I stand at the doorway watching my husband of fifteen years slide into the driver’s seat. Our eyes meet above the roof of the car for a few seconds.
“Life is beautiful!” he says as he disappears behind the metal and glass.
“Life is beautiful!” I repeat to myself as I stand there lost in the magic of the moment. The car inches backwards, reverses and leaves in a wisp of smoke on a clear winter day. I press the button and the garage door creaks and groans downward cutting off the view and the cold.
I step back into the warm confines of the home carefully locking the door behind me. Laddu is on her usual perch, the high chair. Her face is smeared with yogurt, her plate is empty and she is eager for me to pick her up.
“Wash, wash” she demands. I comply. I set her down, scrubbed clean and she runs off to play. The stack of dishes on the counter, in the sink, on the stove should have overwhelmed me but I smile instead.
I ignore the dishes and make myself breakfast. I seat myself at the kitchen island, a plate of crisp steaming dosas in front of me. I consciously put my phone away and savor each morsel. I look out the kitchen window into an expanse of grey skies, tall brown grass and a lawn that is green despite it being winter.
The morning has been one of revelations. Pattu walks in dragging a life-sized stuffed Panda from her bedroom. What would have provoked a sharp reaction had me pleading with her to put it away in the living room.
“Bamboo will get dirty,” I reason with her instead of my usual “because I told you so”.
Few minutes later I am walking upstairs for what seems the tenth time in an hour trying to get Ammu to brush her teeth and get down. What would have been a screaming match with umpteen references to the clock is now patient reasoning.
“Do you want to skip school? Are you sick?” I ask her.
She responds by reluctantly brushing and complying.
I pack their lunches and realize I have time to do their hair. I reach for the brush and call out to Pattu.
“I will do it!” she grabs the brush and yanks it through her hair. My hands itch to grab it back. Instead I turn her toward me, her belligerent face in my palms.
“Pattu, I enjoy doing this for you. It gives me joy.”
Her face changes. She actually listens and relinquishes the brush to me. We stand in the mud room, the sunlight filtering through the mullioned glass. I brush in silence soaking in the moment. We talk about growing up and being independent. I tell her that I am not ready for that yet. She seems to understand. I tie her hair up. She hugs and presses her lips to my forehead.
Breakfast is a riot of giggles, excited chatter and a mother trying to breathe through the stress. I clear the table and rush to tie their shoe laces. As I bend and do a double knot, Ammu leans in, smells my hair and presses her face to it.
“You smell good,” she says prompting a smile from me.
“Life is beautiful!” I repeat to myself all morning. Not all mornings are like today. In the overwhelming pressure of getting a household ready and out the door by 8:15 I forget that these little moments add up. I forget that behind the tears and the difficult behavior is a child understanding independence. Behind that screaming mother is a woman who is trying too hard.
I resolve to be kinder. To my children. To myself.
Life is beautiful.