Happy Birthday Blues

Happy Birthday, Mom!!! You are the best mom ever!

L-Loving
A- Always real
I – Intuitive and generous
L – Likes tea and cookies
A- Acts cute and small but is unbelievably courageous and strong

Thank you for being my mother, father, friend and one of the most amazing teachers, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, I have ever had. Love you Mom! #MomsTheWorld #BestMoms #ILoveMyMom

mom birthday

Dear Mom,

I wrote that message above, on my Facebook status, exactly three years ago.  It was March 16th, 2014. Your birthday of course.

Facebook often sends these ‘memories’, of messages we post in the past, to remind us of what we saw as important to us and what we were thinking years ago. Maybe to even make us see the change in us?

But I am in shock over how much has changed since then. It was only three measly years ago. But back then, I had EVERYTHING, and I didn’t even realize it.  I had everything, because I had you. And I had no idea that that was going to be the last of your birthdays I was ever going to spend with you.  I had no idea that one, or two, or now three years since then, I would never be able to wish you a happy birthday in person again.

That fills me with tears and heartache and sorrow so deep that I feel ashamed of having taken life especially life with you, for granted. I wish I could have those moments back that I didn’t realize would be gone forever. I wish I could be feeding you cake right now the way you used to to us when we were younger.

memories tears

Mom, where did the time go?  Why did it happen the way it did? Without any warning, without any signs, or maybe it was more that there were signs but it was without any awareness, on my part.  I should have listened and noticed and helped more.  I should have made it obvious that you were my number one priority, because that’s how I felt inside. I just know I didn’t show it enough.

You are still my number one, Mom.  I made sure to wish you a happy birthday at exactly 12am last night, like you did on the last birthday of mine that you were around for.  And I am really trying to honour you by holding my head up high and doing things to make you proud of me, to have you know that I am not going to have this life you gave me to me go to waste.  And that I am so proud to have had (or can I still say just ‘have’?) you as a mother.  I want this day of yours- what would have been your 79th birthday- to be celebrated and cherished because your life and love and presence in this world deserves to be celebrated an cherished.

But it’s hard mom.  I’m sad.  More sad than I ever thought I could be.  How strange it is to be so grateful for having a mom like you, for being able to spend all the years that I did with you, and for having the sweetest memories of you in my heart. But to also have so much pain from it- knowing that you are no here anymore.  I know I shouldn’t say it like that.  I know I need to believe you are here, just in another way.  But you know what I mean. You went through it too with Mama.  It’s crushing to our hearts when our Mothers are not here for us to hold hands with or see smiling or hear their voices say our name.  No one else says it like you.  me and mom

I would do anything to hear you tell me to remember to eat, or to put my coat on, or to ask me a hundred times if I want more food, even when I was full, the way you used to.

I texted you today, Mom. I texted you at your old phone number. The message said, Happy Birthday, Mommy. And then there was a teary face, a pink heart with two stars shining on it, and a birthday cake with three candles on it -imogee symbols I chose to put next to the text.  I just wanted to send you a message somehow.  Not through the air or in my head. But in some real way like I might have in the past.  I don’t know if anyone else has that number now. I don’t know where the text went if it did go anywhere.  But I haven’t deleted your number off of my phone. I just don’t have the heart to.  Maybe I never will.

I also posted a cover photo on my Facebook page that says Happy Birthday, Mom on it- with a cupcake and one candle. One candle for my number one- my Mom. You will always be my number one Mom.  Don’t you ever doubt that. And my profile picture is a photo of that Generation to Generation frame I had given you- that you put up in entrance in your apartment. Now it’s on my kitchen wall.

I went to Shoppers the other day, and bought this teddy bear and chocolates. Sorry,  I ate the chocolates pretty quick. But if you were here, I would have given them to you.  The teddy bear and an old Christmas snowglobe I found at Shoppers as well is also for you.  Thank you for all the sweetest little gifts you used to buy me from there as well (that’s the shawl you used to wear almost every day- behind the cushion and the teddy bear).

teddy bear

It’s sad that even those memories are tainted now.  Shoppers was one of our favorites- because really, it was one of your favorite places to pick up cutesy things. But it was also the last place you went to, ever, before you were gone. And I associate it with that sad ache of imagining you walking home from there and falling at the end of your walk.  And it kills me to think and know I wasn’t there for you.

So much happiness- birthdays, chocolates, teddy bears, shopping, laughing, cake, smiles and love- mixed with so much sadness- death, falls, pain, emptiness, tears and heartache.

I don’t know what to do with it all, Mom.  All I can do is take one day at a time, and live in it and face it- sometimes crying, sometimes smiling.  All I can do is be honest with my feelings and stay as authentic as you made me.

All I can do is be grateful for this day- your birthday. The day that the best thing that ever happened to me came into this world- my mother.  All I can do is to know I was lucky enough to spend all the birthdays that I did have with you.

I just wish you had more. I wish that now, birthdays in heaven are truly blissful and full of peace and love for you. No pain, no fear, no suffering. Not even a hint of it. Just a truly HAPPY birthday, with lots of cake – your favorite kind that you made all the time (buy maybe now you and Mama can make it together again and SHE can feed you a piece? :-)).

And lots of warm, soothing chai, and endless peace. That is my birthday wish for you. That you are full of peace, love joy and wrapped in your mother’s loving arms.  I know that’s where I wish I was right now.  But in the meantime, I will live this life the best I can to honour  my angel mother.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Sorry for the tears. But I just miss you terribly.

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.