Mother. Daughter. Mother.
Amma calls out to my prepubescent youngest child who is upstairs talking to a friend over Facetime. I am in the kitchen doing dishes, amused by the interaction. I hear the sound of jumping upstairs as Laddu counts and jumps a hundred times. She is out of breath but rushes proudly to her paati to let her know that she did as she was asked to.
I am sitting on the couch, plate in hand, my tee shirt stretching uncomfortably over the ten pounds I have gained this holiday season. Amma is hesitant as she brings up the pounds I have gained. I am snarky, giving her too much detail on how much weight my menopausal body has packed on.
Amma watches my older two girls scarf down the adhirasams, the molasses cookie like sweet that is indigenous to South India.
“I should have brought more of the adhirasams” she muses and my heart warms at how much love is behind that offhand statement.
I am in my study as I hear the one side of conversations with my siblings as my mom talks to them morning and evening. Sometimes, the responses are monosyllables. Sometimes, they are monologues.
Amma’s presense in my life is like my conscience, an intrusive albeit insistent voice that points out things I want to gloss over. Each time she visits, she offers a placeholder for me to transfer the weight of responsibility, of thinking about feeding the family, of worrying about the people in my life. I unabashedly hand over the reins of my life, breathing in the lightness that is fleeting.
I mother her as she mothers me. I mother my children as I mother my mother. We go in circles, bound by karma.
I walk around my house morning and evening noticing how she massages her aching calves and, her back. I listen noncommitally as she keeps me updated on her blood sugar and blood pressure values. I walk on, mulling over aging and mothering as if they are synonymous.
As I grapple with how to be a mother to my teenagers, I hark back to the times when I was a teen and chafing under amma’s fear of the world. I am at the receiving end when my teens complain I am unbearably restraining their online freedoms.
I think I am veering away from the style of parenting I despised only to realize there is not much wiggle room to move away. Our lives are parallel.
This month, Amma turns seventy. I will be fifty in a couple of years. We are both at an age when there is an acute awareness of time bleeding away.
On days like today, I realize the enormity of what we have. This relationship that is symbiotic and all consuming. I celebrate her and what she means to me by way of reflecting on how our relationship has evolved from dependency to independence and back.
Like two halves to a whole, we go round and round, in circles alternately cleaving and letting go.
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