” Ms Thurayya told him, “Both of them can rest at one of our bedrooms while waiting.”
After expressing our gratitude to her, we said goodbye to Ms Thurayya, my mum, and Husain, and walked away, heading to the next dumpster along the way.
To us, Ms Thurayya is like a God-sent angel.
As much as I could praise how kind and lovely Ms Thurayya is, other past employers of my mum were not necessarily that great. I remember Madam Noor who was, despite her pious look, relatively thrifty. She paid my mum only for every smoothly ironed piece and neglected paying for the rest she had considered unqualified to her standard. My mum often complained that it was stressful working under her.
In another occasion, my mum washed clothes for Mr Bambang’s family, supervised by an old, flirtatious grandpa whenever she was there. Lucky for her that the family had a full-time maid that helped my mum politely get the old man out of her way.
For what it’s worth, my dad is fully aware of the danger of leaving my mum out there, at strangers’ homes, on her own with little Husain. However, with strong conviction that God would take care of those who love Him and do everything for His Sake, my mum and dad feel thankful whenever opportunities to earn more arise. We’ll be fine, insya Allah!