Laddu is hard at work at the breakfast table, the lamp throwing a halo around her tiny head. Her hair covers her face.
“What’s next after GO amma?”
“How do you spell AKKAS?”
I call out spellings even as I muddle through improper fractions with Ammu and Pattu. After the twins stuff their homework into their folders and reluctantly drag themselves up for a shower, I walk over to Laddu who is still at work coloring her page. Her letters are neat, evenly spaced and actually are on a line.
“Go Akkas Go!” reads what she has written.
I commend her and step away when she closes her book and follows me.
“Can we go watch Akka’s next rehearsal?”
This girl is persistent, fiercely loyal to her sisters even when they are dismissive. The older girls are participating in a variety show at school. A dance routine with friends they love and music that is catchy.
My breath often catches when I look at the youngest. In the almost two months we have been home, we have fallen into a pattern. We send akkas and appa off and sit in the family room. I am on the couch and her at her little table with a Minnie mouse print on it. We work on a Pre-K workbook, diligently making our way through over 150 pages of material. We are done with the alphabets and are on to numbers now. Next up are sight words. I have flash cards that came in the mail today that I will use to make up games and make sure she memorizes them.
I worried incessantly in the first few days after I pulled her out of school. I wondered if the money saved was really worth it. I mused about the social interaction she is missing out on. None of that has changed. She rarely gets to meet kids her age. We are closeted at home most days. The learning though happens in spurts. Each waking moment I spend with her is a lesson. For her. For me.
I talk to her in Tamil, Hindi, and English. I tell her alternate words for everything we use. She is a sponge absorbing words and trying them out loud to herself when she thinks I am napping. She giggles to herself as she says words that feel and taste strange to her American tongue. She is growing, this little one of mine. She is taller, verbose and intelligent for her age. She is also silly, dynamic and has a larger than life personality.
There are days when I cannot wait for her to be grown, to reach my height, to go on walks with me, to discuss and debate like I did when I was younger. Then there are days when I want time frozen, her form preserved as is, her enthusiasm for life bottled for me to inhale when I am feeling low.
We have five glorious months ahead of us. Just her and I, all day long.