I walk quietly, my footfall muffled by the carpet. The silence from Laddu’s room is reassuring. I am about to walk downstairs when the mess that is Ammu’s room catches my eye. I step inside annoyance ruffling my Zen. I pick the blanket up to fold and my
eyes are drawn to the handmade card by the pillow. Dear Ammu and Pattu, Happy Birthday! is printed in a child’s hand. A slew of hearts surrounds the note. I drop the blanket and pick up the card instead. Annoyance is replaced by a rush of affection. The
rest of the cleanup goes quick and I have a smile playing on my lips as I detour to the study to pin down my thoughts.
Ammu and Pattu celebrated their birthday this week. Against our collective better judgement we gave in to the trappings. Party invites, headcount, catered food, cake, balloons, hired entertainers. Even as Saathi frowned and expressed displeasure at every turn, I ploughed on. Resolute that the children should have one birthday party they will remember. The day came and went. Lots of laughter, a table full of gifts and over tired children marked the day.
The next morning as Ammu and Pattu sat at the island drinking their milk. “I had the best birthday ever!” remarked Ammu. “I did too!” chorused Pattu. I smiled indulgently as I urged them to explain why. The answers came over the day. In random exclamations. In the wonderment that accompanied opening the gifts. In reminiscing over how they preened and twirled over their new dresses. The trappings were conspicuously absent in our conversation. The cake lay forgotten in the innards of the fridge. The gifts lie hidden in a faraway cupboard. The balloons are long deflated. Any evidence of a party has long since disappeared. What remained was that they felt serenaded. That their friends looked on as they celebrated turning a year older. The pictures show radiant joy in their faces as they mock fight with their friends. One image in particular captures kids
peeking from under a table. Another captures a child throwing her head back in unrestrained laughter. Yet another shows a child dancing with abandon to the radio that blared overhead.
The Thank You notes have been dispatched. The ‘Birthday Party’ has been checked off on my to-do list. Today is when I sit down sans interruption to record what really has changed. Ammu has grown into a girl often given to soulful stares. She withdraws
inward when the world outside is overwhelming. Her joy at things expresses itself in music. In the songs she makes up as she goes about her day. She is given to daydreams and imaginary pets. She holds conversations with a dog we cannot see. She takes pride in her penmanship. Her artistic expressions are keepers. For rich detail and capturing the essence of what she is trying to say.
Pattu has grown into a girl who is testing her independence. She likes to leave her hair free. She is prone to looking at herself critically in the mirror. A fierce competitive streak has emerged and being first means something to her. She is eager for attention and blossoms under warm praise. She turns the radio on each morning without fail and twirls around as the music grabs her. She lip syncs to all popular numbers and stops dancing if we look at her.
This year is when Ammu and Pattu have connected the dots figuratively and understand that they have two families. They grapple with the concept of race, color and ethnicity. They have been reflecting over their origins and expressed interest in learning
more. They are inquisitive, open to exploring new foods and traditions. They also absolutely refuse to believe Santa, Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny do not exist. They look for leprechauns on St. Patty Day and wear their PJ’s inside out hoping for
snow. They are equal parts child and girl.
As they grow and mature I realize each year is a keeper. One I will look back on fondly. Each one leaves an imprint on the fine young girls Ammu and Pattu are changing into. Each one also marks my tenure as a mother. While I am sad to look back on the year gone past, I also look forward to seeing what the new year holds for my babies.
Happy Birthday Ammu and Pattu!