Little Rookie

Dear Mom,

I had a t-shirt that said “Little Rookie” on it. Why do I remember that? I barely remember anything from my childhood. But that, for some reason, has stuck out to me for all these years.

I don’t remember exactly what the t-shirt looked like. I imagine it to be kind of a Tom-boyish t-shirt. Something sporty like a character riding a bike or playing soccer on it.  Or maybe I am just making that part up.  I don’t know. But I do know that the words “Little Rookie” were definitely sprawled across the front of it.

I am assuming you bought that t-shirt for me.  Do you remember where you got it? Zellers? 🙂  It was around that age, I think, when you worked at Zellers.  What was that like, being there at work?  Who did you work with? Sam Uncle?  Did you like going to work every day?  Were there regular customers who knew you?  What was your favorite part of the job?  What did you really hate about it?  Why did I never ask you these questions while you were here? Maybe I did, but things have become so cloudy for me.  I know you also used to say that you wished you could remember more about our childhood and growing up.  But you had a lot to do, Mom.  That was too much to remember.

Besides, it is not the details of the days that passed that were important. It was the feeling. And I want you to know that you always made us feel loved and taken cared of.  I know you went to work each day to take care of us. I know you wanted to spend that time with us more.  But you were an extraordinary mom. You did everything- you were the breadwinner, the nurturer, the caretaker, the father, the protector, the cook and the teacher. You taught us a lot, mom, through your actions, through your love, through your energy. The kind of energy only a loving mother could give.

That has stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me forever. There were some words you used as nicknames for me. One of them was “Rook”.  Was that some kind of term of endearment used in our culture? Or where did it come from?  I was going to say What does it mean. But sometimes, a meaning like a definition doesn’t seem so necessary when a feeling comes across from it more strongly. Sometimes, the feeling is more important. So “Rook” took on its own meaning to me.  I could feel the love and tenderness you were putting across through the word or name. It made me feel very special. It had a special quality to it.

So the combination of that and the Little Rookie t-shirt made Rookie stand out in my mind and heart a lot.  You calling me “Rook” didn’t have anything to do with the t-shirt did it? Or did you buy the t-shirt because you called me “Rook”?  I am assuming it was only a coincidence.

But it stayed with me. That word. And the phrase “Little Rookie”.  So much so that in the past, I was using it for several years for passwords on various accounts I signed up for online.  It’s funny how these things get embedded without us knowing it, right?

And so… the other day, when I was driving and again was struck by the license plate I noticed on another parked car (you know by now, this has been happening to me often), you can understand even more now why I wondered.  I wondered if you again had anything to do with it. Or maybe the Universe planted it there to pass on a message from you to me.

The license plate said ROOKIE.

I stared at it and then, as I have done in the past, I went around the corner and came back to that car. Stopped in a place where I could get out of my car and could take a picture of the plate.  It was like I wanted to show it to someone. To have “proof” that it really showed up.  But then I wanted to ask someone if it was just a coincidence or a real sign. And I had no one to ask. No one that I would believe maybe anyway, because how would they prove that they knew?

I guess, once again, it’s all about belief. What we want to believe and what we don’t want to believe.

I don’t know what I believe in these situations anymore. But what I do know, and I’ve said this before, is that I will just break myself down if I don’t believe in something, in these possible moments of magic, between me, and you and the Universe.

Will I ever know the answers even at the end of my life? I am trying to live my life for you, Mom. But I can’t help with all the questions.  I hope one day, there are answers, and the answers prove that all these ‘coincidences’ I see and feel have not been coincidences at all. But just proof that my mom is happy and at peace. And that a mother’s love never dies. And my mom just wanted to sparkle each of my days with a little message from her telling me that she is somewhere beautiful, being taken cared of. So there is nothing for me to worry about.

Love always, your Little Rookie- Rook (Ruk, or Ruku) You always had variations on it. And I loved them all.

Tas

 

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…Something That Is Red

Dear Mom,

A couple of days ago, I was walking home near my place. And this cutest little child’s voice caught my attention.  I looked over saw this little girl, with kind of a bowl haircut, walking with her mom. They were holding hands at first.  It always melts and then almost stops my heart when I see mother daughter pairs, especially when they are younger. It makes me wonder what we were like together, when I was just a little kid.  And I wish I could go back to those times to really soak them in and savor every moment of them.

First, I could hear the girl counting things. Trees? Cars? And her counting would go up to ten and then her mother would say, “Are there only ten? Are you sure?” And so the girl would start again, her mother obviously trying to get her to practise counting past ten.

The girl started saying, “eleven, sixteen, seventeen, twenty!” and skipping numbers. It was adorable. I couldn’t stop laughing but they were behind me so they couldn’t see my facial expression

The mother was pointing out some things for the little girl to look at. It was so cute, the way the girl would react.  But I was almost in tears, wishing that I could get those moments back with you.  Wishing that I could just hold my mom’s hand again, whether as a child or adult. It didn’t matter.

When they got to another corner, the girl put out her hands and asked her mom to carry her.  Her mother lifted her up and started saying, “I see something that is…”  And I realized it was the same game you would play with us a lot. You know the one where you would call out a colour or a shape or a word, and say you saw it somewhere, and we would have to point to what it is that you were referring to?  Kind of like a parent-child version of Eye Spy. Yeah, they were playing that game.

I don’t even know if I remember actually playing it with you. All my childhood memories seem like such a fog. Sometimes, I think they are memories, and other times, I am not sure if they come from my own imaginings, or from photos, or from stories that other people tell me.

But this game in particular stands out, because I know that even just a few years ago, you would remind R and I about the game. I think you said that you would play it a lot with us, or especially with him, when you were in car.

So this woman said, “I see something that is red”, while she was holding her daughter in her arms and walking down the street. And her daughter was pointing out things that were’t red at all.  So her mother started laughing. She seemed to be pointing to all the parked cars, but they were black and blue. Until her mom said, “Oh yes, the headlights are red.”  I think it taught both of us something.  We both needed to look a little closer.

And finally, it turned out that a red car and the fire hydrant up ahead were what the mother was actually trying to get her to see. But I guess the daughter made her see some other things she didn’t notice at first too.

Thank you, Mom, for playing games with us, for pointing out new colours and signs to us, and getting us to notice our surroundings more.  I know maybe it was a game to keep us distracted an not bored during car rides or while we were waiting somewhere that was not within reach of other toys.  But those games planted good memories, good feelings, and a closeness between us that lives on in me still to this day.

I could be so sad about seeing other mothers and daughters play such games around me.  Missing you and knowing that that I could never bring that back.  Or, I could pretend that maybe you planted that mother and daughter to play that specific game around me, just because you might not physically be able to do it with me right now.  But you still wanted me to notice the red around me, the beauty, the child like freedom and the never ending love between a mother and daughter.

Love you, Mom.

Can you find more ways to play the game with me again?

Choose another colour or letter, or shape next time. And I will try to see what you are seeing.  It will be like you are right there with me.

Thank you, Mom.

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