Pattu enters through the garage, her backpack sliding off her shoulder and her right hand clutching a patterned paper bag. I reach out for it and she holds back, her smile leaking through her eyes. She hands me her backpack instead and heads right for her room. Ammu walks in next and brushes past me straight to her room. I call after her to bring her book bag down. I hear no response.
A good twenty minutes later, all three girls are at the kitchen island sipping on warm milk and eating murruku and seedai from Chennai courtesy Amma who came this week. We trade stories. I tell them of my day’s excursion with Paati to the wholesale store and they tell me snippets from their day.
Tell me about your Mother’s Day project I slip in unobtrusively. Pattu starts and catches herself. “What project?” she asks unable to stop smiling. Ammu looks away. I change topics and they rest easy.
I am filled with irrational joy. The kind that comes from knowing my ten-year-olds are doing something for me. They have done so every year since they started daycare. I have some and seem to have lost a few. Their handprints on ceramic came home one year with a printed poem on the back. Another year was a paper flower cut painstakingly and glued with a handwritten note below. One other year was an ornament.
In the years before kids, I looked upon Mother’s Day as a holy grail. A day earmarked to make me feel invisible. Once kids came home, I loved the cheesy notes and sentiments that came with it. There were years I figured it was much ado about nothing.
This year, I feel grateful.
My youngest is to start school this year. The relentless dependence of the previous years has given way to a loose need-based dependence. My older ones need me but mostly for food and laundry. My writing is in a rut. Any confidence I had as a career woman has been eroded by mountains of laundry and the constant dishwashing. Homemaking and mothering are not the same though in my case they feel alike. I cling on to my identity as a mom to ground me, to give me purpose. I tell myself the time I spend carefully preparing meals and monitoring their work after school is the purpose of my life is now.
I walk with Laddu each evening as she transitions from a tricycle to a big girl bike with training wheels. Ammu and Pattu fly past me on their geared bikes, their helmets the only clue as to which girl is on which bike. My heart stops each time I see a car round the bend into our development. I caution them to slow down. Often I feel like herding them home, turning the television on and resting easy that they are safe. But I soldier on, letting go, reminding myself that irrational means beyond reason.
In a couple of years, their orbit will center their friends. They will spin away weaving widening circles leaving me on the periphery. I am aware. I am prepared. I am okay.
If Mother’s Day is the time of the year, like eclipses, they will come home to me. I will take it with gratitude and happiness.