Showing posts with label Winkie-isms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winkie-isms. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Of becoming an arthur...

How does one become an author? Is it a journey that can be charted, with fixed points to mark the way? Or is it from a string of moments that blend, one into the other....seemingly disparate at first, but all leading to a point of culmination....into something that begs to be remembered, to be captured, to be posterized?

This is a question which does not truly need an answer because it is only a means to talk about something that's come about in Winkie's world. That he is now writing, and furiously. That his love for Harry Potter is expressing itself into the words of a sequel that he uses to indulge further, into this pleasurable fantasy land or witchcraft and wizardry. That it takes up where the last book left off , with Harry all grown up and with children and quite unaware that a new threat is rising....that Voldemort actually has ancestors, who might want to assume the mantle of his legacy of terror and destruction. Enough said, else I might give the whole plot away.

Suffice it to say that for 30 minutes every morning before school, and for 30 minutes after, and for every snatch of 5 or 10 minutes in between, Winkie works on his novel. And has earned himself the title of arthur from his brother, who with just that one word has shown that parts of his babyhood still remain with him. That all is not grown up. :)

As a fond, clucking mother, I feel like indulging in those little vapour moments, seemingly disparate in their connections that may have secretly led to this point, when the torrent of words is flowing. I think back to his days of self publishing books....of Indra and the rain story. And how many a staples were used to bind together that torrential shower. I think back to a writing workshop he attended last summer, with a friend, who believes that words are fun and can dance at your fingertips, should you make the effort to make friends with them. And infuses her students with a love for it. There must have been some of that still in him. I think of the fun writing class he attends every week before school. And how in the very first class, they had an idea relay, where one child wrote a sentence, and the next child built on it and so on, until they had this really zany story at the end, where everything crazy was suddenly possible, with all their collective ideas.

I think of my own story writing attempts from a week ago, just in time for Halloween, and how he was fascinated with how I had done it on Word, with underlines and bold fonts, and he wanted to use Word too....to write his own story. Ah!!! That is the point that set it all in motion, giving everything else hiding under the soil a chance to germinate. And how he literally took off from there...how making the time to write was effortless, because there was passion preceding it. When you love something, you will make the effort for it, come hell or high water. It's as simple as that. 

As simple as it was for us to come up with a pen name for him. Jaggery Bigsy Jenkins. 

Jaggery...because I had nicked him that a few weeks ago. To remind him to go back to the sweet version of his self, whenever he felt very little like it. The condition was that every time I called him Jaggery, he would have to smile, no matter what. And he does.

Bigsy...because he's the bigger boy of the house....by virtue of birth order, and other things too. 

Jenkins...because it goes with the Jaggery before it. Say it together and it makes sense. 

The Bigsy was an insert for middle name status. Together, they create quirk and interest. In my head, at least. :)

And so....the arthur writes. While I tussle with complex thoughts of how I will go through the editing process. And weigh needless, but still fun questions of whether his script should be untouched for publishing, or he be exposed to all the processes involved in the writing schema. Because, Christmas is coming around and I would like it make a gift of it for him. Because he anticipates being done in a month. Because it will be fun to see a title to your name. Because, it would make a cute coffee table book. And because every arthur, no matter how small, deserves to be in print, for the sheer courage of attempt and initiative.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Making it your very own...

I was sitting down with Winkie yesterday on a writing assignment. There was a subject theme and a writing focused on it. And I knew right from the start what a big challenge it was going to be.

One, me and writing have been friends for awhile. And I've always said about how I am writing in my head all the time. So give me a theme and I am in heaven. Which makes it that much more hard to sit down to guide Winkie along in his writing. To hold back and not jump in. To guide and not gravitate him towards a path I think he should take. To use his own words and not give him clues to mine. Its wretchedly hard. 

But one breath at a time, I think I managed it. I kept asking him questions and with the words he came up in answer, we used that in his writing, trying for form, for clarity and a direction. I would take deep breaths every few minutes to keep that balance going and be patient as he struggled his way through...getting over writer's block and struggling with synonymous words that were more descriptive and for rhymes, for it was a poem that we were doing.

And then came the biggest hurdle of all. It was the final line and the final thought and in my head, it had to be big and full of bang and reach a crescendo of thought and heart. I kept giving him little prods to keep the thinking wheel turning....but he struggled and struggled and I was running every risk of jumping in headlong with the closure. But by a stroke of miracle, I stopped. Instead, I turned his paper around and said....

Write all the words you can possibly think of in this context. Don't think....just write and fill up the page.

This was easier for him to do. From the simple to the overstated, from fun to fanciful, from silly to superfluous to soulful, he wrote words in a flurry of mental activity. And then I circled the ones from his list as a suggestion and starred the one that was my favorite word on his page. Connection.

He smiled at me. And we thought some more on how to use it to wind down his poem with. And by this point, reining back while still being involved was an art I had learned at least a little. We finished it. And he was spent. And so was I. 

But I was also riding on the crest of a wave of a beautiful recognition of Love in the process. How much I loved my son, within the selfish parameters of a mother and also the more selfless parameters of it. How much I wanted him to succeed in his endeavour. But more than anything else, how much I wanted it to be about the journey of self expression....of thinking, feeling, struggling, finding, using, enjoying and exhilarating in the process and the end result. And because of how deeply I wanted this for him, I was willing to struggle through my own tendencies to interfere and instruct. To bite back on my own compulsions so he can taste the victory that would be sweetest from his own cup, and from his own pouring of it into the cup....clumsy as it may have been at first, but how much of focus and concentration and peace and mindfulness it would have afforded him in the process??!!

And oh! How God loves us in this very same way. And in a way that is even more profound, pure and patient. This whole life has been afforded to us as an experience....our very very own. We can do what we want with it. We can stumble, we can fall, we can rise, we can walk. We can repeat them in many cycles of recovery and we can take our time with it. There is no 'one hour' to finish the assignment. He has given us several thousand lifetimes. There is not just a few words to choose from, but an entire vocabulary of it. There is not just one person to sit with you and guide you, there are several countless souls who have been instituted to aid in your experience, and abet the mystery of riddling you into thinking they were a foe, when it was friendship, and a friendship when they actually couldn't have your back anymore. And leaving when they should have stayed, and hovering in the background the entire while when you thought it was your loneliest time on the planet.

And there is not just a pencil and a paper, but a range of tools....each one at the tip of your finger, to be called forth and employed at will and in the blink of an eye. A song, a ballad, a painting, chanting, graffiti on the wall, tantra, whispered longings and fervent prayers, a conversation of heart to heart and the confessions in a box, the silence of being with a soul mate, the laughter that is in abandon....and every emotion and experience that points the path to your heart. 

And there is not just one word he will choose and give back to you as a favorite, in a shortcut. Nay. You have free will, even if it comes with the weight of pre-programmed compulsions. The choice to choose is always upon us,  in every situation. Only, it is not an easy one to make. But nothing easy has lasted long. And nothing hard has ever left you, but with a beautiful imprint on your own evolution. This is a breathless, timeless, endless Love that can never be fully understood or paid back. But pay it forward....we most certainly can, perpetuating the cycle and the season of love. And it can begin with or be in the middle of....a mother, helping her son write his poem...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Of lists and life...

As I was straightening out Winkie's bed the other night, I found this tucked under his pillow. A little notepad of things to do. A list for his little tasks. Something he can look at first thing in the morning as he wakes up, and remind himself. And just like that I was awakened.

The days that blur and pass dizzyingly by in the 9 to 5 auto mode, came to a grinding halt. Feelings buried deep down rise to the surface. And I feel....touched. Not in that warm, fuzzy way. But as a range of emotions sloshing about in your heart all at once, touching it, waking it up....forcing it to recognise itself.

I am a little sad that his life has already entered that place where keeping a list has become necessary. Where it is measured by tasks undertaken and completed. Where accountability  is called for. Sigh. Independence is such a short lived thing. An illusion really. Though innocence might have a longer life span.

And then I feel pride. That he was finding a method for management and using it to stick close to the lines of self-conduct. That he was getting organised.

And then amusement. At the line items on his list. And how he dates each one. And how important those things are to him. How getting it done matters.

And then reflection. At how we all have our lists....well, the control attemptors anyway....and how we put on the list, things that we deem important enough to do, that we cannot afford to forget. And how if we put together all our lists over out lifetime, we can maybe even see a pattern in them, a thread that connects each one, and weaves the story of our lives...well, the active bits of it anyway.

I love making lists. Its the only way I can keep a hold on things and stop my mind from taking over me completely. I have lists for things I need to do like get car sticker, and library book drop and e-school sign up and so on. Things that I don't have to do everyday, but they come up and can just as easily be forgotten. I  make a list of things to do before a big trip and a list of all the things I need to pack that I just can't do without. If I am hosting, I make a list of what food I want to cook and keep ticking it off after each one is done. I make lists at work for scheduling myself, on excel and outlook calenders. But my favorite is on a regular sticky note, stuck on the side of the monitor. There is something about writing the task down physically that makes you feel like you are truly committing to it, and something about physically striking it off, that gives you a sense of closure. And then that finally tear and toss, that feels like liberation. And achievement. And superhuman-ship.

Welcome Dear Winkie, to the world of making lists. As you embark on this journey of a life of doing and performing, I wish for you every success, but tempered by every possible measure of balance. That while you make lists to get out of your head every once in a while, the list doesn't become you. That striking each item off, doesn't become your vocation. That the tasks you get done don't become your sole identity. That the thought of doing it all doesn't keep you up at night. That every once in a while, whether it be on your smart device or notepad, you can be master of the fine art of tear and toss. And drift and dream. Ever.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Love learns of itself

The fireworks are going off outside, every now and then, lighting up the sky in the prettiest streaks of colour. But what makes me smile, from deep down, is this amazing secret I just heard. For when you hear the true feelings of child who is best known to hold them closeted deeply inside, is it not as thrilling as a secret just revealed in all its intensity?

If there is anything I have felt ever since Winkie was old enough to express himself, it is that he was always a mystery to me. One that I got a slight whiff off every now and then, but most of the time, I would have to resort to my own limited vision and weak labels to put him in a place where I could understand him. But today, after some very frustrating interactions between the two of us, he gave vent to some heavy tears and in between all that sobbing found words to attach to his mystifying feelings and finally helped me understand some part of what he faces everyday.

He told me how he gets tired of helping Thambi and how he has so many classes to attend and practices to do as a result. And how rushing and keeping time was also getting to him. And how I smile so little at him and always look so serious and upset. And so many other little things, that I did not really know in quite as many words from him. He suddenly found the words to give vent to every frustrating and saddening thought inside him. And in the novelty of this secret unfolding itself, I listened.

When you can listen to a person this acutely, when you can be the space for their feelings and thoughts and expressions of pain, without a single thought of judgement in your own head, you see them e.x.a.c.t.l.y  as they are, with all their complexes, mixed in with the interminable beauty of their soul, all shining through together. There is absolutely no question of thought and judgement, just the simplest sense of observation, because there is a such a feeling of oneness with that emotion, and you feel it right along with them. And there is such a feeling of love. Love cannot be separated from being one with that moment and giving the space needed for a person to be himself.

This love that has nothing to do with the relationship binding you and nothing to do with a feeling of relating to that specific pain. It is a love that has no reason for its presence in your heart, but that it is there beating powerfully and resplendently. This is when you know you have had a true heart to heart connection. And you know that it is possible to expand in that love and let it exist for itself, without anything else to support it.

That love gave me the practicality and acute presence of mind, to find words of comfort, that directly touched his heart and helped him calm down. It helped soften the tone of my voice, and make it gentle and soothing as a lullaby, softly and tenderly sung. It made me focus on every single point he had raised, and accept each one of them as valid and just, and think of how we could handle it going forward. I was with him as he felt his frustrations, and he was with me as I explained my side of the story and together, we had a much more joint perspective of everything.

Our minds met, our hearts joined and our feelings which at first had collided imperceptibly, now fused and melded together in such a sweet goodwill and affection, that was larger than a mother and son relationship, but expressed itself through this very same medium.

It makes you realise why you need relationships and the inevitable collision of personalities and egos. How else can love learn of itself?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The prize of things...

Today we learnt some valuable lessons. Me and Winkie.

I learnt that as a mother, try as I might to detach myself from the display of overt emotions, I still feel them inside, which is perhaps why I struggle not to have to display it. That as a mother, I always wish for my sons to shine, and that I take a very personal pride in it. Even if I tend to play it down for the sake of company, or for the sake of myself.

There was an episode today, a wonderful, humbling, feeling, teaching, quieting episode where Winkie had the opportunity to take part in a competition. Where he did very well and made me very proud, of his poise and his quiet and sensible strength, but where he did not win a prize at the end. Its funny how the 1and 2 , become such important numbers we need the ownership of to have a feeling of validation in this world. That we....and our children...have worth and merit that can be proved to the rest of the world.

Its disquieting how much I seemed to have invested in that moment, which spelled the attaching of his name to either of those 2 numbers. How I held my breath, without even seeming to have held it. How much I wanted it for him, even when I convinced myself not to.

How words really come a poor second to that feeling of disappointment that a young boy feels in his heart, that acute pain when the prize slips away. Yes, he knows he did well. Yes, he is happy for his friend who made it 1st. Yes, he knows how proud his mom is of him. But he did not get the cup did he? And that hurts. Simple. It hurts.

It hurts.

But more than the feeling of that actual hurt, it hurts me more to know that I am still so easily culpable to this hurt. Not because I pride myself in having come such a long way in terms of personal development, but because swings of emotion are so scary sometimes. I am very afraid of feeling anything to a depth or intensity. It seems so much more safer to feel with a dull and fuzzy sense, than to have that emotion tweaked and amplified to this sharp, piercing thing, that just stares you straight in the face, leaving you no place to hide from it. This just goes to show the false sense of bravado I carry around me most of the time, just so I can feel that I have a firm foothold in my own life. So I must be honest and come clean so I can come free.

I am sad he didn't win the 1st prize. Or the 2nd. He did so darn well. But oh, the children who did, were  great too. And they had that little extra something that earned them that spot. I am so appreciative of that, as much as I am disappointed that we could not have that extra something too. I am afraid to identify so deeply with my son's feelings. But it happens so easily, so naturally, that in the process I am afraid to pass on too many of my own to him. I want his world to be simple. His thoughts even more so. I am afraid of not feeling true happiness for the other children who won. None of that mattered if my son didn't. I am disappointed in myself that I still haven't managed to shrug it off, that I am still holding on to it.

But all is not bleak. There are things for which I am glad too. I am glad, we did it. Just so we could be exposed to this kind of thing. Especially for Winkie. Without even knowing for sure, I know that this is one incident in his life will have made its mark on him....transformed some tiny, significant part of him. His tears, one full hour after everything, and after we came home is evidence of that. He held himself strong until then. I believe he expected his name to be called out, and was surprised when it wasn't, because he had felt very happy with the way he had done. He had the generosity and courage to wish his friend in more than a few words...you did a very good job. Congratulations!....he managed to say. He was quiet and contained all the way back home in the car, as we discussed why the prizes went to the other children and not him. But  the minute we got home, the emotion was too much to hold in his little heart, and it spilled over. Big, wracking sobs, as I squeezed him tight. And then, right there, was the pure simple joy, that my son was having an acute experience with life, right in front of my very eyes. What a privilege it was to witness it. This is the stuff that life is made up of, isn't it. These piercing moments of direct experience that shake you up from your otherwise slumber. And Winkie whose emotions are usually hard to read, was expressing and emoting so beautifully, so directly....I was happy, even as I was sad.

After the tears were wiped, and the coolness washed over, we all took a walk, in the snow to the Dunkin's on the opposite side of the road. And sipped hot coffee, and bit into warm hash browns, and enjoyed some moments as a family. He has been all smiles since then, the moment having passed. And as I helped him brush his teeth, I came clean with him too....I am sad Winkie, that you did not win. And right then, again, was the acute delight of seeing a role reversed...of emotions swapped. I pouted sadly, while he smiled wisely, nodded sagely and said....yeah...I know. And that's when it just became very very....very very...clear. And I told him.

That as his mother, I would be telling him many many things all the time. Lots of advice and words and directives. And he may forget as many of them as I try to pass on. But if he could just remember one thing.... one single, simple thing, please. That whatever you do, do it in such a way that you can be happy with yourself. Just like how he felt today. How happy he was saying it because he knew he had given it his best. That precious feeling was the prize of it all . The one that nobody can award, and nobody can take. The one which lies in your safe keeping...

Yes.....I will.....he said.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The lessons of the lost Zoop!

Some months ago, Winkie lost his only, and most cherished, 7th birthday gifted watch in school. It was a Titan Zoop, with a cool basketball logo on the sides. He loved it, and I have to say it looked sporty and smashing on his wrist. That is until he lost it. This is what roughly happened from his account of things. It was a sweaty recess, and when he came back to class, he decided to take off the watch to cool off, and laid it on his desk. It was reading time, and one of his friends asked to see it. He handed it over, and it was also returned to him. Of that much he clearly recalls. And then he left his desk to go find a book or whatever and when he came back, it was gone. He looked everywhere, in his bag, under his desk, on the floor, and even made the whole class look, but no one could find it. And it was declared lost. 

Now yes, the mind does tend to speculate on it, and think....what if somebody took it, and just didn't own up. It was a big possibility, and one that he kept insisting upon, but we were at a dead end.

When he came home with the news, on the one hand, I was pretty upset about it. We loved that watch, and it was a specially selected gift from his Chitthi for his 7th birthday and he could have worn it forever, I think. And he was so careful with it too. He was very very crushed and could barely get through that evening. On the other hand, there was a small part of me that was very secretly delighted. Its hard to explain why that was the exact emotion I felt, but there it was. 

And to explain my delight, I have to digress a bit and tell you another story. One that happened close to 3 years ago. Remember that very exciting India trip, where my passport expired and I got left behind, only to have it stamped the next day and fly out on my own? Well, on that very same trip, I lost 80% of my wedding jewels to the back seat of an autorickshaw. And after the first freezing 2 minutes of shock at the implication, that same secret sense of delight was there. Looking back, it was definitely a weird emotion to have, but it was one of the most defining moments of my life. Because I got a sense of how far I had come.

You know how sometimes when something happens and right then and there, you get a faint whiff of the game and play of it all, and the whispers only grow louder, as you hear life giggling gleefully in the background, having just handed you a nice big blow, just to see what you will do with it. And the whole thing has a manner of such play and sport that you can't help but feel the glee yourself, and a sportive sense of challenge rises, and you feel like you have to pass this test. By God, you have to pass this test!

That is exactly what my delight back then was about. And in a small way, it is what it was about even with the watch. Back then, I had on my most graceful manner, and couldn't find it within the heart of me to rue what I had lost, 'cause that would mean failing that test in front of the biggest witness there was, is and always will be. The sense of that loss came weeks and months and years later, at different instances, when I couldn't dig in to my box of jewels anymore to find just the right thing to wear. 

So when Winkie came home with the loss of his favorite watch, I knew he was being handed a similar test and the delight was over having seen through the whole charade of life. Aha! Caught you again!...I felt. Watch us ace this test now!

We talked about it and he decided he would go back the next day and search even harder, and if he couldn't find it, that was that. He would have to accept it gracefully. But till then, there was still some hope and he could pray as hard as possible, and send his fervent pleas out to the Universe. But going down the road of pointing a finger at someone, was a certain dead-end, because there was no way to prove it, and even if there was, was it the right one to take? It was a point of confusion, but one we didn't have to cross because he never found it the next day. 

The sadness lingered over many days and he would look at a picture of his watch on the internet a few times, for that was the only keepsake left at this point. And he got another watch, with bowling pins on it, a much cheaper but just as cute one, when I went to the gem show some weeks ago. And he takes just as much of a pride and joy in it as he did in the one with the baskbetball logos.

So the lost Zoop taught us some valuable lessons I think. That life happens. And it can get very upsetting. That being attached to something, while giving that simple pleasure of ownership and familiarity, can also cause acute pangs of loss, when gone. That even when all seems lost, it is still okay to have hope and beam your prayer out to the Universe and cherish the possibility that you can find it again. That when you don't, it doesn't mean that that hope was misplaced, only that it carried it with it to someplace else. That parting was inevitable, but sweet things can come by, to take up the place that was left empty. That life goes on...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tintin-ised!

I grew up reading Tintin comics. I think my Dad owned quite a few titles and it would be kept safely locked inside his little book cabinet, alongwith a worn copy of Kane & Abel. And on many quiet afternoons, I would extract them and read them, over and over again, till I knew every single dialogue and every single twist in the plot.

Interestingly enough that is one of the few books I share in common with R, who is not too much of a reader otherwise. So, when Tintin was going to hit the big screen, there was no way we were going to miss it. We were excited to watch it and also see how the boys would take to it, especially Winkie. And he gave us a thumbs up at the end of the show and that very week, I got home some of the comics for him to read, starting with The Castafiore Emerald. 


He was never much of a graphics novel type of guy uptil this point, so I read out a few strips and pages to him, getting him into the nuances of each character, and how to tell the difference between a word bubble and a thought bubble. And all the crazy things that Capt. Haddock usually says and how a glass breaks everytime Bianca sang. And with just those few introductory notes, he was raring to go on his own. And there's been no turning back since. Now, he can share quite a few observations with me. Like how Snowy, the dog, also talks and how he mirrors the same expressions as on Tintin's face.

The fever is so blazing that he renamed his Mii Tintin today. And plans to take it the extra mile, by making Thambi Snowy, R as Haddock, and me as....(a no brainer!)....Bianca. Now I better practice all my high notes.

Needless to say, I am quite thrilled that he loves what I once loved, and this will be something that joins us together, always!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In just 3 seconds...


5:30 PM and I am sitting in a large, brightly lit room. It is an even 80 degrees and people are sitting, lined up against the walls, watching the scenes directly in front of them. There are raucous shouts and squeals, as some 30 odd kids, in all shapes and colours and sizes and ages, splash merrily in their lanes, mimicking what their coach asks them to do. I have a ½ hour to kill, and I have already decided to take along some of Winkie’s worksheets to review.

He has been working hard all summer, refining some math skills and gaining efficiency in his problem areas with some English also thrown in to keep him interested, so the numbers wouldn’t get the better of his enthusiasm. I have my bright pink felt tip pen for the task, and review all his trade first subtraction problems. He is definitely having a problem with it, and I mentally decide that he needs another fresh worksheet just to get over this hump. From time to time, I am watching the boys in their lanes, but only cursory glances, for today I am more intent on the task at hand.

I look up and glance at Winkie’s direction and he is looking straight at me, his eyes meeting mine. He is trying to tell me something, and from his signing, I understand that he wants me to keep watching him. And just like that, the air is charged with something different. There is a higher prupose now, to my time. My child wants me to do something for him, and I have it well within my power to do that. And by God, I would do it right. I watch him do his dolphin kicks, graceful at times, struggling at times, but making it from one end to the other. He has almost made it, when the sense of anticipation in me is just bursting. I can’t wait for him to get there and wipe his eyes, and look back over at me, secure in the belief that I would still be watching.

It is so heady, knowing that this is one sure moment I can count on. We cannot predict what can happen an hour, or even 10 minutes from now, for so many familiar equations can change in that time. But with just under 3 seconds to go, before he reached and looked at me, there was a delicious instinctive sense of “knowing”. That it would happen.

Even now, I don’t quite know why it stood out to me so much. What was it about that moment, that made me suck my breath in, and hold it tight, all keyed up for when he would make eye contact with me again. Maybe it was simply the joy of being fully conscious at that time, knowing for sure, that I was going to be there for my son. Or maybe a part of it was derived from the sense of control you feel, when you know exactly what will happen in just a short while, and yet it is exciting and novel, and it happens in precisely the fashion you expect it to.

So much of our life is played down due to failed expectations. This was one moment that exceeded it!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of what is outside the line of control...

There was an incident that happened this afternoon. Something that left me very upset for quite some time. I was picking Thambi up from school, and as he has done many times in the past, this day too, he refused to come home with me, claiming how much fun he was having there. Unheeding all my requests to get in the car, I finally had to lift him up and walk him over.

And so there I was, in the hot sun, lifting a wriggling Thambi in one hand and his sandals and his lunch bag in the other, and I realise his side of the door is locked from the inside. It had stopped working alongwith the central locking system a long while back, and the only way is to open it from the inside, and usually, I just reach over from the driver's side and unlock it. But this time, since my hands were full, I asked Winkie, who was sitting inside to do it for me. But he didn't. All he made was this half hearted attempt to reach over, without taking off his own seat belt, which means he didn't even reach halfway across.

And just watching him, barely attempt to help me, while I struggled profusely with this guy, cut me very much to the quick. I dropped the shoes and bag to the floor and opened my door and reached in and unlocked Thambi's side, and deposited him in, all the while giving Winkie a cold look, as he looked frostily back at me. We had just had a little argument on the way over and I knew it was his way of paying me back. But it hurt. Bad. How can you watch someone suffer right in front of your eyes, and not jump in to help, even when you were asked to?

Tears pricked at my eyes as I drove us all home, and I struggled to gain control over my emotions. I got into a bit of self pity mode. Is this what I deserve from my kids? Am I not doing enough for them? It was very difficult for me to stomach, that a child of mine could exhibit that much of coldness that deliberately.

While writing about my kids here, I have always tried to write the best of them, and remember only all the things that gave me the most reasons to smile. It wasn't that I was in denial about the hard days that are always there , but it is always better to focus on the good and sweet things, is it not? And give them all those nice memories to indulge in when they are older, if they ever get around to reading this space.

But today, I feel like writing about this. Its not so much to remember the flip side as much as what it made me realise and the simple force with which it dawned on me.

After we came home, he refused to get out of the car. And I was in no mood to cajole or request or even talk to him, so I walked in with Thambi, expecting him to walk in soon enough, for how long would he stay out in the garage by himself. A half hour passed by and still no sign of him. By this time, of course, me anger had evaporated, and I resigned myself to being calm.

Whenever I feel stuck for a remedy to a parenting problem, I just liken it to how God treats me, when I am being an errant child. I recall all the many times I have sinned and how my free will was never taken away as a result. I remember nothing of a lessening of love. If anything, I felt His presence more, as the Conscience within me, giving me the clarity of what I had done wrong, and what I still needed to do. And all of this was unobtrusive, and as gentle as switching on the bedside lamp, and never as a harsh flooding of light. And so I knew what I must do now, the love I still had to give, the judgement that I had to take away, the complete acceptance that I still owed him. And I breathed in deep and walked out.

And he was asleep. His head flopping to the side, his mouth slightly open, as he breathed in and out, in a tired slumber. My baby! How we act up, when all we need are a few extra hours of sleep! I went over and lifted him out of the car and carried him in, in my arms. One of these days, its not going to be easy to do even that, but today, thankfully, was not that day and I could be a mother to this child and carry him still.

He stirred as soon as I lay him down, and wanted to eat his lunch. I fixed him a plate, and we sat down together to eat. What happened, still bothered me. He may have been sleepy and he may have been hungry, but in my estimation, it was no reason for him to not click open his belt, and unlock the door. A matter of 10 seconds. It still hurt. And the words were bubbling up again. And I began the conversation.

That I was upset by his actions. That it was so easy for him to have helped me then, and how easy it would have made things for me too. How by choosing not to do so, he made it clear that he didn't care about me just then. That in life, as he grows, most of the choices he will be confronted with will boil down to just 2 things : whether he wants to be good or not. That he has full freedom to choose. And if he chose the latter, it may not make a big dent in his life, but inside, he knows what he did. And he knows whether that feels good or awful. But if he chose the good instead, even if it was at the cost of hurting himself, there was this wonderful chance that it would strengthen him from within. And make him feel right inside his heart.

I can only tell you all this stuff Winkie, I cannot make you 'realise' it. Because that is an inside job, and its your choice. And I am telling you this because I care about you, and I care about what you can become.


And with that, the words ran out. He heard me in full silence, with his head bowed down, and at the end he smiled  at the choice of one of my words, which only upset me further then, and I walked upstairs to me bedroom to lie down and just breathe out the burden of my emotions. And I realised why it hurt so much. Because I was so embroiled in him, and the fact that he was my son, and any behavior of his was a reflection of my influence on him as a mother, and the pain was from this feeling that he was letting me down. It was all incredibly misguided, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. And forced the illusion out of my head, though not permanently. I am sure I will have to go through many cycles of this pain to come to terms with the truth.

But just then, it was a relief to know that while I could only work to mold his character as best as was within my reach, the outcome of that was way out of my league of control, and hence my worry too. When you know you can't control something, the most practical thing you can do is be peaceful about it. That peace came to me in the form of some shut eye through a catnap.

But this evening, my son also came to me, all of his own accord, much after I had left him alone and to his thoughts, and told me softly....


Amma, I am sorry. 
I am sorry that I did not help you with Sathya. I am really sorry. 


And I looked down at his face and into his eyes, the penitence written all over him. Several seconds passed. I had already forgiven him in my head, the second he came up to me........but wanted him to feel the weight of that pregnant pause, as he waited to hear the much anticipated words of acceptance. So he looked into my eyes, and I into his, and the silence stretched just a little bit, and I finally said....It's okay. And kissed the top of his head, and his hands came around me.

Yes, you do need to apologise for any wrong that you want to make right, but sometimes when the reply comes only at the end of the stretch of silence, you get to realise how much it means to you, and what a privilege forgiveness really is.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Buddy Zoo

In our home now, we have a new system for how we display our toys. Its called the Buddy Zoo system. More of why its called that later. For now, let me just describe what it is. To my untrained eye, it is just all the toys, cars, mini-teddies, blocks, actions figures, which were erstwhile lying neatly in their separate bins, now suddenly dumped onto two separate tables, and arranged in some cohesive fashion. But ask the boys and they will tell you a whole different story. They will have it be known, that both those 2 tables, on which these "things" are lined up on, are actually 2 countries. And since they are so close to each other, they are actually Australia and New Zealand. And of course, Winkie being the older one and the designer of the whole plot, gets to be Australia and Thambi's corner is New Zealand. For reader reference, the left pic is Australia, the right is New Zealand.

The 2 countries are separated by water. Australia is gifted with a nice beach, a nice new terrace house where all the cars can go. New Zealand has 2 big camping spots, and invites Australia over. Now I don't know at what point Australia took on a human connotation, but there it is. We do not question imagination. We just quote it. The mailbox is actually the tent (not in picture). In Australia, the wooden box is the house for all the cars to be in. The action figure is a soldier to help New Zealand fight whenever the need arises. The kid monitor is for communication between the two countries. Obviously technology hasn't progressed way more than that, but who am I to crib? But I am also told that there is an invisible computer in NZ, from where you go to mapquest.com to find directions to other places!! The teddy bears in NZ are all the family that lives there. Suffice it to say this covers many branches of the same family tree. The setup changes from time to time, depending on which toy is currently in, and which one is out. Once they even put these thin silver chains which I got them from the jewelry exhibition in their zoos.

For the longest time, the whole thing to me, was an eyesore. Sure I enjoyed this vivid imagination that could be called at will to conjure up the most fantastic situations to get lost in, but at the end of the day, I liked everything neatly tucked away and out of sight. But how can an entire country be dismantled? And two countries at that. *sigh*. So this is one thing I had to let go on. And I think I have it under my belt. These days, when I find a stray car or a teddy lying around, I don't just dump them back in the bins, I take the time to do my research and ask, which country they belong to? Heavens! It is always better to double check these facts and make sure, for who knows which character has gone visiting where, and God forbid they are found outside of that zone, and it was sure to escalate tensions between the two countries!

Yes, we have all become a part of the Buddy Zoo system. The boys are so into their world, that the minute Winkie set his eyes on one of his birthday presents from his Aunt and Uncle, a K-Nex bridge construction set, he had immediately envisioned how he would now build a bridge that would go over the ocean to connect the 2 countries. Now that's being committed to something!

Which brings me back to my promise to reveal why Buddy Zoo. Buddy, because he is one of the main protagonist cars, around whom all the excitement happens. The Zoo because it is my addendum. For how grating it was on my senses at the very start. And wanna hear a secret? It still is.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Art update!




On one day of the week, Winkie goes for Art class. Something that I thought he would enjoy, but not to this extent. I have never seen him as animated as the times that I pick him back up after his 1 hour and 15 minutes. And its not only because he enjoys art. Its because he likes his teacher so much. They share this rare chemistry, where they actually like each other and actually like talking, and as a result, what comes out as expressions of that time is that same friendly conversation. She guides, but he leads. She prods, but he perfects. She initiates, but he impresses upon it. And it is pretty gratifying to watch his personality and his happiness bloom as a result. Here is a sample of some of his latest creations (click on them for closer viewing), some of them in this new setting (top 3, in watercolour), and one from school (the pumpkin, in oil pastel) and one from home as an idea prompter from me (after we read the book, 'The Spider Weaver').

And this last one here, is my favorite. Its acrylic on canvas, his first ever canvas painting, and it depicts our recent holiday at the Dells, on a jetboat tour. The people on board are him, Thambi & their 2 cousins, who had come visiting, and they all enjoyed the rowdy splashing on this tour. I just love looking at those waves, and how choppy they look. All in all, bright, cheerful and completely his own expression, which now graces our side table.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eight.

So yesterday was Winkie's 8th birthday. And probably the first time ever that I didn't hit publish at the stroke of midnight on a birthday post. But then, this is the new me. The relaxed, I-am-not-in-a-hurry-to-blog-it-all me! :) And I rather like it. For it makes the times when I do feel like writing about them, that much more enjoyable. Like right now.

The boys are out cycling with their Dad. Dinner's cooked and ready once they return. And I have nothing else pressing or that I cannot relegate to a later time. So this is the moment. And going with the birthday tradition of years past, it will be in the form of a letter to my son, who has hung around for 8 meaningful years!

Dearest Winkie....

Yesterday we celebrated your birthday. I know you are always going to be remember it in your own way, and through your own words, which maybe I will publish here if you sit down long enough to write, but for the sake of sentiment and posterity, I'd like to remember it again too.

It was fun, wasn't it? Sure, things are always more rose-tintedly fun on hindsight, but it was fun! It wasn't perfect in execution, given the short term planning, but the way it turned out was perfect, given exactly the short term planning. The idea was born in my head the evening of the 13th. By then, I had already started gathering little presents for you, and I started thinking of how we could give it to you. We could stack it all together in a nice little mound and have you go at it. Or we could hide it in little places and have you find it. Or, better still, we could get the whole family involved in your treasure hunt and have them also on the edge of their seats as you raced to a nail biting finish. Aaaah! Yes! This last plan is so much better. But so little time! And 2 action packed evenings on the 13th and 14th as we took the train to downtown to meet your father there and hang out in the big city! I was almost going to cancel on the 14th plan, when Appa convinced me that I would have enough time on the train to think and write, and enough inspiration by the lake, in the 72 degree breeze of a perfectly beautiful summer evening. That did it for me. The prospect of creating some happiness in that setting, while you and Thambi played on the grass.

Of course, ideas are always more romantic as vapours in the head, than what actually takes place. Like for instance, how I could barely manage 3 uninterrupted minutes on the train, before you or Thambi would have your next fight and want me to negotiate. Or how the wind suddenly turned cold by the lakefront and made our heads feel heavy from the onslaught of it. And how we had to hurry off from there quite prematurely, and head back to the station to make the next train.

And how I slumped to bed exhausted and wondering how I would ever manage to pull it off, with coordinating with all the family overseas. But it happened. I managed to come up with the rhymes and riddles and sent them out with precise instructions on the 14th, so by 15th morning, most everyone was clued in. And your first clue was taped to a balloon by your bed. You saw it, but didn't read it, and came downstairs to ask me about it. I told you it had mystery, but you'd have to wait to explore it until your Dad and brother woke up and were ready to bear witness to the proceedings. Oh and filming it all, wouldn't have hurt too. And so, a good 1 and 1/2 hours later, you began. Rhymes and riddles, pointers and clues. You went from one to the next, following precise directions and enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Family were on call, waiting for the phone to ring, their riddle to give, on the screen in front of them. I think they enjoyed it too. The miles and distances shrunk, as they were actively involved in your search at different points of the timeline. And you spoke to each and everyone with excitement and anticipation, as their riddles also led you to unearth your little waiting gifts.

Allow me a small digression here. I recently finished reading 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch. (For those who haven't read it yet or seen that video on youtube, now's the time!). In it he talks about the head fake or indirect learning, a football term. How you think you're learning one thing, but it actually points to something else. How your opponent may nod to one side, but actually mean the other side and is trying to throw you off in the process. Or something to that effect. Well, this whole process of a treasure hunt had its head fake too. While it was a fun expedition of using your brain cells and not knowing what was around the next bend, to me it was all about how you would get one more chance to bond with the family from this distance away. And how they would get a chance to be part of your orbit too. It was a way to get you to talk and communicate more, given your oftentimes reticent nature. And I think it helped to draw you out a little bit. And most of all, I hope you got that at these important junctures in your life, it is not things wrapped in colour and tinsel, but people who matter, whose wishes matter, whose blessings count. But if  that flew right past your head now, no worries. The way I figure it, we still have another 10 more years of being under the same roof, for it to be drilled in. And I can be quite the tiger mother on that count! :)

So by the time we finished that little game (not!) it was noon. A quick note for you to remember what presents you got : A herbie car from Thambi, A Kinetix bridge construction set from UK, the game 'Spot it' from grandparents, 'Kanoodle Solitaire' from an uncle and a set of stacking tops from your other grandparents. The final clue told you to use up all your tooth fairy dollars at the store. And you knew which store and for what. So that's where we headed after lunch at Dakshin. To get you a swanky new bike, a long time in coming from the bike we got you 4 years back. You rode it, turned it and braked it and everything was good to go. You also decided to name it Blazer! And even there, we tucked that finall riddle which told you that one more present was on its way to you in the mail. But more of that when it comes!


In the evening we lighted up eight candles on the cake and brought it to you. It wasn't a surprise, because Thambi, excited and eager, shouted it out to you and so you knew, but then it was obvious anyway, wasn't it? There wasn't a lot of elaborate design process this time, and we went with a simple cake of summer flip flops for the summer baby that you are! You blew on it, though I don't think you remembered to wish on anything, and then we bit into it and it was delicious!

At the end of that day, as I tucked you into bed, you told me you had had the best day of your life. That it was so much of fun with the treasure hunt, and so interesting a way to do it. I am glad you thought of all the riddles Amma, you said. I am glad I thought of it too Kanna. And gladder still that I pushed myself to do it, when I could have settled for the even simpler option. Life is certainly more flavorful, when peppered with extraordinary moments such as these, when you have an acute sensation of enjoying all that it has to offer. One such moment for me, I think will be this final picture (top). We were both standing outside the restaurant, waiting to go in, when you asked me to click one of you. Click my birthday picture Amma, you said, and posed very sweetly. That slight smile playing at the corner of your lips, is one of your rarer varieties. And you looked dashing and with such nicely groomed hair. And what I liked most was your taking charge of it. You decided the spot, the pose and even that a picture should be clicked. And this is the new you. One who is slowly taking over the reins of his life, and taking responsibility for his actions and taking charge of a situation with a quiet strength and aura of control. I love these new colours of you that emerge from your young boyhood self, and I am grateful indeed at the prospect of all the years that lie ahead to unearth them all, a benediction of the highest Grace.

Happy date birthday yesterday, and Happy Star Birthday tomorrow, my champ!

Lovingly and best-est-ly!
Amma.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Yearbook!

2nd grade may be remembered for many things out here....but it will go down in Winkie's history as the first year ever that he got his own yearbook!

Yes, it took me that long to order one for him at the end of a schoolyear, for that is how much of a non-school savvy Mom I have been. To have missed out on what is obviously a very looked-forward to school tradition for any kid....well it happened very naturally and year after year with us, because I just didn't *get* how important it was. Or what a small simple pleasure it is. And I may have just given it a miss this year too, had it not been for some mute sixth sense, that made me a wee bit more proactive and just in the nick of time, which can only be attributed to Divine Providence.

As expected, it was a last minute thing, because I did not order it when the forms came in. Nope. I thoughtlessly relegated all those school communications as non-important, and not concerning me, until yesterday when an email came, announcing that the last few copies were still available for those who wanted it. That's when a lightbulb flickered somewhere. But it was not until the next morning, that I felt compelled to do anything about it.

As I woke Winkie up this morning, I asked him what a yearbook was. Because I wasn't really sure. And the fellow who had been fast asleep a moment before, sprang up from bed and started explaining how a yearbook had pictures of everyone and how everyone signed it, and how he had never had one all these years of school and I swear I almost saw his eyes well up with tears. His serial number is 8 in class, and he portrayed the scene where all the numbers were called out one by one.....1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...and just as it came to 7, he would hold his breath and start wishing desperately that somehow, this time, his number would not be skipped. 7, 9...! And his heart would break just a little tiny sliver of a piece and mine into a thousand as I heard the melancholy in his voice.

The feeling that he had just described was not new to me. In fact, I have had several of those times in my school life, where I always felt apart from the rest of the crowd in some way....not quite belonging, but wishing desperately to be ordinary, just like everyone else, to fit in, to belong. So as I pictured that little tender heart inside him, wishing for that same thing, but instead facing the non-fairytale ending that is biting reality, I did feel a lot of heartache. In fact, I couldn't stand knowing that I had been the cause of such a bitter disappointment for him.

I realised then, with extreme clarity, how having a child really is about feeling the pain and happiness of another, as your own, and with a heightened of sentiment if possible. Just for that short period, you do lose a sense of your limited self and expand and grow more open to the feelings that course through another's veins, as if it were your own. And it hurts. Both the pain and the pleasure of it.

So hearing the story of his number being skipped everytime, did it for me and I hurried downstairs to act on that email. I frantically typed a reply asking for an extra copy, feeling positive that this story could still have its fairytale ending after all. Winkie's class was getting theirs signed that day, and I might just be able to get it to him on time. Such was my daydream. It lasted all of 10 minutes when I checked my email again only to read that all those extra copies had been sold out. Uh oh! But she did go on to mention that she might be getting some extra copies over the weekend and I could call back in to check the next day, but it was first come first serve basis. I said I would call back and try my luck.

And that, I thought, was that. This was Thursday, and now he wouldn't get it on time for last full day of school (Monday), so I might as well break the news to him. When he came down all ready and packed, I gave him the grim tidings and his face fell a little, but I made it up to him, by giving back to him his camera, which had been confiscated as a previous punishment, and which he was to get back only near his birthday. But now he was getting it a whole 10 days early. He was stunned and happy and joyous and excited. And he clicked and smiled and was his usual cheery, breakfasting self. And I marvelled at how easy it still was to distract him and make him happy.

Once I got to work, I checked my mail again. And once more, there was a mail from this lady who I will henceforth call an angel, for that is the role she assumed in all of this. She wrote saying, she had the PTA copy on her, and would I mind having that instead, to save on all the time of waiting? It had a little scratch on the side, she said, but other than that, looked as good as new. And I could pick it up this evening. I jumped at this sudden glimpse of a rainbow in the sky, and sent manifold blessings her way, as I hurriedly affirmed the plan of action (lest that be on a first come first served basis too...:D ), and didn't breathe a word of the same to Winkie when he got back home from school. He mentioned, without any pain how he had signed in all his friends' yearbooks and then went on to enjoy his camera some more.

Come 8:00 PM, I covertly left the house and drove over to Angel's home. She was there in her backyard, watering the plants and gave me the book and showed me the scratch, adding...I figured the PTA doesn't really need a yearbook, but this kid would! What a sweetheart!

I owe her a nice email right now, after I hit publish, telling her about my son's reaction, because boy! is it worth telling. I came home, hiding the book very cleverly beneath a bag, and he asked me where I had been, and as I was chattering away, I also managed to get the camera out and R hugged him at that precise time, to make it look like I was getting a picture of the 2 of them, and I slipped him the book over Winkie's unsuspecting head, and when they broke apart, Winkie caught sight of it, and started, then gasped and grabbed it, exclaiming....hey, that's a yearbook!


And his face! Oh his face! I will never forget that smile for as long as I live, and now you will see it too, thanks to all my expert planning! :D By now it had dawned on him that this had been planned and he gushed and went quiet and gushed and went speechless, all in turns. When he gushed, he said over and over how he couldn't believe it, and when he went quiet, it was to pore over the pages of his very own, very first yearbook and look for his class page. When he gushed again, it was to say that this was the best thing ever, and I know it was, and when he went quiet again, it was to flash the most heartful smile at me, and give me a hug of big thanks. It seems that all the kids would bring their books back to school tomorrow to get it signed by their teacher and the 2nd graders from the other classes, and he would very well have an opportunity to get his signed too. And there was a kid in his bus who hadn't got his copy either and they both talked about who among them was going to get his first, like in a contest, and by jove, Winkie wins this one doesn't he???!!!

It is 10:00 PM as he finally went off to sleep, tucking all his excitement under his pillow, with a lot of difficulty, gushing all the while of how tomorrow was going to be his best day EVER!

And as for me.........well, my heart is full after all that emotional breaking. And I feel keenly how much Winkie deserves this happiness, for he asks of so little from us, always accepting a lot of our no's, well meant as they are, with a wonderful forbearance. And I reflect on how sweet is the joy of gain for a little heart, when bitterly difficult has been the pain of denial. Winkie has been through a tremendous low and then a giddying high, which has helped him live out the pulse of life. But this doesn't call for a repeat performance of the same feat next year. Of that I am sure. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A 5 minute flash into the future...

Spring break is here, and with just the right sense of timing and perception, the boys have decided that now is the time they will get along well together, without too many of their customary 5 minute interval clashes. A quiet afternoon, after work, and I am lying on the couch with this vague headache, which I cannot shake off over the past 2 days, which feels like its come on because of some toxic build-up. The boys who had been playing upstairs all this while are now playing around me. Not too loud, not too quiet, just the kind of noise level that doesn't rattle your nerves.

I have a shawl over my eyes to block out the uncomfortable light and am trying for a short nap, hoping it will kick off this nagging discomfort. But before my mind can release its hold and let me rest, a few thoughts come swimming up to the surface. And even as I am about to be caught up in them, I realise its happening, but feebly.

Sometimes, thoughts are so darn powerful, that while they happen, they have this truly dreamlike quality, making events, past and a forecasted future, seem so real, so tangible, and evoke emotions that are just as raw, that you know that you are bound to feel them at some point. Right then, I was having a sudden and intense perception of what it would feel like the day Winkie, as the first born, left the home nest, for his future. In a short 2 minutes, the scene played out, very very real, and the feeling of that goodbye, and the consequent emptiness in the house washed over me. I had always believed that I had a certain innate sense of detachment within me, which would only grow over time, to help me deal with that particular life situation, with a very stoic back. And perhaps, I still will. But I realised that I was also going to feel a lot more than I think I am capable of right now. The desolation of the children leaving the house, one by one, will surely find its way into my heart as well, and for that second, I even felt what that was like.

Disturbed out of my sleep mode, I threw off the shawl and looked around for the kids. They were still there some 10 metres away, playing some game conjured up from their imagination. But right then, even that distance was too much for me, and I called out to Winkie to come sit with me. He walked over, delighted by this sudden spotlight of my loving attention on him, and cuddled around my feet. I told him about my catnap dream, and he smiled some more. I told him that I wanted to enjoy all that I could of him for the time he was with me. He said ok, and cuddled some more. I turned my head, to see Thambi standing there, looking a bit left out and waiting to be called too. The instant I signalled, he bounded over and cuddled in the quickly narrowing space on the sofa. Before long, they were back in the thick of their game. In it, they had just escaped the chase of the shark in the water (the floor) and were now safely in the boat (the couch), and rowing hard to get to safety. Thambi tried to get Winkie to go upstairs with him, but for the moment that was out of the question as Winkie told him "I am staying here with Amma forever."

Slowly, the intensity of even that moment passed, and as my eyes closed under the pressure of my recent thoughts, the boys rowed themselves safely to shore, and made their way up the island, to their room. For the moment, all crisis had been successfully averted, theirs and mine, as I gave in to the luxury of sleep.

Old clothes, new memories!

Yesterday morning, early enough by most standards, I was suddenly seized with the urge to do something that had been in the back of my mind for awhile. Which negates that it was a spontaneous action in the first place, but the early morning timing of it certainly was. I hurriedly punched in the numbers to deactivate the alarm system, got into my flip flops and thump-thumped my way down the stairs to where I knew I would most likely find it. There were a couple of boxes on top which I had to lift out of the way first. But underneath them all, there it was. Just as I thought it would be. Covered ever so carefully in plastic sheet on top, blocking out any source of dust or moth. I eagerly prized away the covering, and laid my hands on one single object on the top, lifted it out and measured it with my eye. Yup! It was about right. And when I looked inside at a tag, it said '3T'. This was it!

All of Winkie's 4-5 year clothes, carefully sorted some 3 years ago, the good pants, the good shirts, the still nice tees, and all laid neatly into this box, and covered up and put away so that in another 3 years, when the need for it was born, it could be opened again.

And as I found it again and opened it yesterday, I realised how intensely delightful this process has been for me. How I love buying clothes for their wardrobe, careful of price, mindful of colour and cognizant of my own tastes and preferences. How much of freedom I have in this enterprise and how it is my choice that they carry out on their backs, every single day. Its pretty amazing, when I get down and think about it. How much of delight they take when they have a new shirt to wear one fine day. To this day, I have never heard one negative remark, except for when only one kid has a new thing to wear, and the other doesn't, because the need doesn't call for it.


It is one of my simple pleasures every morning, to pick out something for them, and make sure the creases are out before they get it on. Winkie still hasn't reached that point of separateness where he wants to choose for himself. He is happiest when I do it for him. I love to see the end result of that everyday, as they walk in hair neatly combed, lip balm glistening on their lips, a dash of vibhuti faintly on their foreheads. Winkie almost always sneaks up on me quietly, to take me by surprise and contains his excitement at showing himself off with a very shy smile, which gets shyer when he notes the appreciation on my face. The little guy on the other hand comes tumbling down the stairs, every footstep marked and pronounced and even before I see him, I hear the ta-da!, in grand announcement! But quiet or all-out-there, they both wait for that same appreciative glance and exuberance from me in turn and I love to give it.


The novelty of a new shirt wears off sometime after the second use of it, and I think I say that more from my p.o.v, (for Winkie is still in raptures over his Mario PJ's bought 2 months back!), and it definitely doesn't last as long as that eventual day when the hem of the pantline is a good but sudden 2 inches short of the feet. When did this happen?, I wonder. I swear it fit him just last week! And after the next round of laundry, I put it away in a corner, the place where everything they have outgrown goes, happy that the rate at which this pile grows is still at a very manageable level for me. :) If its Thambi's, then 'Goodwill' is the usual recipient, after all the quality sorting and that goodbye isn't at all hard for me. And if its Winkie's.....ahhh! if it's Winkie's, then I linger just a little bit longer over those....knowing that there will come a day when I see it again. That when I see it again, it will be to clothe the form of yet another that is a piece of my heart.


And so, after that long winded and protracted attempt at sharing exactly what opening that box means to me...let me just say that yesterday was also the day we christened the first of those clothes. Thambi was pretty thrilled that he had a whole new box of clothes just for him. I was thrilled that I would be reliving some of those yester-memories, while anticipating the ones up ahead. And this feeling lasts all through the use of the box, until the very last garment is extracted and worn. And the faint aroma of it still hangs in the air, for many more wash cycles after. And so here he is, wearing the sweater Winkie wore to his 1st grade music concert, which shrunk in that very first wash and now fits the little imp nicely, with enough wiggle room too. Its amazing how much of personality he can insert into them and make those older memories truly a thing of the past!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love your brother!

1-19-11

Dearest Winkie,


It is confirmed. You are a letter writer. And believe it to be the best mode of communication. Especially when talking doesn't work. Or complaining. Or begging. Or anything. When your brother turns a deaf ear to all your spoken pleas, you write to him. And put it in his mailbox. Never mind that he doesn't read a single string of words yet. Never mind that even when I read it to him, he smiled most understandingly, as if he 'got' what I was saying, and went right back to his 'troubling' ways! None of that matters, because all you wanted to do was write and say it and get it out of your system.

I still remember that somber look on your face when you very purposefully strode over to me, to ask if you could tear a page out of my little lined notebook. You wanted to write a letter, you said. I nodded absently, because me and your father were busy brainstorming on how we were going to transform the toy-room into a boys' haven. I know now which pen you used, by the colour and mark of the ink. As an aside, let me tell you, that this pen gives you a very good hand. Your handwriting was unbelievable to me when I first saw the letter. Beautiful!

Anyways, 10 minutes later, you were back in the room, striding even more purposefully now, to his little mailbox. He was oblivious to all the goings on of course, as was your father. But somehow, in the middle of all that idea-throwing, I managed to catch the look on your face. Firmly set jaw, flashing eyes, and this determined look on your face....as if saying, There, that does it! You also gave me a curt nod as our eyes briefly met. And then you were gone.

Today, when some semblance of order is coming back into the room, my eyes happened to fall on Thambi's mailbox, and I suddenly remembered what was tucked inside it. Your father was there too, and we excitedly opened it, waiting to see what special words your mind had concocted. And we were not disappointed! I've already talked about the beautiful hand, so we'll skip that. But do you know how to spell the word 'thorough'? For that is what you are. One look at the neatly inscribed date on top, is enough to rest my case. Learn the meaning of this word, for you have already learnt what it is to be thorough. :)

Emphatic. That's another word buddy. How you emphatically stress on the 'If you stop troubling..' and the 'I will give you a surprise...' bit. Over and over again in a loop, such that he will get the message. Loud and clear. No scope of confusions. :).

Efficient. I love how you have used one sentence to convey 2 very separate things. You may have forgotten a comma there, or it may be a deliberate ruse to convey the double meaning. Love, your brother...you say, in a typical way to end a letter. And Love your brother, you tell him, keeping in mind the tone of authoritative request in the rest of your letter. Its brilliant how you hit two birds with one stone. No...no....we are not  actually killing any birds here, love. Its a saying. Just saying. :)

Cognizance. Your singing off as Anna was a masterstroke. Especially after using the word 'brother' just before it. Its like you remembered how I have always stressed your importance in the family to Thambi, as his Anna. How I have always insisted that he call you that. By signing off thus, you are re-iterarting to him that you are his older brother, and he better believe it! And like an Anna, you will care for him and love him in all the ways that he should be loved and cared for. That respect matters. That names, while beautiful, cannot be half as charming as the relationship that precedes it. Somehow, you get that and I dig that about you. Now let us hope that Thambi shows that same cognizance. :)

Finally, let me tell you that what I liked most about your letter is that you wrote a letter. I love that you love tearing paper out of my precious notebook, and dishing out my favoritest pen out of the cup, to string together the words of your intent. I love that you are using the mailbox gifted to us long back, that I am still not using with you. I love that I get to keep and store your precious letter in a number of ways, in a keepsake box, through the soft copy picture here and through my own letter, right back at ya!

Love your mother,
Amma.

P.S. - Please remind me to get you your own stationery! Stat!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A lot of heart!

We spent an hour of this morning at the nursing home. Ever since we returned from our India trip last year, this is the first month we have made the visit back. The reasons are quite frivolous of course, and I am only sorry that we lost all those months of opportunity to spread a little cheer to some of the residents there. Even this morning, some lazy feelings kept surfacing every few minutes, but I am glad some greater resolve just pushed it all aside, and we were out the door by 9:45 AM.

The activity today was that of making a very festive looking pop-up New Year card. I looked around the room for MaryAnne, my regular resident, but she was nowhere in sight. So we picked out our supplies and headed to the nearest table. There were 2 old ladies sitting opposite each other and they were friends, who liked sitting at the same table.

The initial moments of being at a table are usually a little awkward, unless you have formed some rapport with them beforehand. Because otherwise, there is a bit of hesitation in how to approach them, what to say, without sounding patronising, when not to overdo a particular something etc etc. I always feel the weight of those awkward moments, so sometimes its just easier to sport a simple smile and stay silent, while allowing my mind to settle a bit. Most of the time though, any opening line gets a welcome response and a sweet smile from all of them. These are people who welcome this change of scene in their life, and are grateful, in this beautiful dignified way, of your making the time to come there and be with them, and in turn are very generous with their affection and their smiles. Sometimes, I think they're doing us the bigger service, by the natural way in which they put people like me at ease.

Now Winkie doesn't talk much on his own, and Thambi was in his silent mood and R wasn't around just then, so I just launched right in and asked them if they'd like a New Year card made. Rosemarie, on the left smiled her response. As did her friend opposite her. I gave Winkie some instructions and started doing Thambi's, while he slowly started to get more interested. And thus we went on in that manner, and over the industry of action with a purpose, some of the ice broke, as they wanted to know how old Thambi was and how many children I had, and Rosemarie shared that she was a great-grandmother to 22 great grandkids. Woohoo! What a number! In all her encouragement, I began to open up too, and a lot of that initial awkwardness worked itself out. I patted her arm from time to time, because that's something that's always heard, and always understood.

But I think the real love affair for her was with Winkie. She kept cooing encouragingly to him as he ploughed on patiently with the card, making it pop-up in just the right place, decorating his heart in interesting ways, adding flowers and petals and leaves, and a greeting on the cover and lots of nice words inside, addressing it to her name. At first he wasn't sure what to write inside, and asked me. You could fill it up with the words that you want to convey as a wish for her New Year, I said. But he didn't just take that at face value. He paused and thought to himself and started writing. And if I remember right, he wished that she stay well always and always have good company. I was really touched that he really thought about her life in that nursing home, and choose the words that would have some meaning for her. It was amazing. And more than me, she was prouder. Babbling happily over and over again, about his impeccable handwriting to her friends at the table, telling me over and over again what a good boy he was.

Just for that, I am really glad we went today. No doubt, someone else may have made her a very nice card and passed on some good wishes, but I am glad it was these particular words that she received. And that 2 generations, separated by 2 generations in between, had a chance to interact and share some kindness and lots of smiles. Everytime I am there, I come away with this sad sort of ache in my heart. Because old people need to be around young people. And young people need to be around old people. (And oh, please God, let me remember this when You call upon me to do my duty!). Energy and wisdom need to feed off of each other. Frailty and suppleness need to have that chance to appreciate one another. Despair needs to be wiped out with the exuberance and innocence of youth, and growing pains can be comforted best  by the experience of the old. Its the natural law of life. And I don't know and have no right to judge the varying life situations that forces these old people to come and live together away from their families and their homes. Maybe, many of them are happier doing it, but mostly all I sense is this sadness. Disenchanment. Bitterness even. That makes it hard to make conversation with them sometimes. How can you ask them how they've been, if everyday sort of morphs unintelligibly into the next, with no real variation? If even the simplest of tasks is a struggle? How can you ask about their families and children, if it means making them remember some awful memories? How long can you stay away from the 'real' conversation, and come away not having connected at all? How can you say 'see you next month' at the end, when their time in this earth may have come to an end by then?

Sometimes, the questions seem endless and agonising. And I don't know what to do. So I just smile my most natural smile and look into their eyes, every chance I get, so they can at least sense that I am happy to be there, right now, even if I haven't figured out a whole lot else. And sometimes, its just worth it, when right at the end, as we are about to leave and we are waving our goodbyes, Rosemarie, stops me to tell me something. She holds her right hand over her heart, looks into my eyes, a very kind twinkle in them saying....he has a lot of heart, that boy. And she turns her head to watch Winkie affectionately, right until we pass out of her sight. Yes. A lot of heart. That's exactly what we all need!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Year's resolve, and some tidbits from the old year...

When the new year began, I had Winkie sit down and reflect on the year past and write down some of those reflections. He listed out per month, as best as he could remember, all the things that happened that were significant. Then he wrote about what he had learnt. And then he wrote about his resolution for the coming year.

Now written out like that, the idea sounds fancy. But in effect, he just ended up writing about whose birthday it was in each month. One one line on that note, and that was that. I had to laugh, for he is just so eternally lazy when it comes to expressing his thoughts. I resort to a lot of writing endeavors with him, simply because I cannot get him to open his mouth to speak about an emotion or a thought that easily. At least when you write, words can tumble out, so I can make sense of them.

Anyways, coming back to the point, he learnt that the new year always starts out fun and that Swami is always in him. That first was a nice revealing thought. The second part...mmm....not so much. Because it was the very same thing I had said to him as an example, to illustrate my point of what could be a resolution. That he could promise not to walk off in a huff everytime I start my lecturing. :) Lazy fellow picked up that same line and made it his resolution. Oh well, I plan on holding him to it, as revenge! :D

But looking back upon his year a bit....I would say that its been a challenging one for him. Especially the second half. Remember that friend from first grade who turned into a bit of a bully? Well, even though he ended up not being in the same class as him in 2nd grade, he still caught up with Winkie during recess. And all the politics began to play out there. Now trying to write an account of this is a confusing thing for me, because Winkie has this very annoying love-hate relationship with this fellow. He likes him when he is good and plays nice, and he is upset by him to the extreme, when he plays it rough. And that happens with a very regular frequency. So, on any particular day, it was extremely hard for me to figure out if he was really being troubled by this boy, or was it just a case of two boys having a bad day of play. But e.v.e.r.y single day, I would end up hearing about him on some plaintive note. A did this, he did that, he didn't let me play with my other friends, he chases me even when I tell him not to, he tells on me for things I didn't do, he makes fun of me with other kids, and then one fine day....he choked me by catching my throat real tight.


For 6 patient months, we talked about it everyday at home, me trying to understand what exactly Winkie's feelings were, and Winkie trying out different strategies to get this boy off his case. From trying to devise a fair play method, where he played with him one recess and with his other friend the next, to ignoring him completely when he was being mean, to writing notes for a box in his classroom, for his teacher to read and take note of, to standing up for himself with this boy who is twice his height and weight, we tried it all together.  But that last misdemeanor was really the final straw. For the next day, Winkie flatly refused to go to school and I could sense a bit of terror in him. He cried and cried and cried, and that quite worked me up. I called up his teacher, and she promised me that this boy would be detained from recess and dealt with, while Winkie could safely play with his friends. For a few days, that boy didn't show up for recess at all, I believe, and then there were many snow days when everyone stayed in. And then of course, the Christmas break happened. Yesterday, he was back at school. And as it turns out, he played with Big A again during recess. I asked him why, and he said that he has learnt his lesson and is being nice to me. He knows how to be good now. So today I played with him, and tomorrow I will play with my other friend. Its fair right, Amma?


Yes, it certainly sounds fair, though a part of me is angry as to what hold this child has over Winkie that he can't cut loose fully. Why can't Winkie just let this boy be and play with the rest of his friends and avoid any future trouble? But I guess, everyone can be given another chance. I just hope this child is worthy of it. Whatever it is, its all in good learning for Winkie I guess, for the world ahead, and to test his own strengths and to know that he is never really alone. Even when he is sitting in a playground full of kids whom he can't play with because Big A won't let him, he is still not alone. Of that I assured him. How could he be, when the wind still blew and the sun still shone, and pleasant voices rung in the air? That is your God, I told him, and as long as you have that, you have everything.