Laddu and I stand by the dining room window looking out. Ammu and Pattu walk home, their backpacks bouncing on their back. Their fine hair moves with the breeze. In identical rompers, they sprint the last few yards home. I am now by the door to the garage, waiting with a smile. “I had a fantastic day!” says Ammu throwing her head back. I take her book bag from her and nudge her to the bathroom. Pattu enters behind her. “How was your day?” I ask. “Fantastico!” comes the reply. She relinquishes her bag and follows her sister. Laddu squeals and runs to me for her squeezes and kisses. I do the honors and put her down. She runs to the bathroom and tugs on the door before running back to me. Her smile lights up my soul.
I sit at the edge of the bed, scanning my phone. “Amma, what happens when people die? Do they become statues?”. Ammu is resting on me, her eyes fixed on mine. I put the phone away and gather her and Pattu who is now hugging me. The feel of their bare skin on my arm feels warm. I feel connected. “Why do you ask?” I counter. Ammu repeats her question. I use the analogy of a train and try to explain the soul getting off and moving to a different destination. Puzzled, she repeats “Do they become a statue?” I change tack and talk about the soul being the movement, the thought, the emotions. I tell her once the soul goes away, the body could be like a statue. Pattu chimes in now “like the statue of Lincoln in Washington DC!” A light bulb goes on in my head and I ask Ammu “Are you reading about Lincoln?”. She nods and explains that Lincoln died a long time ago and there is a statue of him in DC. Chastised, I heartily agree and we discuss dead people who are now statues.
The evening has a dream like quality to it. I see happy faces, bright smiles, hands eager to help. I see siblings loving on each other. I see Saathi drinking it all up as do I. The thought enters unbidden. “Why can’t every day be like today?”
I pack away their book bags with their homework folders inside. The one week since school started has already set in motion a change in routine. We are finding our groove. For every bad day, there are days like today when everything is right. We laugh, we bond over drying hair and chopping vegetables. We hug, cuddle and kiss. We soak up the happiness knowing tomorrow could be different. I watch the softer, relaxed version of myself and wonder where she disappears to every so often to be replaced by a grouch who is overwhelmed by the grind of everyday life.
I look back on the weekend and dissect the day I termed bad. It started with the inevitable squabbles over brushing teeth, drinking milk and following instructions. On another day, it would have ended there. Some days, it escalates into a power struggle complete with cold shouldering, crying and inflated egos. By the time evening rolled around, I was ready for the peace and quiet of the work week. Attitudes are catching. Smiles breed smiles and droopy faces are contagious. I suppress the shudder I feel when I look back and cheer up at the thought of today.
Good days make sense only because of the bad ones. I linger before bed, reluctant to close my eyes, knowing tomorrow could be very different.