The clock is yet to strike 8:00 am. The twins and Saathi have left for school and work. Laddu is still at the island dipping her coin dosais in a mix of thayir and chutney and savoring each morsel. I make my round picking up coffee mugs, discarded plates, and crumbs on the floor. A frisson of irritation starts at the base of my spine. I fill the mugs with water and rinse the used plates.
The print on one of the mugs is faded. It says D A D and has a collage of pictures on it. Despite how faded it is, I know the pictures that it contains. The kids are tiny and my heart skips a beat. The irritation dissipates into a feeling of wistfulness. Everywhere around me are markers of a living legacy. Each mug, each plate, each chair at the island has a story. My mood lifts.
I continue my rounds moving upstairs. Ammu’s room feels like a war zone. The PJs she was wearing lies pooled on the floor. I imagine her stepping out of her clothes, leaving the clothes behind as she searches for a favorite toy or an imaginary pursuit. I am weary. I pick up the clothes, straighten her unmade bed and start picking up the tiny slivers of paper from the carpet. I have a good mind to crumple all her “creations” into a ball and toss it in the pink trash can that lies in the corner.
I pause instead, lowering my big frame to ground level. What appears to be a pointless exercise in cutting paper turns out to be a tiny bookshelf replete with tiny books and a ladder to access the top reaches of the shelf. A toy stands guard nearby. I stop and move on to Pattu’s room. Her clothes lie on the floor and the bed is a mess. I straighten, pick up and move on to the other rooms.
I keep going back to the paper shelf. Over the past couple of years, I have felt frustrated when Ammu disappears for hours into her room working on her pet projects. She doesn’t talk about them. I discover things like pop up story books and mini recreations of our everyday life in her room. Her toys are her universe. She replicates things, familiar things for her babies. In her world, she is at peace.
I often worry about my children. I focus so long and hard on the distant future that the present seems invisible. I have my sights trained on the big things like adulting, career, and relationships that I miss out the little things, the stuff that matters to my children now.
This morning Ammu and Pattu wore their favorite PJs to school. They packed their beanie boos and looked forward to reading and hot chocolate with their favorite teacher. Laddu walked around the house, her 18-inch doll on her shoulder as she sang lullabies and put her to bed. She sat next to her Joy and “read” a bedtime story. I am on my elliptical each morning as she stands by her tiny kitchen and makes soup and pasta.
Children mimic their everyday lives. Can I pause enough to make their everyday worth emulating?