Always On Your Side

I hope you know that I was always on your side, Mom.

I am sorry I didn’t show it more.

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Navroz Mubarak, Mommy

Dear Mom,

It’s Navroz today. But of course, you would know that. You always knew the special dates of when our celebrations would happen. I miss all the copies of the calendars you would get for everyone, so that we could all keep track of the dates ourselves too. I’m sorry I never really made use of mine. I would do anything to get one directly from your hand right now.  I was so stupid to just take all of that for granted.

To be honest, I just never felt like I fit in there- in our celebrations or in the social events that were put on in our community. It just felt so forced, for some reason, on my part, I mean. Like either I didn’t fit in but had to pretend that I did. Or, I didn’t feel like I fit in, and acted very much like I didn’t. So either way, it was just awkward all around.

What I should have considered was how important these celebrations were to you. You just beamed everytime something came up on the calendar- a music party, a Navroz party, a mendhi party.  And THAT’S why it should have been important to me.  Oh, Mom. I should have just explained all this to you- how I just felt out of place, and like I was trying so hard to have fun at those things. At least you would have known why I wasn’t so enthusiastic about them. At least you would have known that it had nothing to do with you. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with you or go somewhere fun with you. It was that I just didn’t have fun at those events.

I felt judged for what I was wearing, what I was doing with my life, my career, who I was dating, or wasn’t dating. Why I wasn’t married or had kids yet. If I was there, I was just criticized for not being at those kind of events more often. And I was always trying to be on this health kick, but the food that was served was often the exact opposite of what I was supposed to be eating. So… I would get an upset stomach in addition to the upset I felt emotionally at all the gossip and hypocrisy that unfortunately seemed to come with those kinds of community events.

What I should have done is just ignored it, and concentrated on what was most important- spending time with my mom.  Gosh, if I could get those opportunities back, I would take you to any and every event that you wanted to go. And I would proudly accompany you. I might bring my journal or a good book, or sneak in some headphones with some good music or uplifting podcasts to distract me when people went around saying nasty, snobby, shallow things- haha ;-( but I would be there with you.

But I can’t get those moments back. And now, I don’t feel like attending those events even more because it seems ridiculous that I would choose to go now, after you’re gone. What made them special was that they were special to you. And you were and are the most special thing to me. It feels wrong for me to all of a sudden go out to them now, even if that is what you would have wanted. I would have wanted to turn back time and make it so that I used those events as an excuse to spend more time with you. But we never get a chance to make up for lost time, do we?

I wanted to tell you thank you, Mom, for bringing me up in a community that I know, for you, was a way to give me an extended family, and support. Thank you for giving me a community that I can reach out to even if I am in another country or continent- a community that would welcome me even if they didn’t know my name or we didn’t share the same home base. I know you wanted us to have a place to go to in times of struggle. A place and people to give us strength and a feeling of belonging.

I do see some very positive changes taking place in the community more recently. It seems that for the years I have not really been involved in it, there has grown a more open mindedness that I can resonate with much more. And the younger generation are pursuing all kinds of creative projects and careers in arts, music, media, and writing. This is great to see and maybe I will slowly find a connection to the community because of it.

But the bitter sweet part of all of it is that the most important aspect of it- my Mother- is no longer there for me to enjoy it with.  I even get a lump in my throat just writing those words.  Even though I didn’t show up at the ceremonies today physically, the special occasion has been on my mind and heart throughout the day. And I am grateful for you, my Mother, for giving us a faith that I know over the years will prove to be more and more needed and valued.

Thank you, Mom, for everything you have done for us. I cannot ever repay you, but I will try to make better use of all that you have given to us, taught us, and shared with us.

Navroz Mubarak.

Love always and forever, your daughter, Tas

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.