We (my children and I) returned from a ten-day trip to Texas late last night. Exhaustion had us sleeping well into the morning. All day today I unpacked and prepped for the week ahead. Milk boiled away in anticipation of making curds. The grinder whirred all evening making a fine silky batter of rice and urad dal. I washed and dried the girls’ hair. Now that the kids and Saathi are in bed, I finally have space and time to breathe and savor the past couple of weeks. The evidence of our trip is scattered all over the house. It is nestled in my dishwasher racks. Gorgeous lehengas and flowy salwars are neatly folded and packed away into a chest of drawers. Books are on the breakfast table. Sheets of paper with art monogrammed by the artist is taped to doors. A karaoke microphone sits on my desk waiting for me to set it up. Lyric sheet for Speechless from Alladin is on my table.
In my teens, my mom took my siblings and me on her yearly summer sojourns to her maternal village. Us kids would spend the days sprawled on wooden cots watching huge fans circle the sluggish air. Most of my memories as a tween and teen have to do with paati and athai paati doling out snacks, fruits (mangoes, jackfruit and pineapple) from our backyard and thick creamy decoction kaapi morning and evening. Amma would wake late, take restful naps knowing her brood was being cared for.
My vacation to my cousin’s home was reminiscent of that. Each day I woke to find the twins already down, their breakfast needs to be taken care of. I would sit and have my kaapi in peace. Athai and cousin V did the cooking and eventually, I pitched in to do the dishes. Each afternoon I napped. I napped in the deep restful way I haven’t in years. The children and their cousin spent their days doing nails and hair. Their perima and athai paati took them to splash pads, the pool, and a water park. They got icecreams and boba tea each time they went out. Peripa came home each day loaded with goodies. They tried freshly squeezed orange juice, pound cake loaves, homemade quesadillas, burgers and paneer burji. Their cousin made banana bread on demand.
Each day was pure joy, surrounded by family and love. We sat around late at night catching up on family tales. We pored over ancient albums and grieved the loss of people. Most nights V and I walked and talked. We bonded the way we did in college. We returned home sweaty and happy.
A day after the vacation ended, I look back on the two weeks and realize this was a pilgrimage of sorts. The kind where you leave with one suitcase and return with three. The material value of the gifts pales in comparison to the thoughtfulness and love that go into them. The kind of vacation that has you planning the next summer before this one is over.