Eager eyes, heart beating faster, I spy the rather large car filled with people come to a stop before the house. I suddenly feel nervous. I run upstairs before anyone has a chance to catch me at my most vulnerable moment. I slink back unseen, mustering courage, a smile firmly in place. I sit on the edge of the sofa by your aunt and cousin. I make small talk. I look at your dad and brother straight in the eyes. The bright white of your father’s shirt is disconcerting. I turn and take you in a sweeping glance. I must not look desperate I think to myself.
The shock of curly hair and the oil gleaming on it brings a smile to my face. Thayir sadham I think to myself. The blue full hand shirt looks incongruous. I was expecting a tee-shirt. The glasses on your face looks big. I can barely see your eyes beyond the reflection. I walk down to the kitchen thoughts swirling in my mind. I reach out for the tray containing coffee and snacks. Maami shoos me away saying she and my amma can handle it. I return to my perch at the edge of the sofa. I hear your voice warm and tempered. You ask amma and maami to sit. The coffee can wait you say. My heart fills with an unnamed feeling. One of relief and reassurance. This feels promising already I think.
The next hour or so passes quickly. I take in your big eyes, slanted quirkily. Rather prominent nose I note mentally. As I talk and pour out stipulations born out of experiences with conservative, chauvinistic men I realize your eyes have not left my face. You seem to be actually listening. I feel my heart quickening. I suddenly want this to happen. Need this to happen. I am done talking and I pose questions. “Do you have anything you would like to say?” I ask and rest my case. The conversation is over a minute later. We walk down and face a room full of expectant faces. Our faces are mute and defiant. No decisions now is the unspoken consensus.
As all of you file out, I stay reservedly behind my blue silk suddenly feeling heavy. The room seems strangely empty. What do you think? Appa asks me. I am OK I say not offering any further thoughts. I feel scared. The general feeling seems to be one of hope. I feel a sudden chill. I go upstairs saying I need a nap. Everybody is sadly understanding. I hear muted sounds filtering in upstairs. They are discussing the afternoon and waiting with bated breath for that one phone call. I hear maama say “It will be after 6:00. Raahu kaalam aache.”
Time seems to drag. I am suddenly hit by the enormity of it all. The flippant attitude I was professing suddenly felt old. I felt gripped by fear. The “what if…” suddenly loomed too big. How much longer could I play this waiting game I thought? At the dot of 6:00, the phone rang rather shrilly. Appa waited for it to ring a couple of times before picking it up as if to give him time to compose himself for whatever news may await at the other end.
I stayed upstairs reluctant to seem too eager. My ears straining to pick up pieces of the conversation that floated upstairs. I gathered something momentous just happened. I could hear my mom calling out to me rather joyously. I smiled. To myself. And walked down rather slowly savoring the moment. The next hour went past dissecting that all important phone call. What was said and more importantly what was left unsaid.
Three years later, one pleasant summer evening, the four of us piled into the car and drove up to a small cul-de-sac. We were looking at the first house we would buy. The wood gleamed and sunshine poured into the house. There was something very cinematic about that moment. The first house we would ever see and the first house we would buy. Even as Amma and Appa trailed behind us I could see it plainly in your eyes as I could see in mine. We were besotted. Our home called out to us and we heard it.
Over five years from then, yet another moment etched in memory. The drive down the endless flat landscape that inched us near our daughters. I remember the evening as if it were yesterday. The sun slanted towards us on the left, the smell of mulch and cow dung permeated the car filtering in through the A/C vent. I had this goofy look on my face. The phone lay heavy in my lap bearing news that altered our lives. My left hand clutched your right as if letting go would jinx the happiness. My frizzy hair looking like a halo around my face. The subdued happiness that emanated from you as we passed achingly familiar signs. Pulling into the hotel parking lot, taking a deep breath, dragging heavy suitcases and walking down the corridor with a deep maroon thick carpet till we reached the door. Looking up, taking an even deeper breath, sharing a quick hug before we knocked. The baby sounds reaching us before the lock turned and the door opened. Balloons, camera flashes and a very excited A with her daughters. Stepping into the semi lit room and dumping our bags before making a beeline to Kay and Cee. Squatting on the floor and reaching out to them for the first time ever. First family picture and the beginning of a million more memories.
I watch you each morning coming down the stairs holding Kay or Cee a smile spread from ear to ear cajoling your daughter to say “Good Morning” and making a beeline for the high chair. In the midst of the morning rush I feel moored to us. To you. To this life. I realize you are my anchor when our sea is choppy. It does not matter that you prefer round neck to a polo. Or that you prefer being home bound to an exotic vacation. It does not even matter that you would forget birthdays and anniversaries if I did not keep reminding you. All that matters is that you will say OK to adopting twins in a heartbeat. To putting down roots in an alien land because our daughters belong here. To carrying a cell phone because I want you to.
I could write a book K, on our decade together woven with rich detail and the little everyday moments which will mean nothing to anyone but you and me. Perhaps I will someday. But for now, this is my tribute to the tapestry we are weaving together. A complicated rich pattern, filled with detail on every success, every speed bump and every U-turn we have had to take. It is and will be a work in progress taking a new shape with every detour. I hope someday when we look back on it, it will be worth framing.
Happy Anniversary K!