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As a daughter, once married and away from parents, it is rare to get an opportunity to just BE with your mother, lie down next to her to rest.
I was tired to the bones. Living amidst cans of paint and sheets of laminate was not easy. White fine powder carpeted the floor, and swirled into my nose every time I breathed. Home renovation was underway since a month and a half, and there were two more months to go.
I looked wearily at the wall clock. It was still an hour to go before lunchtime. I shut my laptop and headed straight to my parents’ house.
They live right across the landing, on the same level as my apartment. I opened my door and I could see Appa seated on the sofa, holding the newspaper. When he heard the click of my door, his face appeared above the news headlines.
“She must be lying down. Her pre-lunch siesta,” he added with a chuckle.
I headed to the bedroom. Amma was lying curled up on her side, her cheek resting on the folded elbow. Her sleeping style has remained unchanged since my memory recalls. I tiptoed around the bed and slowly sunk into the bed, next to her. I lay still, not wanting to wake her up.
She moved immediately.
“Va ma. Come, sleep,” she said peering at me through sleepy and crinkled eyes.
She turned to my side, and placed her arm around me. She drifted back into sleep, leaving me swirling in a tsunami of emotions.
When was the last time I had done this? Lying next to Amma. The sagging folds of her arm rested against my heart. Her worn head docked in the nook between my neck and shoulder. Strangely, the thought in my head was not about how much she needed this closeness. I was thrown off by the wave of realisation that I needed this comfort more than her. How badly I wanted the warmth of Amma to permeate my insides and fill me up with the calming energy so unique to mothers.
Like most people in their fifties, I too assumed that my aged parents needed me, and not the other way around. My role as a caretaker stemmed from the paradigm that they needed me all the time. Lying next to her, listening to the soft, muffled snoring, and feeling her warm embrace, I realised nothing could be farther from the truth.
It was I who needed this, who had been missing this. Irrespective of age, lying next to your mother is cathartic. Just the whiff of her, the feel of her – pulled me back to those lazy school summer vacation afternoons, when Amma would wind up her household chores and lay out a grass mat on the floor. She would stretch out on it, a long sigh escaping through her lips. My siblings and I would scramble to occupy the space closest to her. As we pushed and pulled one another, she would giggle merrily – the giggle of blissful motherhood.
Almost overnight, we grew up, and grew independent as the world expected us to. We flew the nest and looked skyward. Had we looked back, we would have seen Amma lying on the grass mat, her sad hands patting the empty spaces around her.
A phone call or a surprise visit lit up her eyes like oil lamps in the dark sanctum of a Devi temple. While Appa took stock of our financial mismanagement, Amma pulled us to her as she rested in the afternoon. A thick Kurl-on mattress on a teak wood frame had replaced the grass mat.
“Not oiling your hair enough,” she would lovingly admonish as she ran her fingers through gelled and straightened hair.
I would tuck myself into her and sink into paradise – the kind of sleep that no hostel allowed.
Marriage happened. Initially, visits to home were frequent and festive. Over the years, they took on a purpose. Dropping off the baby, picking up the baby became primary reasons. The baby grew accustomed to Amma’s warmth and comforting arms. Amma rejoiced in the new found bundle of joy. Yet, she could not contain herself from running her fingers through my hair whenever I was generous with my time and could sit by her side.
“You have dark circles. Not sleeping enough. Come, shall we lie down for a bit?” she would ask sheepishly, knowing the response would be a hurried ‘no’.
Life’s roller coaster became an endless ride. Until that day when I found myself lying next to Amma. What I had missed these years is irrevocable. But, isn’t it true that you can live a lifetime in a moment? I did, that afternoon. A few moments of unconditional love. A few moments of satiation.
I shushed my nostalgia and turned to Amma. I wrapped my arm around her and warned time against interfering. A smile formed on her lips. Her eyes were shut otherwise she would have seen the joy welling up in mine.
An hour later, life beckoned me back. Amma resumed her evening chores, unaware of the beautiful moments that transpired between us. Thankfully memory loss is painful only for the onlooker.
Image source: Pocket Films/ YouTube
I am a writer and I love to play the narrator of human experiences, transporting readers to a place where the lives of strong people with endearing flaws entwine in equally intriguing plots and landscapes. read more...
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