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.

 

 

 

 

 

Grandparents’ Day

grandparents day

Dear Mom,

A little voice called me up last week and said, “So, since Laila Mama can’t make it this year, would you like to come to Grandparents’ Day?”

It was your oldest granddaughter of course.

I must have paused for a moment, to catch my breath and hold back the tears, or the lump in my throat.  Maybe it was the sweetness of that voice, that I didn’t expect to hear when I picked up the phone. I didn’t recognize the number.  Or maybe  it was just in her asking me to attend an event at her school, in your honour.  But it was definitely not because I was unsure whether I could go.  I knew it was the right thing to be there, for her and for you. And I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.

I think I was just touched, for you mainly, because she started the whole question with you as the basis of it.  And I hope you can feel how much she loves and thinks about you.

The funny thing is that there was no hi, no greeting of any kind on the phone. She just got straight to the question. And she kind of made it feel like it was a conversation carried on from another day, or another moment, even though we hadn’t actually talked for a couple of weeks. And we definitely didn’t talk about any of this kind of stuff.

Without realizing it myself, I think I needed that kind of familiarity, that kind of lightness about the whole topic.   There was this definite sense that she wasn’t just asking me to be there, but that your granddaughter was acknowledging you.  Yet, she didn’t say that you were gone, or passed away.  It was just a simple, “since she can’t be here”.

Kids make things so easy sometimes.

And I have decided that on some days, that’s how I need to look at it.  That I need to focus a little less on the heaviness of your passing away, and think of it more like you just can’t be here for some things physically. But that you might very well be here through it all with us in spirit.  Maybe you were there with us at the school on Grandparents’ Day, even though we couldn’t see you.

I hope you could see or feel us.  Were you the one who helped me beat the traffic even though I was so stuck before the bridge and didn’t think I would make it on time?  I thought I left early enough, but then no cars were moving for the longest time and I panicked thinking that A. would think I forgot or something. I even called the school, asking them to pass on a message to her, letting her know I was on my way.

There was really no way that I should have made it there on time, but somehow, I did- even after parking and getting up all those stairs to the third floor of the school, somehow, I made it to the classroom just before A. did.  Maybe you heard my prayer about it and helped.

Did you see A’s classroom, and her write up about Emily Carr? Did you see her teaching me her fraction puzzles, and reading me her art presentation?

And wasn’t she great in P.E.? Remember how I used to just do whatever I could to avoid those games in P.E. or just avoid P.E. in general? And you used to help me with sick notes? Haha! Well, A. luckily, did not get my lack of coordination and skill and courage in sport. She just gets out there and gets involved and runs around and participates fully with her peers.  She has so many friends, and gets along with everyone.  You would be so proud of her.  Actually, I know you already are.

But the funniest was when one of her classmates asked me if I was A’s grandmother. Did you hear that when the boy asked, as he sat at his seat with his grandparents sitting on either side of him?  I hope you laughed, Mom.  My response was, “I look pretty good for a grandma, don’t I?”

A. tried to explain that she was allowed to ask anyone to come.  I think she might have thought I was offended by the boy’s comment. But actually, it was such a great few hours.  I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Your older brother was there too.  I was so surprised to see him sitting in the cafeteria, eating cookies and tea with the other grandparents.  Chai and biscuits. That was your thing, Mom.  The more I write about the events of that day, the more I wonder if maybe you really were there, somehow.

Later, when A and her friend came back down to the cafeteria with me (I think they were doing whatever they could to miss math class-haha!), the head master of the school was speaking to all the grandparents.

I don’t think A. and her friend heard this part, because they were chatting and trying to negotiate how many doritos were a fair trade for a stick of kit kat.  I had given A. a Kit Kat bar which she couldn’t wait to break open.   I chose it because I know it was your favorite. Actually, every once in awhile I keep one in my purse, especially when I know I’m going to see her. Plus, I wanted to give her a little gift to say thank you for think about me and you on this day. Her friend saw it and A. saw her friend’s Doritos, so they tried to make a deal on how they could each get a little bit of each other’s treats.

The headmaster was reminding all the visitors what an impact grandparents have on their grandchildren.  He said he was reading recently about how grandparents can really shape the values that their grandkids can have, sometimes just as much as the parents of those same kids.

And I want you to know that you have definitely shaped A’s values. She has your loving, giving heart.  She is so full of smiles, is caring and sweet and she remembers you, and so much of what you said and did with her.  She will always remember you Mom. I can feel it.  You may have only had 8 years with her, but your impact will last with her forever. I can see it already. She smiles at every memory of you, and she says  your name with such warmth and happiness.

grandmas

And I know you felt sadness at not being able to build more of a bond with your youngest granddaughter. Not getting to know her, and her not getting to know you enough.  But she will know you, Mom. It’s impossible for her not to because she has all of us around her who will carry your lessons and love and memory with us forever.  Even in the less than three years you were around her, I believe that was enough to connect with her.  She got a sense of you which she will carry with her always.  And besides, your son, your eldest granddaughter and I, and the rest of your family will be sure to continue to teach little M. about you.  Your eldest granddaughter has adopted values from you,  and knew your love. You have shaped who she is and how she sees the world. You have influenced who she will become.  And she will carry this with her and pass it on and impact her little sister with it. So that in itself means that your light will shine on both of them, always, regardless of how much time you had with them while you were physically here with us.

Maybe you are already finding your own ways to shine on both of your granddaughters anyway. Knowing you, this can’t be far from the truth.  Those girls are everything to you.  And I know how much happiness being a grandmother gave you.

I am also personally aware what an impact a loving grandmother can make in a very short amount of time.  Say hi to mine for me. Tell her that I always think of her. I hope she knows that you both deserve a best grandmother award. There was no one like you two.  And there never will be.

I am so lucky to have two such beautiful angels watching over me now.

Please Mama, continue to take care of my Mom. And Mom, we promise to watch over your granddaughters.

Happy Grandparents Day!  I heard there is an actual Grandparents’ Day- an official day set out to celebrate grandparents, but it is actually sometime in autumn. But I am going to wish you one now since we had a mini one at A’s school.

Every day should be grandparents day anyway.

Love you Mom.

Tonight, I’m blowing you kisses from me, your son, and his daughters- your granddaughters.

 

Thank you for being my Mom

Happy New Year, Mom.
I am sorry that I didn’t spend New Year’s with you last year. I didn’t know it would be my last one with you. That is something I will always regret. But I’m here with you now. And I’ve created this extra path of communication for us, exactly on New Year’s Eve, just after 12am, so I can continue to share my life with you.

Just one lifetime really wasn’t enough for us. There are so many things I still wanted to say to you and do with you. I hope you can feel them through this blog I’ve dedicated to you.

The first thing I want you to know is that I am very grateful that you are my mom. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for choosing me as your daughter, and for bringing me into this world. I love you. I still need you. Don’t ever think I don’t. I’d like you to still be a part of my life, and know that you are always on my mind and heart.

I wasn’t excited about moving into a new year. All I want to do is to go back to one year, any year, in which you were here. There are so many things I would change, and so many moments in which I would have been more present with you, if I had the chance again.

I hope this blog gives us a different kind of chance, to continue that relationship. The theme of it is called “Ever After”. I think it was originally supposed to be for weddings – haha- but oh well. The name suits the theme of what I’m trying to get across here.

This love, our connection, cannot end. I just won’t let it. My mother made me strong and gave me enough love to transcend time and space. I intend to use it on her, on you, my Mom.

Say Happy Birthday to Mama for me with a big hug and kiss attached. I hope she is taking good care of you up there.