Journey Ring

Dear Mom,

20161011_173351Remember this ring you bought me?  You bought it from that jewelry shop that used to be at Park Royal- the North side of the mall.  Boy, that mall has totally changed since you’ve been gone. Sometimes, I really hate the changes.  Too much changes and then I feel I’ve lost places I could go to to conjure up more memories or feelings from when we use to just hang out at malls or restaurants. I know the memories should just stay with me, but I feel like the changes just remind me more that you’re gone.  And that is not something I need more reminders of.

At least I have this ring. So… you actually bought me a gold ring with an amethyst jewel in the center.  You knew that amethyst was my birthstone? Or was that just coincidence?  Well, I have such slender fingers. So do you, so DID you. 😦  But maybe not as small as mine. So I think what happened was that you brought the ring home for me and it was too big?  That’s when we went out to the shop to resize the ring.  And while we were telling the sales guy what we wanted, you must have put on the ring, on your own hand.  And I really liked it on you. So did you decide you should keep it then, or did I tell you that you should?

I always had to convince you to keep anything for yourself. You were always giving and thinking of others first.  But it looked beautiful on you- that amethyst ring. And you still wanted to give me a ring. I must have mentioned somewhere in the conversation that I really liked silver. The sales guy was on it, and he pulled out this little ring, a silver one, and it had these five little gem stones in it.  It was pretty, but I wasn’t totally sure about it.  Until, he told us the story behind it and its name.

“It’s called a Journey Ring,” he said to both of us. And as he pointed to each little gem, he said that they represent different journeys in our lives. And that the pattern of going from a small gem to a bigger and bigger one was supposed to represent going from one journey to deeper and deeper ones.

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You smirked and said something like, “It’s perfect for my daughter because she is ALWAYS on some journey.”  Haha! Oh my God, Mom, that was a good one.  And then the equally funny sales guy put his hand over yours and said, “Mom, we are ALL on a journey.”

I found it hilarious that he called you “Mom”- this tall, Asian Jewelry salesman in a crisp, classy suit.  I wanted to say, “Wait, she’s MY mom,” but of course I didn’t.  I know he was trying to be flattering and connect with us to make the sale. And actually, he did a good job of it, because I was sold by the story behind the ring and I loved its name. And I think you just liked that I liked it.

Did we get it resized there? I think we must have needed to. It seems strange that it would have fit perfectly.  That rarely happens with rings on my hands.

I never knew how significant that moment would be, how it suddenly arose as one so deeply etched in my mind and heart.  I was excited about having a ring from you and one that represented this travel bug I always seemed to have, and this search for something deeper.  Excited about all the future journeys I would be going on or that were waiting for me.  What I didn’t want to face was having to continue without you.  That is not something I was consciously thinking about at that time.  Because I know that whenever the idea did creep into my mind, I couldn’t stay with it.  It frightened me so much. I had to always try to run away from it or just brush it aside.

Since then, I have come to learn that there are many types of journey rings. It is not that unique of a name.  But my ring is unique because it came from you and holds the story of that day for me.

I’ve been going on a few more journeys than normal since you’ve been gone.  This time, they were all either in search of a connection to you, or in search of answers and maybe to escape the reality of your not being here.

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I have learned over and over that it is not something I can escape.

I have tried to imagine inviting you on the journeys, to accompany me and see all these new lands and people and sites and sounds.  But no matter where I go, no matter how far, or who I meet, I cannot fill the space that is left inside of me that only you and your voice and touch and your peace can fill. I am still looking for proof of your peace.

I don’t know how to find it. And when I am away, I feel guilty for not having made more time to go on and experience these trips with you. To experience new foods, cultures, clothing, and music that exist around the world with you.  Traveling has given me new insights, taught me so much, made me come back home with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated heart.  THIS is what you needed.  And I feel awful for not having helped you have those experiences. I shared this feeling of guilt with an acquaintance I met while I was away recently.

He told me that I no longer need to feel guilty because “Your mother is going with you now to all of these places.  She is probably thanking you for going on these journeys. Because all that you experience and see and feel through them now, she is able to share with you.”

I would like to believe that he is right. I really would. I just don’t know anymore. And I still am always looking for proof. I am sorry, Mom, for not taking more journeys with you, for not seeing more of the world with you.

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Places are changing around me, even people and areas around home are transforming into newer buildings and businesses.  But I will hold on to the little things, like my journey ring from you, to remind me of the journey that I was blessed to have with you.  Even if it didn’t involve flying to another continent, or enough shopping trips in other countries, I know that my best and most meaningful journey was the one spent with you.  All the moments, all the conversations, all the silences, all the laughs and even the tears.  The best journey of my life was you. Thank you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guiding Light- A Gift

Dear Mom,

A few days ago, I bought my very first Christmas gift for this year.  It’s for you.

20161126_120825.jpgIt’s a snowglobe.  Remember how much you loved them? You would always buy one for someone else in the family- your granddaughters or me, or even some of the new babies that your nieces and nephews were having.  I remember some of your favorite ones were from Shoppers. The snowglobes with the place to slide a photo into.  I could never figure out how to do it. I remember trying once, to get a photo in, and it just wasn’t working, so I guess I gave up.

I am so sorry, Mom, for not trying harder with those little things and also the bigger things. I know I didn’t show enough appreciation each time you bought another one of those globes for someone else.  I think I just didn’t think the other person would appreciate it enough or was old enough to appreciate it. And I didn’t like seeing you only spend money on others. I wanted you to get something for yourself.

But I see now, that you saw the magic in those little globes.  They are magical, the way they sprinkle little bits of sparkle and something like fairy dust into a little bubble and you can watch it over and over again.  It is beautiful. You were and are beautiful for being able to see that and wanting to give it back to others. To give people magic, beauty and to remind them of the importance of simplicity- to cherish the little things.

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My friend Michelle, actually had a dream about a beautiful snowglobe scene with you in it, just a few months ago. She said you were so happy and you were sharing that happiness with her, maybe to tell me about it.  She described the scene as fun, and free, and shimmering- like the sparkle of new fallen snow.

I know you didn’t like the cold, or walking the snow, but you and I both had a love of snow because of Mama. Remember how she used to make little animals out of the snow that fell in our front yard? Or course you do, you would remind me of it years later, from time to time.

So I have been searching for a beautiful snowglobe for you for awhile now.  Some have been too touristy looking- with bears or deer or Vancouver’s city life.  Or the globes have been too small, or are those kind that have a flat side, which I don’t like. And others just seemed inappropriate- too religious, too generic, too much like something I could just pick up in a souvenir shop anywhere.

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But finally the other day, I was walking by this florist shop and saw a few more unique snowglobes in their window.  For a few days, I kept showing up at the shop at the wrong times- when it had just closed.  But then I made it a point to find out their hours and get out to the shop to see if the snowglobes looked as beautiful in person as they did in the window. And sure enough, the one I had been eyeing for awhile, was still there. And guess what? Besides the sparkles that shower gracefully when you shake the globe even a little, there is music that plays. You just turn the dial on the bottom, like in a jewelry box, and this lullaby kind of music plays so peacefully and sweetly.

There is a figure in it- a young child, in a pink nightgown kind of dress, and she is on a sandy kind of surface. She is in bare feet.  And she is bending down to pick up a starfish. I just noticed that now, because you have to really look down into the globe to see it.

Maybe it is in reference to something religious. I don’t know .There is a painted figure in the background- standing on the beach with a shawl hanging on his shoulder. He is looking back at the child. And there is a faded scene of an ocean and lighthouse in the distance.

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Guiding Light. I bought it for you. But that’s what you will always be to me. I am sorry that it took me this long to acknowledge that that’s also what you have always been to me.  My light that shows me the way.  I am really counting on you more than ever now, Mom. I feel so lost without you. But I just have to believe that you are out there, or inside me, leading me to where I need to be and what I need to do.

It isn’t even December yet, but I always loved picking out gifts for you for Christmas. You are my number one – the person I think of first.  So even without you physically here, I couldn’t help get you a physical present. I will look to it- the music, the child, the words- and think of you even more each time I see it.

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Love you, Mom. I hate having another Christmas roll around without you.  I hope you are surrounded by lots of magic sprinkling down on you just like in the snowglobe, and that your inner child is exploring and creating and free to be happy and at peace.  I imagine you as the one in bare feet searching for treasures and starfish and enjoying the tranquility of the lapping of the waves.

Storytelling

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“Maybe mom planned that one.”

That’s what I texted your son when he messaged me to tell me that he and his family were on the same flight to LA as your sister’s family.  Neither of them knew that they were going to LA the same weekend. I knew, but I never really thought about them possibly being on the same flight or even leaving anywhere near the same day or same time.  So… it seemed like a pretty big coincidence. Then again, maybe there were only a select few flights that day so it was not that big of a deal.  Either way, I wanted it to be true.

I mean, I wanted you, Mom, to be able to ‘arrange’ those kind of cool coincidences in our lives.  That way, I could feel like you are okay, MORE than okay. I mean, if you are able to make big arrangements in our lives from way up wherever you are, then you have to be pretty comfortable and happy yourself, right?  I don’t know if I believe it is even possible. But I want to believe it. I want to believe that my mom can still sprinkle her magic touch over us even if she is not physically here. stories5

Maybe you know that our family hasn’t come together much since you have passed away. Maybe you wanted to create some opportunities for your son and his family and your sister and her family to catch up or at least just see each other to make sure they are okay. Maybe you thought your son need some Sunderji time, or that the Sunderjis needed a little Rajwani time, no matter how brief it might have been.

I try to pass this idea indirectly to your grand kids too.  “Guess what I have for you?” I messaged your eldest grandchild.  “Oreo cookies! But wait, they are not just any Oreos. They are Special Edition Mint Oreos!!!”

“Omg!!!” she messaged me back. “Where did you find them??!!!”

See, mom, I don’t know if you realize this but those mint Oreos you used to give your granddaughter- they are really really hard to find! I mean, sometimes Shoppers has them, but usually only in the colder seasons, and even then, they are really rare and you have to just be looking or you just miss them.  And your granddaughter remembers when you brought a WHOLE package of Oreos to Khane one day.  You told her you had something for her, and you opened your purse. And she still cannot figure out how you fit the whole package in that purse of yours. But she remembers that day clearly.  And has often told the story of how you pulled out the unopened package and made very apparent that you brought all those cookies just for her. We can’t seem to forget that now.  Oreos, especially the mint kind, are ingrained in us as a special present from mint-oreosyou. Funny how I could never have imagined how much something so ‘small’ like a packet of Oreos has now become so significant in our lives.

So I messaged your granddaughter back and told her that it was the strangest thing- because it was- how I came across that recent package of mint Oreos. See, it wasn’t even winter yet. In fact, it was later this summer.  And I was at Shoppers, looking for some snacks, and I saw regular packets of Oreos and then the green filling on one of the packages caught my eye.  And I realized that those were the mint Oreos that your granddaughter was talking about.  I couldn’t believe that they were right in front of me.  So of course, I wanted to grab at least once package. They were even on sale.  But then I noticed that it was the only package left.  It seemed a little strange.  But I didn’t ask any questions, and just figured one package was better than no packages.  Because actually, no packages of mint Oreos was what I was and still am usually faced with.  I almost thought your granddaughter was making them up until I saw this one package.

I bought it and still have it kept at home, waiting to give it to both of your granddaughters to share.  But I explained to the eldest that the next day, when I went to Shoppers to see if I could pick up some more packages, there were no new ones that came in.  And even the sales person told me that they usually don’t come in at that time of year. And I have never seen any more mint oreos every since.  Is this not strange to you, Mom? How did you find them so easily, way back when and…  maybe… this summer? Uh hem.

“I think maybe stories-6Laila Mama planted them there on the shelf for me to see, so that I would buy them for you,” I told your granddaughter.  It was like they were a present from you, through me, to give to her.  But it was also like a sign that you are okay, Mom, that you are doing great, working your magic from far away to let us know that you are actually not that far.  I try to convince myself that they are signs that you are still with us and this time, you can be with all of us at the same time, now that you have “special powers”.

Again, it’s storytelling. I know that. I know that not only am I telling these stories to others whom you loved, but I’m telling THEM the stories to try to convince MYSELF that they could be true.  That maybe, just maybe, there could be an ounce of reality in them.

I know it sounds crazy to many people.  Hey, it all sounds crazy to me too.  And I often become suddenly sad after I hear myself tell another story because it hits me how highly unlikely the story probably is.  It’s just a coincidence, my rational mind tells me.  It’s just what you want to believe but you have no proof, I hear myself tell myself.

But it’s all I seem to have right now, Mom. And if another little story gets me through another day or another hour or another moment without you, then I’m going to have to keep telling these stories because the alternative- not

believing at all- just makes living without you unbearable.

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My most recent story is one I tell myself every day actually.  It helps me get up in the morning, each time I am faced with the reality that this was not just all a nightmare, that you really are not here physically.  I try to remind myself that you can still help influence my day.  I actually tell myself that I would like you to relate to me how you want me to spend my day.  I take that picture of you and me from years ago- I take it from my window ledge near my bed and put it on the burgundy shelf near the kitchen- every morning as soon as I get up.  I move the picture away from the sunlight so it doesn’t start fading more than it already has.

Then I ask you, “What are we going to do today, Mom? Who are we going to talk to? What are we going to say?   And where are we going to go?” And then I try to feel throughout the day for any guidance on these answers.  Yeah, I pretty much pretend that I can feel you leading me throughout the day.  You become my intuition and instincts.  I try to listen for it. Sometimes, it seems to work. Other times, I break down wondering who I’m trying to fool.  Like the other day, I just cried as I asked the questions, and hugged our picture to my chest as I moved it away from the window.

But I still do it the next day, and the next day and the next, even if I am fully in tears while asking and totally in doubt about whether you could ever hear me.  I still ask the questions. I still imagine that we can plan the day together.  And I will continue to ask every day.

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Maybe one day, I will feel a more clear and definite answer, one that really seems to be coming from your voice and your heart.  Until then, the stories are going to keep coming, or I will keep creating them.  It’s kind of what gets me through right now- storytelling.  It’s my way of not allowing our story to come to an end.  I refuse to believe it is the end.

 

Canada Day- a piece of cake…

Dear Mom,

Canada Day just officially ended.  And I had it in the back of my head all day and probably even last night, that I should make sure I get out to Save On Foods to get a piece of that cake you loved.  It was the infamous Canada Day cake they served to all their customers at the North Vancouver location.

canada-day-fireworksI did go out there last year, and make sure to get a piece for you.  It was “for” you, or at least the gesture was, but even then, it was kind of anticlimactic.  I mean, it was the excitement and pleasure you showed on your face and in your voice that made those cake eating moments the most fun. But now, I don’t have you to share it with. So… maybe, deep down inside, I wasn’t making a huge effort to go and get a piece.  At the same time that it seemed like a ritual type thing I could stick to, it also felt really sad.  And I just didn’t know how much more sadness I could take today.

So, I didn’t make it.  What I did was once I was up and had gotten some energy to head out and face A Save On Foods alone, I decided to go to the nearest one I knew- which was near Cambie.  When I got there, I was happy to hear that they also serve the same kind of cake. However, I got there too late. And the woman at the customer service desk was kind enough to call the North Vancouver location for me.  They also said that they were just packing up the last of the cake, so I wouldn’t have made it.

How can such a small thing, something that almost seems ‘meaningless’ like a piece of cake, now have so much significance to me?  I think the thing is that you never asked for much from anyone. But if you ever did hint at wanting something, it was always a simple, little thing.  Something I could so easily do.  Like taking you to get a piece of

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Canada Day Cake at Save On, but, what really weighs heavy on me is that I didn’t always do it. I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was for you. How it would have just made your day.  And how now, my NOT having done it for you, especially the last Canada Day that you had, really just makes me feel so stupid.  You loved to see the parades and to have the cake.  You mentioned that you wanted to have some that day.  And I don’t remember what happened, or what I said. But I know I didn’t take you that year.  And I don’t ever remember taking you to the parade.

So now, Canada Day is tinged with a lot of regret for me.  On the one hand, I think of your most adorable face, smiling with cake in your mouth, so obviously enjoying each bite.  But on the otherhand, I think of how many years I could have helped to put that smile on your face over and over again. But sometimes, I chose not to take you.  And I am really sorry.  So so sorry.  You have no idea.

But I do want you to know that all those years I didn’t take you to the parade, it’s not like I was taking myself to the parade and leaving you out or not wanting to spend that time with you.  I just wasn’t out or up at that time. I wasn’t in the parade area and I didn’t make an effort for myself either.  I never got a chance to explain that to you.  But really, it’s not a good excuse. I should have been celebrating our lives in Vancouver, in Canada with you.

I should have been thank you every Canada Day, at least, if not every day, for coming out to Canada, and making a life for us here. You had to do so much to come here. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been. What a change in lifestyle. And how traumatic and sad it must have been to have been kicked out of the country you grew up in, in Uganda. To be kicked out of your home.

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You were so courageous to come here and have to leave everything behind. And just start over.  I know you did it for us.  I know it was so much harder and scarier and exhausting than you made it seem.  And I am so regretful that I never got a chance to tell you how grateful I am for what you did.  Mostly, I am regretful that I didn’t make more of an effort to SHOW you how grateful I am and how much you deserved to be treated with the most respect and generosity and caring.  I know it wasn’t easy what you went through. I know there are things that I will never have to go through- hardships that you went through- only because you made a better life for us coming here.  I am so grateful for my Indian background, for my mom’s East African roots, but also for her giving birth to me in Canada. I am grateful for being Canadian. I am grateful that you were able to come to Canada and have a safer, freer life here.  I am grateful forever grateful for you, Mom, the most extraordinary woman I will ever know.

Thanks for teaching me to enjoy and savor the little things, like a piece of Canada Day Celebration Cake.  It is hard to want to have it without you.  Sorry I missed it today.  Just as well, because it’s you I miss the most. And I’m not ready to enjoy the cake without the person that made it so meaningful.  Maybe next time.

Love you Mom. Happy Canada Day! Thank you for making me Canadian born and giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow and be safe and free as a citizen of this beautiful country. I wish you had had those same freedoms growing up.

My friend posted this article and video today.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-day-syrian-refugees-1.3661635

It made me cry along with the girl who was expressing her appreciation for being in Canada now.  She is a refugee and her and her family fled Syria during a time of war. How can I be so sensitive to a stranger’s  story of enduring very harsh conditions that I’m sure were devastating while she was back in her own home country, but not have realized that my mom and her family also fled really dangerous situation in their hometown.

It made me wonder what kinds of things you saw or heard or witnessed or feared while you were in East Africa. And that is a painful thought. You made it so easy for us to forget all that you went through back there. But that doesn’t mean you forgot.  And now I realize that just made you an even more loving Mom.  You tried not to burden us with any of what you went through. Maybe you blocked it out of your memory somewhat as well. But you still went through it.  And you deserved to be taken cared of especially after that.  I just wanted you to get all the love that you gave out back.  That’s my biggest regret. I could have given more, but I didn’t. I should have given more, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

All I can do now is show you how grateful I am now by living this life in Canada- of freedom and opportunities- in a way that will make you proud.  In a way that will make all you did for us worth it. And I promise I will keep remembering how lucky I am to be born and brought up here.  How lucky I am to be born from you.

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And guess what else Canada has to celebrate? Probably the finest Prime Minister we’ve had. And how fitting that he is warming hearts and celebrating Canada and helping more people like that Syrian family in the video being welcomed into our country.  Because if my understanding is correct, it was his father who helped you guys and other Ismailis come into Canada so smoothly.  Another reason I like Justin Trudeau. I know you would have REALLY liked him.

It’s still  shocks me that you’re not here to witness all of this.  I still can’t believe you’re gone.  But I’m trying to make you proud, Mom. It’s just hard without you by my side.  But I’m just going to keep believing that you are somewhere around me, …just in a different form now.

And I hope you’re allowed to have all the cake and chai you want, where you are, so that the Save On Cake is nothing compared to what you get to indulge in :-).

 

Birthday Queen

Dear Mom,

I bought a gift for you. I know I can’t really give it to you, but I wanted to tell you about it.

It’s a crown.  It’s a little one – a Pandora charm.  I pick a different charm for different special occasions ever since you passed away.  And the crown is for your birthday because you were the Queen of our family, really.

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You kept us all together, you cared for a protected us, you were Queen Mother, Queen Sister, Queen Daughter and deserving of being treated like royalty. I wish I had treated you with all the respect, admiration and love that you should have gotten all the time.

I didn’t even show much appreciation for the Pandora bracelet when you first gave it to me.  I loved that you gave it to me, but I was feeling badly that you spent so much money on me. And I wasn’t really a big fan of Pandora or charm bracelets.  At the time, I thought it might look a little tacky to wear all these little pieces on a bracelet.

But now it’s one of my favorite things to wear.  And it has become really precious to me.

From left to right in the picture, let me know tell you what is on each charm that I’ve put on the bracelet so far.

The three leaf clover I bought in Ireland when I wanted to take you with me to Paint the Town Green.  That’s the name of one of my favorite songs, from my favorite band- The Script. I’ll tell you more about that another time.  It’s also St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, so it’s fitting for that. I am a big fan of Ireland since The Script inspired me and I was able to visit their home town and see them perform there.  And now I’m kind of a sucker for Irish accents. We can talk about that more later too. 🙂

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But yeah, that’s the first charm on the bracelet.  the second one I bought to match the round green one that you bought me with the bracelet. The one I chose has a little more aqua marine colour in it, and I didn’t realize until much later that it has these four leaf clover shapes on it too. So it kind of matched the Ireland charm. I think I chose that one for your birthday last year, just after you passed away.

Then there’s the center piece of the bracelet- the dangling, silver oval frame shape that has the words “Loving Mother” inside.  I love that one! It’s so perfect for you.  I think I bought that one for Mother’s Day for you last year. In memory of you being the best mother I could have asked for.

Then there’s the crown I bought for you for your special day today.  I didn’t realize until last night that the engraving along the edge says Snow White. Oops. Oh well, maybe I can find something fitting about Snow White that might be able to connect to you.  Or maybe it’s enough that it’s a fairy tale idea of magic, beauty, strength and an revered female. That would be you.  Plus, I like when you sparkled in your gold jewelry or bright colours like your yellow Panjabi suit.  You sparkled like a jewel. Which reminds me of a Queen and a crown. Also, we all had to listen to you, because you knew what was best. 🙂  Definitely Queen – like characteristics.

And finally, the last charm on my bracelet so far was a gift from Raym, Aria and Kat for Christmas. It has a beautiful engraving of a dragonfly in it.  They chose it because of the dragonfly necklace I wear all the time- the aqua coloured one that you bought me. The last gift I ever got from you.  I hardly ever take that necklace off, and I always get compliments on it.

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Oh yeah, it is a dragonfly. I know you and I both thought it was a butterfly. But I learned a few months later that because of it’s longer tail, it is actually a dragonfly.  Now I am obsessed with dragonflies because of it.

Thank you for all our thoughtful gifts, not just the material ones. But also the love and generosity and the sweetness that only a mother could give.  Those were the real gifts that the bracelet and necklace represent and hold.  That’s why they are so significant to me. They came from my beautiful mother’s love.

My birthday Queen.

Happy Birthday.

Love Tas

 

 

Champagne Birthdays

“…I know they bought a cottage
Just large enough for two.
My mother dusted it with love,
Baked sugar cookies, too.
I wish I’d been her neighbour
Who came for snacks and teas,
Who walked the back fence
Exchanging recipes.
I recall when I was small
She taught me prayerfully.
Sometimes I think my mother was
A little bit like me.
Of all the people in the world,
Much more than any other,
I wish I might have known her,
Before she was my mother.”
– By Brenda Leigh

 

Dear Mom,

In less than three hours, it would have been your 78 birthday.  That sentence feels so wrong to me for many reasons. The first one is the “you would have been” part.  I still don’t believe that you’re not here. It shocks me when I wake up every morning. Even in the middle of the night, I think it’s just the longest and worst nightmare I’ve been through.  But then I have to face the truth each day.

It’s hard. I want to stay up until 12am and call you right at midnight like you did for my birthday last year.  Better yet, I wish I could show up at your place, and spend the night so that we could celebrate together.  I would watch Hindi movies, or eat samosas, or go to Walmart or Shoppers or even take you to Sha’s Video and James Street Grill if I could.  I wish I could do all your favorite things with you to show you how special March 16th is to me, how special you are, and how lucky I am to have had you as a mother.

And this would be your seventy eighth??!! Really? Honestly, Mom, you never looked a day over 50 to me. And even then, your skin and hands, your innocent smile, and your warm heart were always so youthful.

Youth.  I wonder what you were like when you were younger, before I knew you, like maybe on your Champagne Birthday.  Oh my God, Mom, I never got a chance to teach you about Champagne birthdays!  It was actually a term I didn’t learn until just a few years ago, when Renee had hers- her Champagne Birthday.  She actually taught me what the phrase meant.

See, Renee’s birthday is March 29th, so the year she turned 29- that 29th birthday was her Champagne Birthday.  Your birthday is on March 16th, so that means that your Champagne Birthday was when you were sixteen. Sorry I missed it.  I try to imagine what you were like at 16 or younger. Sorry I missed what kind of girl you were growing up- what you looked like, what you dreamed of becoming, who you played with, and even your laugh or the way you wore your hair and what kind of boys you liked.

I know some little things about that time- things you told me like you liked to wear long maxi dresses, and wear anjern in your eyes to highlight them with a black line inside your lower lids.  But what were you reading in this picture?  How old were you? What was in the suitcases beside you?  What kind of room did you have?  When did you first start putting on make up?

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There are so many questions, so many details I wish I had asked you, about the girl you were before you were my mother.  I loved hearing your stories.  They will never be the same coming from someone else.  You always said I should write this stuff down. Well, now I can only write down the things I remember.  There are a lot of holes- things I don’t know, things I was scared to find out about because I know you didn’t always have it easy. And I guess sometimes, we forget that our parents were not always our parents. You had a life before me. You ran around your own playgrounds, had your own parents who looked after you, you had your own dolls and favorite places to go to eat or meet friends.

I only have a few pictures of you when you were younger. But they are not as far back as when you were a child. I wonder if anyone has those.  I think you all had to leave them behind when you had to leave Uganda.  You lived in Uganda. That in itself is incredible to me.  It’s like another lifetime for me, but it was during your life, a part of who you were.  I wish I could have seen it from your eyes.

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You were so beautiful and looked so free in the pictures I saw of you before you were a mother.  I couldn’t have been there for that time in your life.  I guess I should be grateful for that because I wouldn’t have had you for a mom then.  So thank you for having me. You were definitely there at my Champagne Birthday! That would have been when I was three years old.  I found a picture from that year, that birthday.  Look at the way I was looking at you, Mom?   You feeding me cake, my eyes fixated on you like you were my everything. You really were, and still are.

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I hope that wherever you are now, you are being taken cared of. I don’t know if you celebrate birthdays up there, but this would definitely be a day to celebrate.  Your birthday. It was the best day of my life, because it was the start of the journey of you becoming my mom.  And you coming into this world- well, you touched so many hearts and lives, Mom, the way you cared so much. You always seemed to be buying gifts for other people, never thinking about yourself.

I can only buy you something now to hold onto myself, for you.  It’s not the same, but I try to still pick things that I think you’d like.  I loved buying you gifts. I still see things around at different shops and picture you wearing them or opening them as a gift, or I imagine what you would pick to buy or try on. Oh wait, you never liked trying things on. That’s right. You just saw it, bought it, and I hoped it fit so we wouldn’t have to return it to the store in time. And you were always grateful you didn’t have to spend time in a change room.

I hope that you are showered with the sweetest gifts now.  Have lots of cake with Mama and Bapa. I hope that they are feeding you all your favorite flavors.  And of course, that there is endless chai to go along with it.

Happy Birthday, Mom. You are so deep in my heart. I carry you with me wherever I go.

I am not into celebrating my birthday anymore without the woman who gave birth to me. It just doesn’t feel right. But I will definitely celebrate your birthday in the small ways that I can in hopes that you might feel me thinking about you.

You are never to be forgotten.  You will live on in my memory forever. And everyone of your birthdays will be the most special day of the year for me.

Love Tas