Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wrapping up, with twelve things I like to do

I am working from home today, already done with the mandatory call to the my overseas parole officer, children are busy partying in the pajamas, and husband is taking one last lunch with the men before he gets confined in estrogen central for two weeks. By the way, did you notice? The world didn’t end today. That means back to balancing parents-parenting-co-parent with work and Cliffmas, and of course virtual socialization and writing. This morning, a dear friend shared Marlo Thomas’s article “Twelve things to do when it’s cold outside“.

Marlo says “Closet Cleaning”. Thank you, but no thank you. My closet doesn’t get cleaned in the middle of the winter. There is nothing I can put away, there is nothing I can donate, yet. My closet cleaning will have to wait until we draw curtains on Winter, or for that matter, Summer. End of the season children will have a lot to donate, because they are most likely to outgrow all that stuff by next winter. Also, the bill ‘No More Hangars” was passed into law, thereby controlling clutter. I clean up my pantry before the holiday season starts. By Holidays I mean, when we kick off the Holidays sometimes in second week of October, for Diwali, not late November during Thanksgiving. The deep cleaners clean up the rest of the house, and clean up the pantry, and paperwork. I like a clean pantry, and a clean oven before I start by winter baking. So, that’s not happening now.

Speaking of cleaning, there is one part of the house that I never volunteer to clean. Our fridge. On any given Friday, there will be at least five cups of Nesquick, and three cups of coffee in the fridge. It’s my husband’s job to dispose that stuff. I don’t do it, partly because I am bound by habit. When I was little, I would take a sip of my milk and run to school. My mother would put it in the fridge and give it to our servant’s daughter when they came later for work. It didn’t bother my mother that she gave left overs, and it didn’t bother our servant that it was my left over. On rare days that I was finished, she would get a fresh batch though. She didn’t like it much, it didn’t have cream in it. Same thing with my lunch box. She would wait for me to come from school so that she could eat my left over pastries. Sometimes I saved pastries just so that she could taste them. Last year when we visited India, my children wanted to know if grandma had slaves in the house. Oh no, grandma corrected, they are my household help. But back when I was growing up, Bai was the maid servant, not help/assistance, and Bai was a term used to address servants only until Mallika Sherawat danced “Jalebi Bai”! Moving on, Marlo suggests accent wall coloring. In my opinion, winter is not a good time. First of all, the sun is softer than the rest of the year. Bright and festive atmosphere rules the mood, and you might end up picking a color you will regret later. Texturing won’t give the desired results, some parts drying faster than others. I would wait till Summer, or at least Spring.

But I am inspired by Marlo’s article, here is my twelve for when it’s cold.. no matter what cold means for a Californian.

  1. Middle of the day is my witching hour, but it’s nothing a cup of coffee cannot fix. It’s only in winter that the afternoon is so cold, I actually enjoy the warmth of the coffee. After I pour out my coffee, I leave the lid of the Espresso ajar, letting the steamy aroma of the ground coffee escape, and fill the kitchen. Heavenly!
  1. Colors! Red, green and gold in a shade that complement my olive skin. I don’t like the loud reds and greens of Spring and Summer, but the winter shades exude warmth that I can carry off. My closet is filled with dresses in these colors, though I prefer the legion of my black tops over blue jeans with a scarf on a regular day.
  1. Red. Taylor Swift’s red. Not her album, even though the little one croons “trouble trouble” nonstop! I mean her signature red lipstick. I didn’t wear red lipstick until recently. I am told Merlot is more my color by the Divas behind the coloring desk makeup counter. But, no thanks, this year I will rock the red that I like, not what you think I will like, or people will like on me. Red is RED this year.
  1. Yellow Gold Jewelry! Admit it. If you are an Indian girl, you own a stash of yellow gold jewelry no matter how much platinum you wear now. That’s how we roll in India. I have my fair share, accumulated before/during wedding, and daddy dear adds on here and there, on my birthdays. Winter is the only time where they actually blend in with my clothes, and the surroundings. Bling is not blingy enough when your neighbor is wearing green and gold ornament for earrings!
  1. Those parties is pretty clothes, where they serve an itty-bitty dish on a huge platter. It’s done so well, for a moment you wonder if it’s only for display, or for consumption. But after coming home, hungry girl raids the pantry, dips a piece of Panettone in coffee because a classy dinner is beautiful, never filling!
  1. Cuddling in the bed with my girls in the mornings. The two week vacation is the best part of our winter! There are no extracurricular activities, there is no school, mommy shuttle takes off while daddy plays chauffer. Work isn’t very crazy, and most importantly, California sometimes isn’t that cold, you can actually hit the beach for New Years, and hike most of the days. These are truly the days I relax and unwind without planning the next thing.
  1. Red toes with gold bands! Underneath those boots and soft socks is a beautiful pedicure of red and gold that I rarely get to show off, but I love painting my nails in those festive colors anyway. Christmas begins with the toes, and it only fades and chips after new year’s, right when I take the lights and wreaths off.
  1. Boots! I didn’t wear boots till I was thirty, and when a coworker asked me, I proudly said “Never in my life”. Of course I got a lecture on how I haven’t lived yet, and bought my first pair of uglies. Hooked on since then, the collection is growing. Not just me, all three of us are slaves to boots. In this house where mother doesn’t wait with fresh baked cookies when children come home from school, the mother-daughter bonding happens over shoes!
  1. My skin! I never break out during winter, and all the discoloration of spring and summer thanks to my nonstop outdoor activities fades away, giving that luminous look. I am not the facial and bleach kind, leave alone the botox and filler kind! But winter heals my skin, prepares it for another brutal summer come next year. It’s nice, once in a while not to have my badges of youth!
  1. Pajamas! I love sitting in the house in my pajamas, wearing soft socks, sliding on the wood floor sometimes like a little child, and not worrying about anyone knocking on the door. At six. Reading something on the sofa, relaxing already in the evening, without having to dress decently and stand guard to the children scootering and biking outside. Bliss!
  1. Food. I love every winter food, as long as it’s not meat based. I love the warm creamy sauces, mildly spiced, melting in the mouth delicacies. I love the personal sized cakes in pretty containers, I love the cookies from around the world, I love the Tiramisu in any form, and most of all, I love the Panettone! Religiously I buy every single dessert item at Costco and Trader Joes, and enjoy each one without worrying about the weight they would add. Winter clothes are forgiving, thankfully, and come January I can hit the gym without guilt!
  1. Private calls to my parole officer, Mommy dearest. It’s nice, to go on a video chat with the rest of the family, but there is nothing like mommy-baby time. Dad sleeps early, thanks to the time change, and I get to work from home, thanks to the occasional rain that disrupts Californian life. We talk a lot, sometimes for two hours, and even though we don’t gossip about anyone, it’s nice to have that privacy.

And there I hit the “H U N D R E D”! I have lost many of my Sulekha blogs from 06-09 era, and have completely lost many pre-2003, but here it is, hundredth on the blog spot, before we end 2012. Thank you reading my blogs, and becoming a part of my mundane life, however boring it is at times. I love you all, for loving me.. and encouraging me, especially this special friend who has read each one of my blog and commented..

In retrospect, 2012

It didn’t feel right to pack up with a sad tone, ignoring all the beautiful moments life has bestowed on me all year, and focus on the darkness of a few moments that occurred last week.  The dark moments have greater impact on our hearts and minds, and linger on forever, coming back to disturb us every now and then, but we forget the beautiful moments that leave a smile on our face and give us the strength to survive the darkness. Here is it, celebrating the random moments of the year, refreshing the mind to receive happiness with open arms, and to chase happiness, again.

In a week, we will celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary. I will cut the rhetoric and save my sappy speech for when we celebrate with the bubbly, but after spending all my adult life with one person, literally growing up together, I cannot think of life without him. When I close my eyes every night, he should be the last person I see, and when I open my eyes every morning, he should be the first person I see. My lunch dates are with him, my unplanned everyday dinners are with him, yet each one is so special. We don’t share the same taste in books, but we sit on the sofa, together, reading our own books, without peeking into the other’s book. We don’t share the same interest in movies and TV, but once in a while we make an effort to watch something together. We don’t even share the same parenting ideals, but here we are, successfully partnered for twelve years.

I don’t know about the promise of seven lives, but for this life, I am done.

Coming to the year that 2012 was.. there was happiness. Every day gave me a unique chance to chase happiness in a special way. One day, the blessing was just walking the aisles of Target, without anyone asking me to buy anything. One day, the blessing was to look at the market indices and grin that all that was lost was recovered. One day, the blessing was a call to report to work at the landmark building of my city, with a view, with the luxury of working from home whenever I wanted to. One day, the blessing was a note from a friend that she was proud of me, stoking my ego, stopping my whines temporarily. One day, the blessing was a pair of leather shoes, dear husband funding the buy no questions asked even though we were not there to buy shoes. One day, the blessing was waking up in the bed with two children hugging me tight, and still waking up to go workout in the gym. One day, the blessing was just writing emails to my “Band of Sisters”, and being understood.

This morning, read that people are rushing to buy the survival bracelets turning into 19 feet long ropes with five hundred pound strength in fear of the impending apocalypse on 21.12.12. I am not a believer. The world can end today, tomorrow, or in a million years, and my approach to life will still be the same, I will still love everyone and everything that matter even slightly to me, and care about them. If everything is coming to an end, I don’t want a nylon rope bracelet to save me alone to see the misery that rest of the world is going through. I don’t have any letters to write to tell anyone how much I hate them, or how much I love them. I don’t have the last minute list of things I want to do before the world ends. There is no bucket list, there are no regrets. I have lived, and I have lived happy.

The world around me is busy shopping. For our family, the shop-eat-pray season kicked off with Diwali, and won’t stop until the New Year.  It’s fun, this season of bright lights, red, white and green with gold, and of beautiful boxes with bows on them. It doesn’t happen overnight, all this holiday atmosphere around us. There is a person behind every string of lights hanging, there is a person behind every cookie baking. More often, it’s the mother of the household. We women love to be responsible for everybody’s happiness in the house, and we also love to whine about how hard it is for us to cope with all the frenzy we create in the name of traditions. This year, we didn’t get our picture cards done. No problem, I bought a box of generic cards from the store. This year, I didn’t have time to write my beautiful Calligraphic handwriting on each card. No problem, a ball point pen in legible writing will do. Postmaster understands, problem solved. This year, I didn’t have time to get pretty holiday stamps from the post office. No problem, butterflies are cute too, and it’s only four months until Spring. This year, holidays are all about Plan B, and being happy with what you can do than beating yourself up to do the best.

Last week, as I tried to save myself from drowning into depression on sorts, I needed some time alone. But as a working mother, time alone is impossible. There is always something to do, someone to drop off, and someone to be picked up. When it’s all done, the body is so tired mentally and physically, I slip into coma-isque sleep for the next eight hours. As a parent, it was a stress filled weekend, and it didn’t help that a gunman fired fifty rounds in a nearby mall. But in the midst of all those dark clouds was a silver lining. The little one was chosen for a leadership award. There was a mother moment, where a mother has to push everything aside and attend to her child, finding her matching earrings, matching hair band and a pretty dress with stockings, and make a promise to buy zippered high heeled boots as soon as she turns sixteen. Within that mommy moment was also hope for the future, a hidden message to move on with life, and look forward to that shopping moment when she turns sixteen without worrying about a thousand things.

There is still a lot to say, there is still a lot to do. I have done a lot that wasn’t planned, but I haven’t done a few things that were on the list. I didn’t edit my novel. I didn’t write a blog a day. But the bigger goals of life, the fine balance between Architecture, family (for me it’s not just parenting- it’s parents, parenting and the co-parent), and hobbies is finally happening. In the coming years as kids grow up, I want to get involved into the community more. But as parents age, I will be making more trips home also. The man with the midlife crisis might need attention and the growing career might just take over everything. I can’t plan a lot. Today life is beautiful. Today I will wear my cape, enjoy my unbalanced life, hopping to whichever part of life calls me with a louder voice..

12.12.12 and the week it was

12.12.12. The legendary date came and went without ending life on earth according to the prediction. Last year, when we hit 11.11.11, I wrote a blog about eleven random things in my closet. This year, I had no such plans. Between work, family and holidays, I tried to keep my goals realistic. But, such has been the stress of the string of events that happened all last week, I have to share, and get rid of all the negative thoughts, and negativity that surrounded me. In the next two weeks, I hope that life will be mundanely sane, sans any excitement of any sort, keeping me away from blogging till the year ends, and this becomes my last blog for 2012.

Dad. Dad was hospitalized on Tuesday. Before I said “Hello”, the call dropped in the parking structure that I had just entered. I didn’t worry much. My mother, like a parole officer, checks on me if I don’t check-in in twenty-four hour time frame. Swamped in work, I forgot to check-in on Monday night. But I never ignore her call, no matter where I am, and what I am doing, and I called her back as soon as I got into the elevator. I couldn’t reach her. I texted R to call her and tell her that I was doing fine, but within two minutes R called and began his sentence with “Everything is alright, but..” which meant something wasn’t right, and I would be greatly affected by what wasn’t right.

My dad was hospitalized for severe food borne illness after they attended a series of weddings, house-warming functions, and Diwali parties in the past few weeks. It always happens, you can only pretend to be in control of how the food is served, but you have no control on how the food is cooked at such places. When I was young, I once found a cigarette butt in my rice at a very religious place where smoking is strictly banned. R conferenced me and mom, and we talked. It was a long conversation. Her feeble voice gave me a report of conditions there, and her “Hello” was the indicator of her emotional strength. I mustered up courage, told her to man-up and take care of him, it’s nothing, and that he would be fine in a day.

But I didn’t have anyone to tell me that it was OK. I didn’t go to work, came home and called mom every few minutes all night to keep a virtual eye on dad’s condition. The “Hello” improved by morning, and she had regained her normal happy-peppy tone. Backseat babies came to know about their beloved grandfather during one such conversation that occurred during their pickup, and they started crying, one even wailing to get on a plane and go home, right now to be with their grandmother. I had more people to take care of, more people to talk courage to, and as usual, I put aside my own fears and worries till R came home and gave me a hug, a cue to let go of the guard and share the emotions, as they flow out of the heart. Within hours, my dad recovered, and was clearly out of danger. It will be a long road to complete recovery considering his age, but it’s not a big deal.

Daughter. Daughter turned six two weeks ago, and by some weird coincidence, she was born on the same day that I had a D&C to abort a pregnancy exactly a year ago. We had planned our second one to be a June baby, so that her sister could stay home the entire summer with her and go back to school when she turned three months old. My due date was 06.06.06. That day when the doctor looked at my chart, ultra sound and projected the due date, she said some people had selective C-sections to avoid the date. But later into the pregnancy, the heart beat stopped and the baby stopped growing suddenly. I didn’t drink any alcohol, and wasn’t stressed, still it happened.

We waited an entire weekend with a dead fetus inside me while my doctor obtained “necessary legal papers” to carry out the D&C. It only occurred to me few months ago that during that waiting time, the body can act up, and the mother can lose her life. But then, the grief of losing a baby was more than the anger against the legalities involved in an abortion. I got pregnant again, and after very stressful pregnancy where everyone felt entitled to express their opinions about my pregnancy, I delivered R2 three days before her due date, on the same day that I had my D&C a year ago. Maybe that was life telling me to move on, but still, on her birthday, I spend a few minutes alone in the bathroom early in the morning, thinking about the unborn. The rest of the family might have forgotten, but a mother never forgets. A mother does move on, wears pearls and tiaras with her daughter to celebrate her special day without a single line of worry on her face about things that happened in the past.

Connecticut. I don’t want to repeat what happened. I don’t want to read one more word about what happened. I don’t want to see the beautiful smiling faces of six year old children who were massacred. I really don’t want to read any blogs about his mental health. No one, I repeat no one has a right to take another person’s life no matter how deranged they are. That day when I read about the incident via Facebook stream, the only thing I wanted to do was,  bring my children home, hug them tight, and tell them their grades, their habits, their manners, their attitude, nothing mattered at all- all that mattered that day was, they waved me bye with a smile when they opened the car door and ran into the school, and they smiled at me as they waved at me from curb side, waiting to be picked up, alive.

I cannot imagine a child going to school one fine day, and not coming back. I wish no parent ever goes through that trauma. Suddenly I want to believe in Santa and ask him to bring a gift of long life to all children on the earth, no matter what their political inclinations. My Facebook stream is filled with articles and statuses about gun control. Obama shed a tear the other day touching the hearts of parents. This is turning political now. From the children, the attention is being shifted to another movement, which I am all for, to save the lives of our children and to stop such events in the future.

But, meanwhile, what is a parent to do? I will admit- I want to lock up my children in the house, home school them, never send them to movie theaters or malls, because it’s dangerous to go to schools, movies and malls. I am over reacting, the New Year is not going to change the way people think, but at this moment, it gives my heart peace to think that they are home, and safe. While I wrote this blog, my younger one sat next to me singing along “it’s the most wonderful time..”. How I wish it was the same for every child in the world. It feels so insensitive to hold my own children and be grateful, but that’s how we are wired.

That day, I wondered how I will break the news to the kids. When I picked up the older one, I turned on the radio, and Rush Limbaugh did the rest. He talked about it while we drove in silence. The older one was worried so much, the moment I pulled into the pickup queue, she opened the door and ran to pickup her younger sister, and for some reason, brought her away from the group of parents that were waiting. Later she explained, who knows, who was standing there, who had what weapon concealed in that jacket. I never had a sibling, so I can never understand that love, and that affection, or that worry. I was preparing myself to answer her questions about how she would go to school come Monday without fearing a gunman, and here she was, worried about her younger sister.

2012 brought in a lot of changes in life, and in lifestyle. I will leave the list of successes and failures and of retrospect for another time, but as I age, life experiences that I go through are slowly teaching me not to take anything at all for granted. If the child comes home after school, that’s happiness. If we go back home from work, that’s happiness. If we all spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning the house, that’s happiness. There is future, and dreams of a greater future where happiness is defined by some other things, but the next five minutes that nothing of greater proportion happened are happiness enough! I want to run away with my family into wilderness, sit somewhere atop a mountain and not worry about schools and malls, but who am I decide that mountain lions are less dangerous than a man with an automatic gun.

What do I remember?

As usual, it’s been a stressful month. Women all over the world have a mile long checklist at this time of the year. Holiday décor, gifts for friends, family, teachers and coworkers, hosting parties, and attending them, and keeping an eye on the pounds and dollars- the list is endless, and not merciful. I have my own items on the generic list. There is a birthday, there are a couple of anniversaries, and then there is a holiday tradition to be created. Then there is work. Then there is Santa Claus rally. Then there is the ongoing quest to find a logical end to the novel I am writing, and edit it, or find an editor. There is no time to document, and there is absolutely no time to dramatize. But then, it’s an injustice to my life if I die without sharing the magnificent moments of our holidays where none of us have ever answered the mundane questions about finding someone to share the life with, or sharing the love with a new life.

The only question people ever ask me during holidays is “What’s your holiday tradition?”. Sorry, writing cards in beautiful calligraphic handwriting, or shopping for gifts, or hanging the lights and wreaths, or taking advantage of the discounts in the shoe store, or trying every little holiday dessert at Costco are not considered a part of a “tradition”. Holiday picture isn’t considered a tradition either. I blank out, trying to come up with a story of my own. There are no traditions when it comes to this family. Or better yet, the tradition is, to do whatever makes you happy and enjoy the season without stressing yourself to repeat something you don’t even remember. I don’t think I can come up with a tradition to follow every year, but I can always make up a tradition to do something new every year.

Today we got ceiling lamps installed. I took the morning off from work. I don’t get that luxury often. I take mornings or afternoons off because there is something else I have to accommodate while I work on the go. There is always something to clean, something to organize, something to take care of. But this morning, the house was clean, the kids were at school, and the husband was tied up with meetings. The installers worked in every room of the house except dining room and kitchen. I had access to coffee, phone and laptop, nothing else. I called my mom, talked to her for over an hour, gathered all details about my baby brother’s new bride, and baby sister’s new groom, and a thousand other things.

Suddenly realized that this year will be the first year in my life that I won’t visit my parents. Otherwise every year either they visited us, or we visited them keeping the tradition of spending time with them at least once a year. There was a tradition, of meeting parents every year, and of calling mom every day, and this year I have broken both. I talked to her after three long days, and I have canceled my trip home thanks to the greenback harvesting program. Catching up on things here and there, I read an email I sent to a group of my virtual sisters a while ago, sharing an article on Huffington Post by Wendy Bradford “What will children remember?”.  What my children will remember is left up to my children.  But I can certainly share what I remember of my mother, snippets, nothing serious, nothing poetic, just ordinary life that we shared, mundane moments of our lives.

I remember..
My mother trying to find her glasses. Every morning. Sometimes they would be tucked in hair because they fogged up while she sipped coffee reading her newspaper. Sometimes they would below her bed because she did late night fiction reading and pushed them below her bed when she was done so that no one tripped on them. They were of gold frame, and were meant for reading only. For a woman who detested gold and jewelry, that was a surprising choice. Some days she would run to class without glasses proudly declaring that its been such a long career, she has memorized the text book. Thankfully she only needed reading glasses. Imagine the horror when your mother says I know my street, it’s been a long life and walks off into a busy intersection without glasses!

I remember..
My mother telling me it’s OK, I am still young, I will get over it no matter what it was. She said that when I lost my precious Hero pen, she told me that when I lost my ring which was grandmother’s gift, and when R moved back to US after our wedding. It seems big today, but one day, it won’t matter according to her. At that matter it did. I never thought I would agree with her, but been such a long life now, I don’t see the misery in all those things that happened. There are so many pens in the pen stand, yet I don’t use them for anything other than signing, and there are so many beautiful memories with R, I barely remember the woes of our long distance relationship. End of the day it was all OK. I like to glorify each little thing and whine, and she managed her job, her family and her reading/ writing without ever saying a word about how hard it was for a woman to have it all, or to want it all.

I remember..
My mother wore cotton saris, always. It hit me one day that I could earn awesome allowance starching and ironing her saris. So I brought the supplies, and became her personal laundry girl. It didn’t go well with her when I tore her sari trying to separate the folds when it was dry and ready to iron. That was the end of my short dry cleaning/ starch and ironing career. She treasures her saris a lot! Her wedding sari looks like it was bought last evening. Not a single crease, not a single stain, and it’s not even the stain proof, waterproof variety like mine. Her cupboards overflow with saris at any given moment, and so does her suitcase. Packing light doesn’t apply to her.

I remember..
She was not the cooking and cleaning type, but she made holiday delicacies and special items that dad and I loved. When she cooked, I assisted. There was not a moment in my house where everyone else sat down watching TV while the woman of the household made dinner for the family. My dad would sit and talk to her while she cooked, even if it was at 5 am. The pressure cooker went off at 7 am, and the curry leaves would splutter in the oil at 7.15am, and the faint smell of Jasmine soap would drown all that by 7.30am. That’s the smell I associate with her. Jasmine. No wonder my backyard is filled with jasmines of all kinds, and most importantly her favorite Mysore Mallige- Arabian Jasmine.

I remember..
She loved to read. She read every book that was released. Even though I learned in English medium, she made sure I learned enough Kannada to read and write. One proud moment she could never get over was, when I was eighteen, both of our poems made it to a leading magazine called Tushar. It took time for me to get over it because my poem got a special mention, and hers was selected as the best poem. Even now, she buys me every book that she likes, and tries to get the author’s autograph for me. When I was little, there was a corner of the bed that she liked to read on. Her, her specs, and her book, and peace around. Now when she visits us, it’s her, her specs, and her book, and peace around till we wake up. She finds time, in every chaos to spend time with her books. She finds time for herself unlike me who gets lost in the chaos. There is always a stack of magazines and books in every room she occupies.

So many other memories surround me on a cold California evening, and I bring out a sweater that she forgot in my house and wear it. I know, I will stretch it out, but one thing my daughter has taught me is, that’s OK. There will be other sweaters. There will be other shoes too, though I don’t believe in that theory. A shoe gone is a shoe gone and no other shoe will fill that void, ever. Anyway, shoes are not her issues, they are mine, and my daughters will write about it one day in 140 characters or less. May be something like “OMG MOM #SHOEADDICT #FREAKING OUT #MOM MEMORIES”. I don’t know. I can’t do that kind of texting. I will pay a dollar more, but I will use my words.

All these memories of her saris, her starch and ironing routine, and her obsession came up only because she has agreed to be generous enough to donate her sari (a box full that she left behind in my house a couple of a years ago) to the non profit Wishwas – the ladies there will make beautiful items out of them, and repurpose them. Talking about repurposing, there used to be a sari in the family with real gold woven in silk. It was the color of the pomegranate seeds. I wore it whenever my grandmother opened her box and let us touch her treasures. But one day my grandmother was gone.. so was her sari.. taking the memory of her mother with her.. I wish I had, so that I could get something done out of it, and keep it in my house forever, as her memory, as a part of family history.

What’s your tradition?
What do you remember of your childhood?
What was your mundane when you were not leading your life?

A Dozen

Dear daughter,

You turned twelve a week ago, and I haven’t had the time to write a letter to you to document this year of your life. You are growing up, but you should understand,  I am growing up too, and so is my long list of duties and responsibilities. Late, but worth the wait  I hope, here are  twelve little things I want to share on your twelfth birthday..

I don’t print dollars, and mom doesn’t stand for “made of money”. Of course I pamper you, and buy you every little beautiful thing I see in the magazines, but that doesn’t mean you are entitled to it. Learn to appreciate it.

Last Sunday morning you crawled up in my bed for cuddle time, and elbowed me accidentally. Trust me, I saw stars, and I didn’t know what hit me. I think it’s time we moved past the memories of a helpless infant that locked her eyes with me for a brief moment before they transferred her to the NICU.

Ears! They are not just to stick blue tooth and listen to call me maybe. They connect to the other parts of your body, and they should be used to listen. Not just hear. There is sound around you, of your parents, of your sibling, of your friends and of your teachers. Don’t drown us out like a white noise. Listen to us.

Help! The four letter word that you need to use is “help”. It’s OK, you can ask us to guide you, you can ask us to assist you. I know you are a student tutor now, and you are capable of taking care of yourself, but as you grow, so do expectations. Don’t limit yourself to things you can take care of yourself. We are here, to take care of you when needed.

Mirror! Forget the mirror on the back of your bedroom door, and trust my eyes. You are beautiful just the way you are. Even your Direction boy says that. See yourself through my eyes- I know when you are beautiful and when the ugliness creeps in. The smile that comes from the heart, and the sparkle in the eyes that are lit up with love make you beautiful, not your hair or your clothes. They can only add to who you are, not make you what you want to be.

Come back to me, anytime, anywhere. You are taking baby steps, walking into the world without my guidance, but the world is not a beautiful place always. Stuff happens. I will tell you today, I will remind you tomorrow, and I think I talked about the same last night, we are here for you, always. Whatever it is, we will help fix it, or we will fix you.

You tell me about the good Indian girls that have boyfriends in High School and don’t tell their parents about it. I hope you don’t turn out to be a good Indian girl. I need to know the truth, of where you are, and what you are doing at any given time. I am not the kind who will live in a bubble that it won’t happen in our family. So trust me, tell me everything about everyone around you.

You tell me that I signed up for parenting too soon, and every little event we attend is a reminder that things happened too soon for us. But trust me, we have everything under control. I don’t miss driving a luxury car when I listen to you play my favorite Goldberg variation. My trade off is justified, and don’t ever live in the guilt that you redefined dreams and goals. Learn from it, know that your plan can be perfect, but always have a plan b for everything in life.

Again, I repeat, I only care about you, and not your friend, and not your friend’s friend. I don’t care who dyed their hair with Kool Aid, who doused it in beer to highlight, and who uses mascara. Tell me if you want to dye your hair, and I will approve or disapprove of it. Tell me you want to get a piercing, we will talk. You are the center of my universe, and my problem, not people associated with you.

Thank you for the proud moment at Disney. Your dad told the man who dispensed Fastpass about your performance, and the woman on the Boudini counter and Ghirardelli counter know about it too. Excelling in academics or arts is nothing new in the family, but you are the first one to sing, and of course the first one to sing at Disney.  Thousands of schools from all over the country sent their video auditions and only a few were selected.  This was your school’s second outing. Take pride in those moments, and don’t think it’s not special because four of your other friends did it.

Don’t feel entitled to anything just because you are exposed to a lifestyle, a community like this. Know about Malala, and know that education is not a right for everyone. Know about the Mideast, and know that the worst thing that happened in the world today isn’t that accident near Trader Joes. Know about pro-choice, pro-life and a thousand other options in between, and know that you don’t have to take my stance on everything. Appreciate the rights, and the privileges, and use them wisely, and know that life is grander than what you know about it already.

The list of do’s and don’ts will continue forever. You will be a teenager soon. You will pretend to be someone you are not, and you will follow your friends and tell me I don’t know anything about what you go through. One last thing I want to remember is, your parents will always know what you are going through, because long ago they were the same misunderstood brats. Teenage is not a disease, or a special condition, and it can be treated with love and understanding. Fortunately for you, we already have the prescription. Just use as needed and be happy.

Until next year, lets’ continue the carefully coordinated and orchestrated mundane life and hope that our biggest problems are the grades the teacher hasn’t corrected yet.

Mom and Dad

Blast from the past:

Eleven Already, A decade..