As children grow older and fly away to live their lives, parents are left with an empty nest. But are they, really? A sensitively written short story.
Clutching the photo album close to my heart, I sat down at my usual place, the seat by the window. I placed the album on the dining table and before I could open it, memories came flooding by.
Memories of the past 30 years- the young, innocent and scared Rohini who stepped into this house as the bahu, I was so naive.
I turn the first page – there I am – so pretty and coy, smiling shyly at the camera, standing beside my husband. We are standing beside this same dining table which I am now seated at. This has been one of those rare pieces of furniture that has been with us through thick and thin, for time immemorial. It is a huge oak dining table with 6 chairs which is an antique piece that was made to order by Deepak’s father. It looks royal and is sturdy, countless meals and conversations, those teary eyed moments and moments of bliss, the gossip and so much more- this table has seen it all.
I turn to the next page and I see my 9 month heavily pregnant photo- I vividly recall how I couldn’t wait to deliver and hold my little one in my arms.
The next pic was of my little princess Amyra. Just a month old, I held her in my arms – what a blissful moment that was. I had promised myself to give her the best of everything and be there for her always.
Then the pic of the toddler Amyra- her eyes are enough to show the mischief she’s up to. We were seated by our table again and I was making a desperate attempt to feed her while she giggled and tossed away the food. This was one of the most tiring and insane moments of motherhood but also the loveliest. For I was the center of her universe just like she was mine. She wanted Mommy all the time and the moment she couldn’t see me around, a shrill wail and then a ear piercing cry for Mumma would fill the house.
The next one was of a school going girl. With pony tails and a school bag. Again we were best of friends here, though she had her other friends whom she played with, Mumma continued to occupy the Numero Uno spot to share all her banter.
Now was the lanky adolescent. She looked impatient and I recall how disinterested she was in clicking this pic. This was the phase of rebellion. Mumma was hoisted away from not only the best friend’s place but was no longer a friend. Everything and anything I did was seeing as interference and all she wanted was “My space, my freedom”. My attempts to give her space at the same time as a parent who is forever concerned about the well being of her child, maintain some amount of discipline was met with resistance.
The dinner table was no longer a fun place where we spent so many years enjoying our breakfast, lunch and dinner, did homework and painted, chatted and laughed, cried and wiped each other’s tears. It was a place of silence and if there was any noise it was arguments, and sobs. Those were challenging times.
Her first crush-the one she was so besotted with and seemed the most valuable thing in the world, the daily arguments between her father and her on this topic, it was a nightmare. My child treated me as a stranger. Life can be so strange- at times the person for whom your heart beats tells you that you are the one giving her the biggest heart ache.
But nothing lasts forever does it? Finally one day she came all teary eyed and hugged me tightly. The affair had ended on a bad note. She was heartbroken and needed the person in whose arms she felt secure and safe, and loved. In a few days things changed. She was learning to put this behind and move ahead. We became buddies again. So much to talk, we had to make up for the years of missed conversations. She shared with me her innermost fears, her dreams and what she wanted in life. She was busy preparing for her exams as she wanted to make it big.
I turned the next page- her graduation day. A proud moment for her father and me as we stood beside her, she was all dressed up in the graduation day robes. She clutched my hand as besties do.
The next one was of Amyra in her mid twenties, we stood side by side and she laid her hand over my shoulder. There is a crease on her eyebrow and I remember those times. She had landed up a good job in an MNC and ambitious as my girl was, she was putting in her best to carve out a place for herself. This meant long and stressful hours at work, meetings and conference calls and so much more coffee that she had started having.
We didn’t have much time to talk, she was asleep in the morning when I left home for work and by the time I was back, she was at her office. She came in the wee hours of the morning and slumped on the bed. Weekends were spent in covering up the lost sleep, shopping and sometimes working from home. There was a distance between us, no fights or anything. The silence was creating an unseen gap.
The next is of her wedding day– O my baby is a bride. When did she grow up so fast? Doesn’t she look gorgeous in her wedding saree? And Rahul her groom is so handsome, they make such a lovely pair. This day will be forever etched in my memory as one of the happiest and yet saddest days of my life. She would step out of this house and in a way life would never be the same. How much ever we spoke, met, and chatted, not living in the same house would mean a sea of difference.
And then the pic of Amyra with the twins- couldn’t get better- could it? The house was full again and it was like reliving her childhood- double the fun, double the sleepless nights, double the love. She held my hand the day she delivered and there were tears in her eyes “Ma you went through so much for me, I can only understand what it means to become a mother now, I can never thank you enough Ma, Love you”.
She moved to her house when the twins were 6 months old. Her MIL would take care of them when she went to work.
Years had flown by and our relationship had seen so many ups and downs- those times where we were inseparable and those time when she just didn’t want me near her. I tried my best to mould myself as I knew that she grew up and more people from the outside world entered her life, she would need more space, my innocent queries would be seen with an air of doubt and would be met with defiance. I waited for her to come back and she did find her way back home.
As I close the last page, teary eyed and a smile on my face I get a call on my cell. “Ma it’s time”, my daughter whispers. A smile spreads across my face as I fetch the laptop from the other room, place it on the dining table and connect to Skype. It’s time for our daily ritual of video chat.
She moved to London with her family last year and we have been talking daily for at least a few minutes on Skype. On good days it’s longer chats and on busy days just a hi bye, everything’s ok, love you.
I always feared an empty nest– what happens when my child grows up and flies out of the nest, can I let her go easily? Without a heavy heart, without feeling those pangs of loneliness? How will I endure this silence in place of the constant banter that has been echoing in this house? Whom will I cook for, whom will I wait for every night and what the bloody hell will I do with all this extra time and without my child by my side? So many fears and insecurities were eating me up the day she stepped out into this big world but I have realized this is after all inevitable.
Letting go of her has not been easy but seeing her spread her wings and soar in the sky gives me immense joy. And our relationship has only thrived after she moved out for it is now that as moms we understand each other better and need each other much more. Life has come a full circle and I am content that my nest is no longer empty, it never was. As my little bird who flies to faraway lands comes back to the nest each evening, to a place called home. Isn’t it home that we all want to be in, at the end of each day however good or bad?
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock.