“She is so much like you.”
“Perfect mix of you and Saathi.”
The comments make me smile. I touch my daughters cheeks and mine as if the contours tell a story that only my fingers understand. She looks at me, eyes bright and a laugh ready to spill.
Over the few weeks we have been in India, friends and family who visit us and whom we visit remark on the resemblances between Laddu, Saathi and I. We bask in the reflected glory and tousle the little one’s hair. In the two weeks we spent with my in-laws, I kept scanning his family for traces of them in her. Perhaps her eyebrows are a relic from my mom in law whom I have never seen. Perhaps the lips are from a grandma long gone. I look at the faded picture on top of a rarely used microwave. I conclude that the forehead and lips are definitely a heritage from Saathi’s side. I ask my SIL if her daughter was like mine at that age. We trade notes and I realize we are now connected by blood, through her daughter and mine. This family which was once just a set of people who gave birth to and raised my husband now are significant in that my daughter shares her gene pool with them. The enormity of it sinks in.
“Amma, Amma, My Amma” Ammu clings to me in the morning and we do nosy rubs. “Remember how you used to do this when I was little?” she asks and we remember those early days of constant nuzzling and kissing. I am taken aback by how much she recounts from memory.
I am on the floor, Laddu playing on my lap. Pattu jumps across and weaves back and forth. Laddu pokes my stomach and I wince. She giggles. Ammu joins in. Noticing the ruckus, Pattu joins as well. Soon, I am a human punching bag and my cries get real. We stop the game for a group hug and I cajole Saathi into putting them to bed.
The thing that has been on my brain for weeks now overwhelms me and I try to express them in words. The ache that has been gnawing at me is now a constant in the pit of my stomach. I hug my older daughters extra tight. I whisper “I-love-yous” in their ears each time I see them. I hope years into the future, they will remember this love, this pressing need for me to overcompensate.
Being surrounded by family in India reminds me of how much my girls miss. The constant references to resemblances and genetic traits remind me of everything my older ones are losing out on. If we are not being asked by every passing stranger to explain the make up of our family, I am very aware of family that should have been theirs. I remember their mom and all of their family whom I see in my daughters. The sharp nose, the light brown eyes, the curve of their cheeks, the texture of their hair, the way their skin breaks into blotches of pink under the sun, in the swing of their hips as they walk, I see parts of their family and I ache for their loss. And I hug them tighter and wonder if it is enough. If it will ever be enough.