I set out with Laddu in the mid morning sun. Strapping her in, I seat myself comfortably in the driver’s seat and hum a song under my breath. Easing out of the driveway, I reach my destination almost on autopilot. Spring is in the air. Everything around me is bursting with promise. I see nascent buds on trees, I see tenacious patches of green in the yellow brown lawns. I see people jogging in their light jackets.
Knocking on the door, I wait impatiently. The door opens and Amma reaches for Laddu. Less than fifteen minutes have passed before she pokes around her suitcase digging out new clothes for the kids, snacks for Saathi and I. Over the rest of the morning, her suitcase empties as the number of bags for me to carry home accumulate near the doorway.
I leave her to sleep off the jet lag and get home. The afternoon whizzes past and I put Laddu down for her nap. Walking downstairs, I spy the tiny lalaloopsy dolls I got as a stocking stuffer some past Christmas for the twins on the elliptical. Reaching for it, I find characters from My Little Pony. I gather them and head to the basement. Dumping them into a basket, I sit for a minute. Strewn around me are toys each reminding me of specific occasions. Birthdays, start of school, end of school, Christmas, Easter. Then there are some I remember from random Target runs.
I remember lingering in the front of the store, picking and dropping things marked between a dollar and five dollars. Each trip, I would pick something. A paisley patterned notebook, set of water colors, coloring books, jump ropes. They lie amidst the stuffed toys and the books.
I walk upstairs reluctantly, my mind going back to the morning. I imagine my Amma standing at Poompuhar picking up papier mache dolls, inspecting them and putting them down. I imaging her walking through the aisles looking for pieces that I will like. I imagine her at the counter, laden with packages, paying and catching an auto home. I imagine her at Grand Snacks ordering edibles by the kilo. I imagine her picking up trinkets from vendors on the street.
In a moment of clarity, I identify with the mother in her. The yearning to express love through gifts. The string of black crystals, the Buddha idol from a recent tourist visit. The artifacts are gifts. They are also something more. They are tangible expressions of I-love-yous, I-miss-yous and I-am-thinking-of-yous.
I put away my haul from the morning and sit at the island, a cup of coffee in front of me. I reach out for the cup of mixture and think of Amma.