Yes, it's true. After 18 months of being my go-to gal on the ins and outs of China life, our dear JJ has left her job of being our house helper. Her family decided to rent a small store front near her house, so she's gone from domestic extraordinaire to denim entrepreneur.
One her last day a few weeks ago, she made us all of our favorite things for lunch: stir-fried eggplant, stir-fried carrot & hot pepper, stir-fried tofu, and the salty version sweet & sour pork (and let me just say it's waaaaaay better than the Side Wok Cafe at the mall).
This is our usual lunch posse, Kevin, JJ, and our tutor Frankie (my spot is next to Kevin on the bench). Gone are the days when we'd eat yummy food and discuss an assortment of random things: her 9 year-old son's recent shenanigans, the cabbage shortage in South Korea, the progress of our adoption, and why in the world Americans feel the need to bathe so often. Returned are the days when peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are so frequent a meal at our house, they deserve their own segment on the food pyramid.
At this point, we're probably not going to hire another house helper. We're trying to cut back our expenses to save for the adoption, but it's hard to eliminate an expense when it's attached to a person and their livelihood. It's not like most people have a deep relationship with cable TV or their credit cards. So her quitting has opened up another opportunity to store away some cash that we'll be able to use to go bring home our boys.
Though she's only a 30 minute bus ride away and I can technically go see her whenever I want, she will be sorely missed at our house. She will not just be missed for the fact that she can make a pile of dishes disappear in a snap and that she mastered all dough-related food items in my recipe collection that were the sticky bane of my housewifely existence (cinnamon rolls, tortillas, crescent rolls, english muffins, bagels--not to mention the oh-so complex Chinese dumpling).
No, it's that she's been here by our side since nearly the beginning. She has been with us through the evolution of our language skills, most likely making extreme effort not to laugh at some of the ridiculous things we've said. She brought Kevin rice mush at the hospital when he got his appendix taken out and watched dumb magic shows on TV with me during his long hospital stay. She not only patiently tolerated Beans' constant companionship in the kitchen, but I think that secretly she actually liked the dog. In fact, she even took Beans home with her while we were out of town for the weekend. She sat by my side at a number of hospital visits, and she is the one person to whom I never have to explain that day. She laughed with us, listened to us, fed us, made our life more sane, helped us be more Chinese. She was part of our family, and it is those things that will be missed more than made beds and laundered clothes.
(Though I'd be lying if I didn't admit to missing those things too...)