“Amma, look at this,” Pattu holds out a sheet of paper with hearts sprinkled liberally all over it. In the center is a giant heart with her name and that of a boy in her class. I hold out my hand and sink to her level as we both admire her handiwork and the sentiment.
“Did you give it to him?” I ask, as she gets home today. She shakes her head and runs off to wash her hands and get ready for our evening routine. I process her school bag and remove the paper and put it away with myriad such drawings in one of the cabinets.
I tuck the kids in, lingering in Ammu’s room as the windows rattle and the wind howls outside. Tornado watches are up and a squall of thundershowers are moving in through the area. She confesses to being afraid and I cave in and smear holy ash on her forehead. I sit beside her and tell her that she will be OK. That God will remember to rush her to safety if there is a tornado. Her eyes are still troubled as I switch the night lamp on and turn the room lights out. I promise to check in on her later and walk out. Her fears seem so magnified and I try hard to remember being so small and scared and draw a blank.
My phone reminds me of a classmate’s birthday and I wish him. We trade pleasantries and go separate ways. I wonder when was the last time I saw him and realize with a start that it was probably twenty years ago.
I sit at my desk and start working on my revisions and a dull ache at my ear has me absently reaching out to check. The solid silver of the earring surprises me and I remember that I changed into the new earrings yesterday. Thoughts meander to friendship and relationships that have been years in the making.
Petals in the dust, I think while my head conjures up images of rose petals being crushed on sand by weary and worn travelers. I can almost smell the rose as it releases its oils. Memories are like those petals, releasing a clutch of emotions each time I stumble on a relic, a calendar item or turn of phrase that reminds me of people, places and things.
I think of Pattu and her drawing and a wave of something akin to sadness washes over me. Over the years I suspect cynicism will creep in and the pretty hearts and love notes will be relegated to the back of her closet. Walls will go up and she will join the rest of us weary travelers crushing petals along the way.