Matching Pyjamas

Dear Mom,

I rarely go shopping anymore. It’s not the same without you.

But the other day, I took a little peak into La Vie En Rose. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just hadn’t been in there for awhile. And guess what I found? Pyjamas with a tea theme!!! Not kidding you.

Of course, I fell in love with them right away. And you know the best part? The main colour they came in was yellow. That baby, spring yellow.  The print I liked the most had a pile of tea cups – one on top of the other- and under them was written “You’re my cup of tea.”  You are mine, Mom. My cup of tea.  Like all the things you loved about tea- the soothing, warm, relaxing, love it so much, you can’t live with it out it for too long- you got from each sip, that’s what I felt and still feel about you.

But I don’t have a choice in living without you physically. That was taken away. So I find ways to keep you with me in another sense- like writing these entries to you.

So I bought the tea cup pyjama top for you, for us.  -That particular one I described came in tank top style.  But as always, I imagined which kind would be good for you.  I know you wouldn’t have liked the tank top.  So just for fun, I tried on the short sleeve one as well. That one was also in yellow, but had a different message on it.  It says, “There’s always time for tea”. I didn’t buy it. It didn’t fit that well on me. But it would have been perfect for you, I think.

Remember how you hated trying clothes on in shops? And how I would get so frustrated with it because then we would go home and it wouldn’t fit and then guess who had to take the clothing item back?

But now, I would do anything to go into a shop for you and you buy as many clothes as you want, without trying even one on. And I would not say a word about it. Maybe just laugh. And I would just think of the trip back that would have to be made to return the ones that didn’t fit as an excuse to spend another day with you at the mall, or anywhere for that matter.

I wish I could have bought you the short sleeve pyjama shirt and some matching pyjama bottoms for both of us. And I would take them and my new yellow tea cup tank top with me to your place, ask you to put your new outfit on, and I would propose a mother-daughter sleepover, in matching pj’s.   I would also buy you slippers. Remember how much I loved buying you slippers? I loved seeing your feet look so cosy and comfortable.

We could have taken pictures of ourselves drinking tea in our tea cup pyjamas, and used the pictures and the memories of our sleepover for some good laughs at the next family gathering.  Or just keep it to ourselves. Either way, I wish I could have spent more fun, relaxing days with you like that. I wish I had made a better effort to make them happen.

All I can do now is think of you everytime I wear my pyjama top. And hope that you know that the words on it are for you, always.

And maybe next lifetime, if I am given another one with you, I will be sure to not miss an opportunity to wear matching pyjamas, shop together for as long as you want, and sip tea and laugh without worrying about what else there is ‘needed’ to be done or to go to. Because nothing was more important than you.

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Mom’s the WORLD

I wrote this many years ago for a contest in a newspaper.  I remember that the story was one of the winning ones, and the prize was something to do with a spa treatment or pampering package. I don’t remember if my mom and I used it together. I donmom5‘t even remember if my mom read through this whole piece. Or if she did, I wonder if she understood all of it. Maybe I just briefly told her about it out loud.

But now that I found this,  in my mother’s storage locker with some other course work and writing I had shoved away in a box there, I feel I owe my mom an apology.  For any of the times that I might have seemed embarrassed about something you did or said, or any of the times I might not have stood up for you or seemed as proud of you as I was, I am so deeply sorry. It was me who was actually the embarrassment in those moments.  I had the greatest mother in the world. And I wish I had told you, and showed you, every moment, every day when I had the chance.  Mom your really were and still are THE WORLD to me.

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My mother sat at the window seat of my narrow dorm room, her small feet dangling just inches off the speckled carpet.  Her curly brown hair, and the thick, burgundy shawl draped over her shoulders blocked my view of the other students milling about on the college grounds.

“Don’t worry about me,” she said, patting the cushion underneath her, “I’ll just sleep here.”mom3

I was supposed to spend my first week at Lancaster University participating in orientation activities, meeting my flat mates, and taking in the gorgeous greenery that blanketed the English county.  Instead, I rolled my eyes as my mother unpacked one of her bags.  What looked like a pharmacy rolled out of it- packets of tylenol, multi-vitamins, cough syrup and hurder (tumeric)- a chalky, mustard yellow Indian spice which my mom swore was the ultimate cure for any illness. I am sure I argued about how it was just going to weigh me down.

I tried to remind myself that she was only staying for a couple of days.  And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  We had never really traveled together, so we could get up early and tour around town.  But all I can recall seeing of Lancashire during those few days were endless grocery store aisles.  My mother dragged me out to buy fruits, vegetables, and cleaning supplies so that she could sanitize my room.  She even set up the kitchen for me- a kitchen that was shared between fifteen other college students, none of which were being followed by their frantic mothers.

I collapsed on my bed, looking up at the ceiling.  When my mother asked me, for the third time, if she could make me a cup of tea, I threw my arms up in the air and stomped out of my room.  I don’t remember what it was that I said to her at that moment, but her watery eyes stuck with me for a long time afterwards.

mom6For the next couple of days, my mom sat in the kitchen alone, warming her hands with a cup of tea, while I was out spending time with strangers who I never really ended up keeping in touch later.

One afternoon, one of my flatmates Lydia, knocked on my door.  While licking her chocolate covered fingers, she said, “Your mom came over to my room this morning.”

Panic struck my face as I wondered what my mom had done this time.

“She’s so sweet,” said Lydia, “She gave me these delicious chocolates, and then asked if I would take care of you.  You’re really luck to have such a thoughtful mother.”

A sudden knot gripped my stomach.  It was different this time. Not embarrassment towards her, but complete shame at my own behavior towards her.

I don’t even remember saying goodbye to mother, but I won’t forget what it felt like to sit in my room alone, once she was gone.mom1

I looked around me- the bed my my mom had made, the sink she always waited so patiently to use after me, and that bench where she slept. How did she even squeeze herself onto it, and how could I have allowed her to? Though I could now see clearly out the window, I didn’t feel any desire to.  Instead, I sat down at the bench, hugging my knees to my chest.

Over the next few months, Lydia became one of my closest friends.  Even though we didn’t have much in common, we had a connection between us- the promise she had made to my mother.  My mom and I kept in touch while I was away, and one day, she sent me a package.  I gagged as I opened the box- the pungent stench of more Indian concoctions, combined with Vicks Vapo Rub and Tetley Tea -wafted through the air.  “You sent me TEA in England, mom?  What were you thinking?” I remember asking her.

But shortly after, many of us in the dorm fell sick, and I ended up using all of the contents of that package.  My flatmates were impressed at how quickly the cold remedies kicked in.  And somehow, none of the British teas compared to the tea bags that my mom had sent.

Since then, I have traveled, moved out on my own, and have become a teacher.  Nevertheless, it is my mother who has been the most important teacher in my life.  She has been a mom, a dad, a friend, and an inspiration to  me.

She came to Canada, after being kicked out of her home in Uganda, with nothing more than her baby boy, her family and her traditional Indian values.  My mom had never ridden an escalator, was unfamiliar with the city of Vancouver, and had only worked at her father’s shop in East Africa.

mom2How my mother managed to get a job, find her way around a new city, with new customs and new cultures, raise two kids, and completely readjust the lifestyle and patterns of thinking that she had grown up with, astounds me.  But most of all, her strength to still enjoy each day and keep smiling, even after the loss of her own mother, reminds me that my mother is the strongest woman I know.

My mom possesses a particularly motherly magic.  She can sense what I’m feeling and protects me from any distance.  Even the cheesy Hindi movies she brings me, despite their Bollywood bombast, are carefully chosen with messages of guidance and comfort.  It amazes me that my mother knows the exact story lines in the movies I need at various times in my life, without either one of us having to say a single word.

Last fall, my mother and I finally went on our very first trip together- to Harrison Hot Springs.  During the car drive there, my mom revealed some childho

tea and toast

od secrets, and we laughed at memories of my brother and I fighting for her attention.  At the resort, my mother and I pampered ourselves with massaged and pedicures, a

nd relaxed in the steamy whirlpools.  We also slipped on sequined tops and high heels for the dinners in the elegant dining hall.  And at the end of every night, we made sure to sit near the window and share a warm pot of tea in soothing silence.

 

 

 

 

 

This Tea is Forever for Two

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Dear Mom,

I just sat down to have a cup of tea, and I wanted you to know that every sip of tea that I have, and will forever have, is full of memories and thoughts of you. Do you recognize the hot pad under the mug? Yes. It’s yours. You must have had that for years. I’m glad you kept it.

I know tea was one of your most favorite things in the world.  And now it is one of my most favorite things as well, because of you.

It’s funny how something so simple, so ‘small’ such as tea, can become such an important part of our hearts. It reminds me of the moments I sat with you, at your kitchen table, a mug of warmth for our hands.  Sometimes, we weren’t even talking. We just relaxed over chai and cookies, or chai and your infamous pound cake, or chai and Indian soap operas, depending on whether a crazy drama was on that day.  But either way, there was always tea.

Tea was the first thing you always ordered when we went out to eat as well. I can’t forget the smile that even the thought of a fresh pot brought to your face. Priceless.

Thank you for always keeping a box of green tea in your cupboard just for me, even though I know you couldn’t understand how I could drink the stuff.  Sometimes, I think you probably wondered how I could be your daughter. Green tea? Seriously?  Is that how I raised you? is what I imagine you thinking sometimes.  That’s not real tea, is what I’m sure was going through your head.  Yet, you knew that was what I preferred, so you always had it ready for me.  I still only try to drink green tea or herbal tea. Sorry, Mom. The caffeine in the black stuff has somehow become too much for me.  But I do really miss it.

But now I keep a box of Tetley black tea in my cupboard for YOU.  Actually, it is YOUR box of tea, the last one that was left in your apartment.  It makes me feel like I can offer you some from earth to heaven, each time I sit down with my own cup.  And at times, I have given a teabag from your box to someone in my life whom I felt might benefit from the magic I believe your spirit sprinkled into those bags.

TETLEY.  Orange Pekoe or English Breakfast.  You couldn’t live without it.  And since I know I can’t live without you, I sip tea A LOT.  It gives me this feeling that you are still near me, still soothing me, with the warmth of your motherly magic.

You bring a whole other meaning to TEA COZY.

Tea for two. Forever, me and you.

And don’t think that this just works on me because I’m your daughter.

Don’t tell anyone, but your son bought a beautiful tea set – an ornate pot and little tea cups a couple of months ago. Now I KNOW that was your doing, from way up in heaven. I think deep down inside, he probably knows it too.

Thanks for continuing to warm us with your tea love from within, Mom.  We will always save a cup for you.