I stand on the stoop, Laddu in my arms, the fall air refreshingly crisp. Ammu and Pattu walk along the pavement, their strides keeping pace, their arms gesticulating wildly as they make their way to the bus stop. I stand watching till the bus leaves and I head back inside. Laddu demands to be set down and I comply. My foot stumbles on a notepad and pen on the floor. I pick them up to put them away and notice things I have learned to ignore in recent times. Swim goggles from a pool party two weeks back sits on the table, satin ribbons from their dresses lie amidst a tangle of dolls and blocks. A Barbie dollhouse lends color to my otherwise drab family room. I sweep the length of the room taking in eraser marks on the breakfast table, color pencils under it and crayon wrapper peels all over. I sigh, ignore and move on. The day goes by tending to Laddu and ends with a call from the school proclaiming Ammu missed the bus. I load a sleepy Laddu in the car, pick Pattu from the school bus and head to the school. “I am sorry I did not look out for my sister” says pattu. I am surprised by the term she uses. I reassure her and focus on the road. Soon, we are driving back Ammu explaining how she missed the bus. “I did not listen to instructions” she says matter of fact. Caught between wanting to sermonize and laugh it off, I resort to humor. We reach home and I set glasses of warm chocolate milk and snacks. They eat, drink and settle to work on Math and Reading. I flit from one girl to another explaining, correcting and watching as they make progress. They test each other on their spelling list. I am relieved when they are done. They put away their bags and play.
Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing glimpses of their grown up selves. A need to participate in chores, an eagerness to see how food is made, insistence of doing things themselves and a sense of pride in getting things right the first time. I watch with a mixture of pride and regret. Pride in seeing them imbibe qualities I value and regrets about the fragments of babyhood they are leaving behind. “Did you have a boyfriend when you were this tall?” asks Ammu raising her hand a few inches over her head. Wondering where this question is stemming from, I explain I have had friends who were boys but no real boyfriend till I met daddy. She persists and conversation meanders to friendship and school. “Did your mommy have a mommy?” Pattu asks another day. “Everybody has a mommy” I reply. “Did she have brown skin and black hair?” We talk about genetics, race and biology. “Did your daddy die?” Ammu asks, a picture of my appa in her hand. I take it from her and we talk about death, about body and the soul, about grief and loss. “Did you wear nail polish?” ask the twins as we walk back from the bus stop one day. I reply and then turn the conversation to beauty that comes from being kind and good. We talk about appearances and behavior. We talk about chemicals and peer pressure.
Each of these conversations leave me thinking, scrambling to read up and be prepared for the questions they may ask later. I reach out to my mom friends, my adoptive mom friends and my sisterhood. I find myself at once eager and scared about the years ahead. I cannot wait to have intelligent conversation with my children. I fear not being adequate having been raised and schooled in a different culture. I look back on the years past and realize I will learn alongside them.
The house is silent save the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. I feel gratitude wash over me. It has been a while since I reflected on just the good, the fact that my needs are so few or that I am abundantly blessed. I switch tabs to check my email and the picture of my family flashes from the desktop. I pause and take my time to sit back and admire. I close my eyes and take a moment to acknowledge the beauty that surrounds me. I feel centered and at peace.