The window over my sink lets in a mottled mix of sun and clouds. A grey sky putting up a good resistance to the Sun. I stand there rooting for the Sun and smiling a goofy smile. I sip on my coffee and reach for my phone. I scroll through my pictures selecting randomly. Each picture is a throwback to the years gone past. My smile widens as I remember the very many firsts.
Saathi is sitting by our back patio, the kids gathered around him as he flips through the pictures I have collated. There are squeals of “That is Ammu, that is Pattu” and plaintive cries of “Where is Laddu?” The next half hour is punctuated by very many “Do you remember?”
The hurried rolling of suitcases into a dusk. The feeling that something momentous was about to happen. The knowledge that there was no turning back. The tentative first steps toward our children. The years it took for us to feel whole, complete and one. The first time we affixed a car seat to a car. The first fall jackets at Kohls. The very first time we bought diapers and formula. Our very first night together as we fell into a deep exhausted sleep, the girls on us. Our very first breakfast, waffles and cereal from the complimentary breakfast bar. Our first visit to a park. The very first time we travelled as parents, kids, strollers and diaper bags. The big smiles we sported as families with children were invited to board first.
First teeth, first steps, first night diaper free, first India trip, first day of school, first time I was called Amma, first words in Tamil, first Halloween costume, first Christmas together, first birthdays, Ayushahomam, first haircut, first Navarathri, hand prints, foot prints, mothers day notes.
The memories come thick and fast filling up our home with nostalgia for the past seven years. Ammu and Pattu chime in using the pictures as reference. They ask about the first home we lived in, about the toys that are in the pictures now somewhere in some other home. They ask about high chairs, car seats, diaper bags and pretty paavadais.
In the shared reminiscing, I realize none of us remember first boo boos or the first time I yelled at them. I do not remember and they do not remember the first time I gave them a time out. We struggle to remember the days we walked around with chips on our shoulder waiting for apologies or sorrys. They exist alright but they are not etched in our collective memories. They do not live on in pictures or videos. Our curated list is all things happy. All things memorable.
The soundtrack to our life as parents is joyous, loud and vibrant. There is chaos, soaring interludes and very few pauses.As the years pass, the albums will get bigger, memories will be lost and replaced. Amid the happy memories, the sad ones will intersperse. They will mark our lives as much as the happier ones do. We will remember sorry and I-hate-yous as much as the love and hugs and kisses.
There will be times the children will disavow these memories. They will be conflicted as they reconcile their two disparate identities unsure which ones are worth celebrating. As a parent, I will grieve with them, standing mute as they navigate these uncharted territories. It terrifies me as much as the past offers hope.
If there is one thing anniversaries remind me, it is that we have survived yet another year of the tumultuous, eventful thing that is this parenting. One more year of pockmarks on the wall, notches on our memory logs and pictures in the album. They tell a story. The story of our lives as we now know it. They trace the arch, the evolution of us as people and parents. They show our children that change is the only constant. The changing homes, the changing things, how material most of it is. They also show the other constant. Love, laughs and family.