Oh, Amma, let me cry, she says. Why is the baby girl crying? Why does she cry as a teenager? A young adult? A married woman? A young mom herself? An achiever to be reckoned with?
Shh..shh..don’t cry, baby girl. I’m here, darling. I’m right here.
I stop bawling and blink at your face. The world is blurry; the air leaching any semblance of warmth from my body . A thousand sounds ring, clank and beep around me. I smell you and burrow into your chest. You are familiar. You are my home.
Oh Amma, let me cry.
Why are you crying? Are you still hungry? Does something hurt? Why won’t you go to sleep? I’m tired, baby girl.
I’m not hungry, Amma. Nothing aches, and frankly, I feel pretty great. I’m crying because I love you. I miss you when you’re away and nothing makes sense anymore. If only we could snuggle under my favorite blankie all day. I’m crying because I don’t have the words yet.
She’s been like this all day, doctor. The kindergarten teachers complain about her loudness, and she disrupts and yells if they intervene. How can I help my daughter, doctor?
I remember the books we read together. Of brave queens and fiery princesses who ruled the world. You wanted me to be like them, Amma. To question everyone and have a strong voice. But my teachers don’t see me as a queen-in-training. They shush me all the time, make me sit in the corner. And if I object, they put me in time-out.
Why is it wrong to sing in class, Amma? Do I have to “share” all the time? Why must I respect adults, when they don’t respect me? And why am I surrounded by people who think I’m a nuisance?
I’m crying because I don’t feel like a queen.
She’s usually a sport about such things. And that boy was just teasing her. She escalated the situation and made it a big deal. Please advise your daughter Ma’am, because we don’t condone such behavior!
They called me a loser. I didn’t care. They catcalled every time I walked by. I didn’t complain. I minded my business, just like you told me to, with my back straight and head high.
But today, one of them tried to kiss me. He didn’t ask for consent, he didn’t give me a choice. Was I supposed to laugh it off? Was I supposed to be ok with a complete stranger in my personal space? And why didn’t a single adult at school support me? They chided me for slapping the boy. You stood up for me, yet I feel so angry.
I’m crying because I was assaulted.
Oh Amma, let me cry.
You’re going so far away! Why didn’t you choose a local college? Won’t you miss us, darling girl?
I love Dad and you. But I need to forge my path into adulthood now, Amma. Make my mistakes without the cushion of your presence. I want to spread my wings and soar into the unknown. I’m scared, I’m excited and I can’t wait. But I will miss you.
Congratulations on the baby, my darling girl. I wish I was there with you.
Amma, I’m exhausted. The baby is beautiful, healthy and everything I wanted. So why is it hard for me to bond with him? He looks up at me with his green-grey eyes and I feel…nothing. Am I a bad mom? Does it get better? Can you come here? I’m surrounded by family, but I’ve never felt more alone.
We’re so proud of you! CEO at 44! That’s some achievement, darling girl!
I’ve worked hard to get here, but this job suddenly got a lot harder. Do you know, I’m responsible for the careers and livelihoods of more than a thousand people? It’s exhilarating, terrifying and I’m more than ready!
But I haven’t seen my children in days. I miss their smiles, their smells, their tears.
Darling, is that you? Where am I? Why are you in tears?
You’re at the hospital, Amma. You had a heart attack last night. The doctors say your heart isn’t working too well. Why didn’t you call me sooner? What if you die?
Damnit after 65 years, how am I supposed to live without you?
You die at 7:17 am on a regular Sunday morning, when I step out of the hospital room to get a lukewarm cup of coffee. The weak sunlight caresses your face, wiping away the wrinkles and keeping you warm, until I can catch my breath. Doctors sombre, and nurses harried; everyone is a blur as I retract into a motherless haze.
I sign paperwork, they nod with glassy sympathy. And we’re alone again. I don’t know a life without you, Amma. I don’t want to.
But when I burrow my head into your chest with thunderous grief, you say,
Shh..shh.. baby girl. I’m here, darling. I’m right here.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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