I stand on the wooden steps that lead away from the kitchen into the garage, holding out pretty backpacks with swirls of color. A heart blinks on one and a butterfly on another. The twins turn their backs to me so I can help them with their bags. I stand as they leave, their rain coats swishing and squeaking as they walk. “Where is my hug?” I demand. They turn and run into my outstretched arms. “Hug and a kiss” I decry and they comply. Their warm bodies pressed to mine, their small arms covering as much of me as they can. Their faces turned toward mine as I linger on their foreheads and kiss the top of their heads inhaling shampoo and dirt as they walk away. I close the door behind me, scoop Laddu up and walk to the front door as we track their progress along the sidewalk to the bus stop. They are specks of pale pink and leaf green in the clutch of kids clustered around the stop sign. We watch till they board the bus and the bus disappears from view.
I get back to the stove where a steaming cabbage is ready for its garnish and a sizzling pan is ready for batter. I set Laddu down and juggle three pans in anticipation of Saathi’s leaving to work. The lunch bag is ready, the chutney sits on the counter and the plate is perched at his usual spot. In the few minutes after the kids leave and before Saathi comes down from his shower, I look back at the moment on the steps and realize how much of my life I script for the future.
“Did your mom help you with homework?” Ammu asks as I hover around and hand out pencil and erasers to help with what she is working on. “Yes. She used to sit on a chair and ask me questions and I would answer.” I reply, surprised by the visual that accompanies my answer. One of the few memories of my Amma being involved with my schooling. Past third or fourth grades, I probably coasted along, hugging the line that demarcated the mediocre from the gifted. Neither here nor there. A spectacular lack of effort from my end ensuring I stayed within the radar, undetected.
Each day as I insist that the girls finish their homework right after snack or that they kiss me and Appa good night or wait for the hug before they leave for school I am writing the script for what I hope they will remember as another rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed child asks them some day in the future. A collection of memories for me to pore over, inspect and sigh with contentment when I am an empty nester.
Share your memories Facebook exhorts me each day. As I scroll through the status updates, pictures and events, I see a pattern. A ghost of the scripted lives we lead.