I am bent over, the squishiness of me spilling out, my back taut as I tie the laces of Ammu’s shoes. Pattu stands behind her, rivulets of tears streaming down her face. Her golden hair glints in the ambient light as she reaches out for her Appa to envelop her. Her voice, still plaintive pierces the momentary stillness. “It is loosing…”, she gulps back a big sob as she points to the waistband of her tights. “What is the time?” I ask Saathi as I help Ammu up and force her tiny being into a dark pink cardigan with shiny silver stars on it. Her face is long and she is sullen. My boo boo hurts she says wincing and hopping around. “You can stay home baby.” I say half in exasperation and half in worry. She walks away from me and I pull her back to hug and kiss her unwilling face. “Smile please?” I exhort and she complies. A lopsided smile that catches my heart. She is achingly beautiful I think.
I reach for Pattu’s hand even as she burrows deeper into her dad. Ammu is already heading out to the driveway. I have two minutes I remind myself as I pry Pattu away and force her feet into shoes. Pink, sparkly, high top sneakers she once loved. She is sniffling as I am done lacing her up. I lift her pretty face, kiss her gently and use my finger to keep her face at eye level. “I promise this is the last time you have to wear this set.” I look at her solemnly, every ounce of me willing her to believe me. She smiles and the thaw sets in. A kiss and a hug later, the sisters walk away, their backpacks bobbing up and down.
I am ready to sink to the ground but Laddu beckons and so does a mountain of chores in the kitchen. I hoist Laddu to my hips, grab the plate of cut up dosa, scoop a cup of thick curds, sprinkle some spice powder and head to the front door. We stand on the stoop and spy Ammu and Pattu four houses down. “Ammu! Pattu!” I call, they turn and we wave. Baby and I. They continue their walk to the bus stop dotted with pinks, blues and flourescent yellows. I dip the dosa in the creamy mix and feed Laddu. Her hand is still waving. Her weight begins to tell on my already compromised wrist and I set her down and settle on the doorstep. My aching back feels the warmth from the wood saturated by sunlight, seep in. I relax visibly. The leaves are still partly green, the front mulched patch is dotted with weeds big and small. Birds fly in and out of the service berry tree. The holly bushes are sporting red berries. I take in the small details. I see parents and children jogging and running to make it to the bus stop before the bus rolls in. Laddu wanders around the stoop, stopping every now and then for bite sized pieces of her breakfast.
I hear the bus before I see it. The driver waves. I follow the bus till the children board and they wave on their way out. I should be headed in but I sit enjoying the few minutes of respite before Saathi rushes out before his 9:00 AM call. The morning sun feels deliciously warm. I close my eyes and relive the morning. The irritants big and small. The mad rush to pack lunches, make breakfast, scramble to get book bags ready, to hunt for clothes amidst the pile of washed but not folded clothes. The constant whining, crying and the pressure that builds up minute by minute till the grand release that comes with the bus.
As I sit soaking up the sun and the morning chill, the manufactured stresses all gone, I realize it was much ado about nothing.