“Amma”, “Amma” she bounds down the stairs enunciating the word clearly, a bright smile lighting up her face. I turn towards her from the stove, breaking out into a smile myself. We hug and I seat her at the island. It is our little ritual. One we have fallen into recently. Ammu has taken to calling me Amma over this past month. She stresses the first syllable as she says it and looks at me for approval. I run my fingers through her hair, give her a peck and pick two mugs for milk.
“Mamma”. Another body joins us in the kitchen. It is Pattu this time. She runs up to me for a hug, buries her head in my tummy and whispers “mamma” before she seats herself at the table. I set the warm milk in front of her and loop my hands around her neck giving her another hug before moving on.
In the morning rush, the tenderness of the early morning dissipates and gives way to impatience, tantrums and raised voices. By the time the three of us are at the bus stop waiting for the bus, apologies are exchanged and group hugs bring a smile to each face.
I wave and head back in. Without fail, I stop just before I enter the house letting the hugs and baby voices fill my head wiping out the anger and the remorse. Laddu waits for me by the door going “Da da, dada”. She looks happy enough as I scoop her up. Soon, she will be joining her sisters in the chorus of ammas, mammas and moms. I wonder what moniker she will pick for me.
Over the years, I have made peace with mom, mommy and variations thereof but Ammu calling me Amma made me realize there is something special about being addressed that way. I revel in the affection that envelops the word. Perhaps it is for this reason I never did enforce it at home, letting the girls pick whatever they were comfortable with. I know this will change over the years depending on occasion and place but while it lasts, I am soaking it up.