Morning Prayer- 3 years now

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

~ Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi~

 

daisies

Dear Mom,

I can’t believe it’s been exactly three years now since you passed away.  It doesn’t feel that way at all. I can remember all the details as if it was yesterday. And it still is painful, as much if not as more, because now the reality of it all has settled in.  And that is so much more unsettling than anything I’ve ever had to face.

But I’ve included you in my thoughts- my morning prayers- every morning since then. I don’t think I’ve missed a day.  It’s not the usual kind of prayer. It’s more like me asking you what we should do for the day. How we should treat people, what choices we will make. It’s me asking you to the guide the way. I wonder if you hear me at all when I say the words.

I still put that picture of you and me off the window sill each morning, and say this prayer or list of questions “to you” while walking over to my little wine coloured shelf near the kitchen. I place your picture of us on the shelf once I’m done. And it stays there for the whole day. And in the evening, I take the picture off of the shelf and put it back on the windowsill, and turn on the little while string of lights that rest there, so that the picture and you are illuminated. I love it when the moonlight also adds to this.

I don’t leave the picture on the windowsill during the day because

1). I don’t want it to fade from the sunlight. I don’t need more things to add to this fear of you fading. Not that you ever will from my heart or memory. But time is not always a healer, I don’t think. Sometimes, it can blur my memories. And I don’t need one of my favorite pictures of us being blurred or washed out as well.

2) I don’t want the frame or the picture to get scorched by the heat like it has done to some other little trinkety things I have put there in the past.

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I’ve added more questions to it, so I am reposting it with the updated version.

Here it goes:

Hi Mom, 
Good morning. 

What are we going to do today?

Where are we going to go? 

What are we going to see?

Who are we going to meet?

What are we going to say?

What are we going to change?

What are we going to cry over? 

What are we going to laugh through?

What are we going to stand up for?

What are we going to believe?

What are we going to choose?

What are we going to create?

What are we going to paint?

What are we going to sing? 

What are we going to dance?

What are we going to write about?

Who are we going to date?

Who are we not going to date?

What are we going to achieve?

What are we going to dream?

Who are we going to help?

Who are we going to inspire. 

And then I usually sigh and say, “Oh mom.”

My heart hurts. But I know I need to keep going to make you proud, and make this life you blessed me with worth living.

Thank you, Mom. I hope heaven is treating you well.  I wish that sometimes you could show up in my dreams, the good kind of dreams, and tell me a story, or tell me how you are doing. I still worry about you.

 

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Intezaar

Dear Mom,

There’s a song I like, and get this- it’s from a Hindi movie! I know, crazy, right?  I don’t know if I ever told you about this song, or the movie. Or did you introduce me to the movie? I don’t know how else I would have ended up watching it. But I think actually, unless I made this story up in my head, I was looking in a shop- possibly Ace Video- for some movies for you? And I saw this one there, and it was the picture on the front that caught my attention? Is that what happened?

I don’t know. Anyway, the movie is called Paap, which I know means sin. And I must have kind of secretly looked around to see if anyone actually saw me pick it up in the video store, or wherever I got it, because it just looked so racy! I wonder if it wasn’t even at a regular Indian shop that I found it. Maybe it was on Main Street or something? I am not sure. But yeah, cover picture was hot. This absolutely stunning girl- as usual, and then an actually very attractive guy! Like really, really attractive!

I still look at it and think, wow! This is nothing like the Indian movies and images from them that I am used to. Usually, it is a beautiful girl with and old, controlling or just cheesy looking guy.  But not this one.  And the way they were entangled over each other- I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Actually, I am looking at the picture now and I still think it is so passionate and draws me in.  She is draped over his shoulder, and he is leaning into her stomach and thigh and, well,… let me just say that this made me proud to be Indian! Like YES! We are a sexy culture, is what I wanted to say.

I ended up getting the soundtrack to the movie. I wonder if I got the soundtrack first and then watched the movie? Oh God, I have such a bad memory. But it doesn’t matter. I believe that we remember the important things or the things we are meant to remember. And what it was I was meant to remember here was first off, the mesmerizing song Intezaar. That song still gives me goosebumps. I didn’t have much of a clue of what the woman was singing in it, but I could feel it, I could feel something very deep in it.

And I learned that the word Intezaar means wait, or waiting.

So I ended up using it in an assembly I did with my students years ago, when I was teaching Grade 6. I wrote an assembly with some characters based on our family but mixed some names around. For example, Laila, the sister, was played by this girl Nisia in my class.  I believe that is what I named that character- after you, rather than after me. And then the little boy, the brother, was played by the most adorable little guy in my class who had blond hair and was caucasion. But I believed I named him Rahim. Haha! And he was always teasing his sister. I wonder who that sounds like. 😉

And the students – the girls- all wore yours and my saris. Remember that? They loved it. I think you came and helped them put them on. I know you definitely came to watch the play. And the boys were dressed in Indian outfits as well. They seemed to really enjoy learning about the culture. If not the outfits, then the boys I think loved the food. You made samosas for us that day, or on another day, right? I am sure EVERYONE loved those.

Anyway, that song played in the introduction of my play. I loved it. It was beautiful. I think the girls got set up while that song was playing and the music just distracted the audience with some soothing sounds, and Indian instruments and that voice. Man, I love that sweet voice.

I watched the movie so long ago. And I don’t remember the details. But again, details don’t always matter. What matters was the message in this case, I think.  This woman dedicates her life to a monastery or convent. I can’t remember what brought her there in the first place. But from what I think I remember, she believes that the most giving thing she could do is to give herself to God, to be in the service of God, and live out so far from everyday life to pray and be around the monks and others who were so pious and all about spirituality in a very simple and non-materialistic, non-sensual, non-‘toxic’ way.  She is taught or believes that this would mean she would be living a life without sin, as much as she could.

But what she ends up learning is that actually, the sin is her giving up her everyday life, her life of mistakes and love and sensuality and sex and relationships. She ends up learning that for some people, the sin is NOT giving yourself to a relationship, to NOT being open to love and life.  She ends up learning that NOT appreciating and surrendering to the gifts we are given as humans- such as passion and love, is the ultimate sin.  And so she allows herself to fall in love and to allow another to love her. And she trusts and shares her life with a man who also shows so much passion and love towards her.  I definitely need to watch the movie again, because I feel like I made some of this up. Haha! Or maybe I just haven’t given enough of a summary of the story because the details have escaped me. But this is what I learned from what I remember.

And just recently, I decided to learn the lyrics to the song and use it in the vocal lesson I had last week. It felt very nostalgic somehow, when I was singing it, even as I was practising it at home.  I’m not sure why. Maybe because I first heard the song a few years ago, and you were here at that time, and I was teaching, and somehow, the song brought me back to that time? But somehow, it felt like more than that.  Like it was connecting me to something. I don’t know how to explain it.  But it was resonating with me, and within me, as if there was a bigger message or purpose in it.  Maybe you could hear it or me, when I was singing.

Intezaar- waiting… for you, Mom.

Love, Tas

Live Life

Dear Mom,

Again, I haven’t written to you here in awhile. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes, I have so much to say. I don’t know where to start. And I think that it has to be something in particular. Something worthy of talking about or different than the usual just missing you.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I mean, that was the problem and now is.  That even when you were here, I thought I had to do something big for you in order to go visit. That I had to have some plan or have something in particular in mind. And when I didn’t, sometimes, I just decided not to visit, or I ended up visiting you, spending a lot of the time figuring what we “should” do, what I could do. But I was missing the point. There was nothing that had to be done or planned. I should have just been enjoying all the moments I had with you.  But I didn’t. I wasn’t fully present, or I had other things on my mind. Or I wasn’t a good listener. Or I thought that I needed to take you on the ‘necessary’ errands.

But all that was necessary was appreciating the woman in front of me. The only one I wanted to really put my time into. The most important person in my life.  And somehow, I missed that. And that is what is breaking my heart. There are moments where I remember being “with” you, like right next to you, but not taking it all in.

And the other day, I was driving over Lionsgate Bridge to head to North Vancouver. And I felt so sad that I couldn’t just pop over to your place and visit.  I felt so sad at the millions of opportunities I had to do that more, and I didn’t enough while I had the chance. And now, I have no chances left.

It’s hard to live with that.  I have tried to keep this blog more positive, and not always say exactly what I am feeling, in case someone else reads it and worries about me. I have tried to have a purpose to each entry, or a theme or a focus.  But, that’s not really how I thoughts come out when I talk to you.  It’s sometimes all a jumble of sweetness, regret, grief, fear, sadness, guilt and worry.  And I realize that the only way that I can really make use of this blog, of this opportunity to spill my thoughts on these pages, is to just say what is on my mind, on my heart.

It’s not really a blog for other people. Anyone can read it, of course. And I initially wanted it to be a record of memories of you that I could share with your granddaughters when they are older.  That they have something to read. But I hope that you and they will forgive me for making this also just a place for me to talk honestly with my mom, no matter whether the writing makes sense, is sad, or doesn’t really feel like it is going anywhere.

Right now, I need it as an outlet to just be with you, Mom. It feels different than writing in a journal to you, though I did do that often for the first couple of years or so.  Those words seemed to have gone into the pages and stayed hidden there. I am too scared to go back and read them. These words feel like I am letting them go somehow- like they are freer to soar and just maybe make their way to you through the internet, through the Universe, rather than tucked away in a book, in a box, under my bed, too closed for anyone or the universe to fully get a grasp on.

I went to a little craft fair today, near my place. All the vendors were selling handmade items like scarves and jewelry and soaps and even slime! Oh yeah, I still have to tell you about who in our family is crazy for slime.  I bought her a little for Christmas. I hope she likes it. I will tell her it’s also from you.  Although, maybe that’s not the kind of thing you’d want to give to your granddaughter. Don’t worry, I will choose a few other things that might be more up your alley to give to her.  The other little munchkin granddaughter has some cute things coming to her from me and you too. Don’t worry.  I just didn’t see anything that she’d really like at that place.

But you know who I always automatically look for gifts for? You.  No matter where I go, whenever I see some earrings or a nice sweater or shawl, or bracelets, I think, “Mom would really like that. Or that would look good on Mom.” I almost said that to one of the vendors today. But I didn’t want to confuse her or sadden her by telling her that my Mom is not here anymore.  Or maybe I just didn’t want to hear myself say it out loud because it would sadden me to say it.

Somehow, I will always be shopping for you, Mom. Even if I don’t end up buying the items, you are always still the first person I think of when I do most kinds of shopping.  You’re always at the top of my list. It’s going to be another tough Christmas without you.  I will make sure to buy or do something in your memory.

I did feel very sad  about it today, and I remember wondering what I should do about it. How to get through this slump that I am feeling. And then a car passed by me with the license plate LV LIF, or was it LIV LF or LIVLIF?

I tried to take a picture of it but I wasn’t quick enough. Was that you again, Mom, letting me know I need to get my butt going and just enjoy the life that I have? I hope so. Because that could mean that you are watching over us up there, and enjoying your heavenly days.

Love Tas

Awakening

Dear Mom,

It’s happening more. You know, the license plates and the 11:11’s and the serendipitous moments. Do you have a hand in this?

I know I used to believe in all of this before you passed away. I hate using those words, by the way.  But the shock of you falling and weakening and scared and in pain, and then just being gone, made me so angry at the world, at the Universe, and at God. I just felt like this is NOT the way it was supposed to happen. None of it made sense. Everything was going wrong in that month in terms of me being there for you. I felt like I was losing time with you, even then. But I had no idea there would not be any time left. It just kills my heart and soul to think about that. Most of the time, I don’t have to think about it though. It just kind of sits heavy in me constantly.

But this is the thing. There are some days, some moments, some magical kinds of happenings that have been taking place more and more  lately that make me think there has to be someone really taking care of you up there. Because something is taking care of me, in the most odd, but also unexpected and exciting ways. Is it you?  Are you making that Tas and Tea and now the Awaken license plates appear???

It’s not that I am even looking for them. I mean, that car yesterday- the second one in a few months where the license plate actually said Tea, it was parked, along a road I wasn’t evening walking. I was just driving, and turning a corner. And IT caught the corner of my eye. I thought I must have imagined it. So I kept driving. But then I thought, no no. I need to know. So I went all the way through some alleys to get back to that same spot. And there it was, sure enough, Tea. And not just TEA, but double 07 TEA. It’s like it was the James Bond of Tea- 007.  Mom, are you heightening your sense of humour up there? Because seriously, that was pretty clever.  Haha!

I don’t know if you even liked James Bond. I think you did, though, didn’t you?

And the funny thing is that tea license plate and car were in a completely different area of Vancouver than the other one I saw a few months ago. I’m not sure if they were the same car…

Oh my God. I just checked the other license plate that I took a picture of previously, that said TEA on it. And they are not even the same cars, or the same license plates.  Mom, this is so fascinating, spooky, and kind of freeing all at the same time.

But the clincher was AWAKEN. Yeah, you heard me, AWAKEN, on a friggin license plate. But here’s the thing. I was driving along Pacific Street later at night. So it was dark. You know there aren’t a lot of lights there. Maybe the roads are lit up a bit with the traffic lights if there are any. But not the parked areas near the sidewalks. And so I should really not have been able to see this license plate. It was not even from here. It was an Alberta plate, I think. So it was written in red, against the white background, rather than black. So it looked even darker than a normal license plate- less contrast.

I was driving, not even turning anywhere near the corner where that AWAKEN car was parked. But again, it was like my subconscious caught it, not my ‘waking’ mind. Haha! Oh, the irony.

But something IN me caught it. And I could have just kept driving on home. Not knowing for sure whether I imagined it. But once again, I went back. This time, I had to wind through those closed off and one way streets, typical of the west end, to get back to that car. But I did, and yup, AWAKEN it did say. I had to take a picture to prove it, more to myself than anyone else.

Does it mean I am going through an awakening? Or is it telling me I need to awaken to something I’m not seeing or understanding?

Because I have been feeling so many shifts more recently. Spiritually, emotionally, and ‘serendipitously’.  I still think I imagine them sometimes. But they are growing so much, sometimes a few happening in one day, or a matter of just a few hours, rather than a few in a couple of weeks or in a couple of months.

It’s stronger now, Mom. It all feels more powerful.  I almost am getting to the point where I expect them to happen, or maybe I am less surprised that they happen. It’s just becoming a part of my ‘norm’.

I’d like to think it’s not an angry force telling me I am on the wrong path. That I need to awaken, and get my head out of the thoughts or path I am currently on.  That instead, the license plate couldn’t have fit the word  AWAKENING on it. That’s too many letters. So it just fit in it what it could, hoping that I would get the message. That I am going through an opening, of heart and soul, and that I am being taken cared of, that YOU are being taken cared of most importantly. And that you and the Universe are just reminding me to continue with the path I am on. That mistakes have not been made. That there is a bigger purpose to this that will be revealed to me at a later date.

I don’t know. It’s hard to know what is reality, and what is make believe anymore.

Someone that came into my life recently shared a story with me yesterday. He said the Buddha was asked what is reality? And the Buddha, in response, just smiled.

It’s like that, isn’t it, Mom? It’s just like a not knowing. A creating of what we believe is real or not.  Well, I have to say that at first, thought I might be in shock when I see these very unexpected signs, I do smile after. Something in my heart smiles, hoping, wishing, that it is you. That they are messages from my mom.

Love you.
Tas

 

You, Me and the Fireworks

Hi Mom,

The first set of fireworks for this summer are about to start. I heard the tester ones just shoot up a few minutes ago. Tonight, Japan is being featured.

I am at home, in my ‘new’ little studio apartment. It’s not that new. But I guess I feel like it would be new to you because you’ve never physically been in it. I still wonder if you’ve ever been in it otherwise.  I hope so.

I don’t actually have to go anywhere to watch the fireworks. I can literally sit or even lie on my bed, and I have the best view of them.

I wasn’t even planning to stay home today. I had other plans. But I have had a really bad head and neck ache since last night.  So I cancelled everything and decided to stay close to home.

Maybe, deep down inside, the only person I would really want to watch the fireworks with right now is you.

I know I never took you to see them, all the years you would call me and ask me if I was going. And I’m scared that you thought that I was going, with my friends or other people besides you, but that I just didn’t want to take you. That is not true at all. I never actually went to see the fireworks myself. Especially when I lived in North Van, which was most of my adult years.

I like the memories of going to the beach when I was younger, going to downtown to watch the fireworks. But I also remember being annoyed by the crowds and crazy traffic and I’m not really into hanging out in big crowds. I don’t know if you knew that about me. I figure that as much as you might have thought you wanted to go see the fireworks, that walking through those crowds would be hard for you too.

But I should have asked you. I should have tried to make it work for you. I should have found another way we could have seen them together, even if we had to sit in the car, or just be somewhere away from all the rest of the people.

So tonight, I think about you. I imagine us watching the fireworks together. Maybe you are watching from above, so as I look up towards the sky, and all the magical colours that will come sparkling down from each burst, I might see or feel something of you up there. Or at least maybe you will see me looking up towards you.

Did I tell you A. asked if that is where she should look if she ‘talks’ to you? It was the cutest thing. We went out for her birthday, and I had this scavenger hunt list of things to do. Some were little things like eat something sweet, or find out someone’s name, or cloud watch. (Oh, wait! We never got a chance to do that one! I’ll have to remember it for another time).  But one of the ‘hunts’ on the list was to invite Laila Mama (you:–)) to this day.  And she was adorable. I was a little afraid that she might find it weird. I don’t think she did. Instead, she smiled and looked up and asked if that’s where she can look to talk to you.

I told her that maybe everyone has their own way. And she could choose however she wanted.  Whatever she felt comfortable with. I gave her the example that after I take a shower, and the mirrors and windows get all fogged up in the bathroom, I write “Laila” with my finger onto the foggy mirrors.

Before I could even finish telling her the example, she had already started gently tearing up the little pieces of red tissue paper that one of her birthday presents was wrapped up in. And she spelled out Laila Mama with the tissue paper pieces all across the table we were sitting at at Brown’s Restaurant.  That’s your granddaughter, for sure. Little miss creative, and jhittee. You called me jhittee, but I got that from you. But that’s a topic I will save for a whole other blog entry.

Anyway, there are people on their patios and balconies- family and friends all laughing or drinking or toasting or enjoying each other’s company on this special Vancouver night. I know that’s all you wanted. And I am sorry I didn’t help you take advantage of these firework nights.  But I promise you that I was not out on those nights either, watching the fireworks without you.

I just missed them everytime as well. I didn’t realise what a special memory they could have held for us.  How magical they could be, until now, when I watch them from my balcony and wish that I could turn back time and have this be one of our dates- just you, me and the fireworks.

Do you see the shimmery gold ones right now, cascading down so gently, with splashes of red every now and again? Oh, not there is the big bang white ones, that burst out like gigantic flowers opening up to the whole city.  My favorite ones are the sparkly white ones that shimmer quietly closer to the water.  They make me think of heaven, what I imagine it to look and feel like.

Oh.. now he shimmering white ones have these beautiful tips of deep purple added to them. I’ve never seen that before. Or maybe I just never noticed them enough.

I cannot turn back time. That is going to be an uvsose of mine forever.  (It’s funny, or bitter sweet how these kachi words just spring to my mind without me thinking about them).

But maybe I can make sure to sit with you on fireworks nights like this, writing to you and talking to you as if some things have not changed. As if you are still with me. That everytime the sky lights up with another shot of colour from these beautiful fireworks, that I can imagine that we are both finally watching them together.

I love you,  Mom. Until the next fireworks night.

Goodnigtht.

Love always, and forever,

Tas

Choose Mom

younger self

My two words would be : CHOOSE MOM (Always)

Mom, I wish so much that I could turn back time and make sure that no matter who else was involved – family, friends, career, whatever, that I always chose you first. You were my priority in my heart, but not enough in my actions. I should have always chose you first. I I am so deeply sorry that I faltered from that sometimes. You were always my first choice. I just wasn’t very good at showing it enough.

Leaving Notes,… Just in Case

Dear Mom,

they-had-plans

I hate this quote that starts, “Those who died yesterday had plans.”  I know it’s supposed to make us all stop and think and go out and do all those things that we want to do before it’s too late.  Not to take life for granted as it says.  But all it does is make me ache at the thought of all the plans you had that week or ten days you were in the hospital. And how I took all of that, and the idea that you would just be here longer, for granted.

It is so painful to think that that day that you woke up and went out in the afternoon with the homecare worker to get groceries, you had no idea that this is how it would all go.  That you were going to fall such a painful and devastating fall, right outside your place and end up in the hospital. And even in the hospital, you had no idea that you were going to stay there, and never come home again. I can’t even believe I just wrote that. Continue reading

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.

——————————

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Queen

Dear Mom,

I bought a gift for you. I know I can’t really give it to you, but I wanted to tell you about it.

It’s a crown.  It’s a little one – a Pandora charm.  I pick a different charm for different special occasions ever since you passed away.  And the crown is for your birthday because you were the Queen of our family, really.

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You kept us all together, you cared for a protected us, you were Queen Mother, Queen Sister, Queen Daughter and deserving of being treated like royalty. I wish I had treated you with all the respect, admiration and love that you should have gotten all the time.

I didn’t even show much appreciation for the Pandora bracelet when you first gave it to me.  I loved that you gave it to me, but I was feeling badly that you spent so much money on me. And I wasn’t really a big fan of Pandora or charm bracelets.  At the time, I thought it might look a little tacky to wear all these little pieces on a bracelet.

But now it’s one of my favorite things to wear.  And it has become really precious to me.

From left to right in the picture, let me know tell you what is on each charm that I’ve put on the bracelet so far.

The three leaf clover I bought in Ireland when I wanted to take you with me to Paint the Town Green.  That’s the name of one of my favorite songs, from my favorite band- The Script. I’ll tell you more about that another time.  It’s also St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, so it’s fitting for that. I am a big fan of Ireland since The Script inspired me and I was able to visit their home town and see them perform there.  And now I’m kind of a sucker for Irish accents. We can talk about that more later too. 🙂

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But yeah, that’s the first charm on the bracelet.  the second one I bought to match the round green one that you bought me with the bracelet. The one I chose has a little more aqua marine colour in it, and I didn’t realize until much later that it has these four leaf clover shapes on it too. So it kind of matched the Ireland charm. I think I chose that one for your birthday last year, just after you passed away.

Then there’s the center piece of the bracelet- the dangling, silver oval frame shape that has the words “Loving Mother” inside.  I love that one! It’s so perfect for you.  I think I bought that one for Mother’s Day for you last year. In memory of you being the best mother I could have asked for.

Then there’s the crown I bought for you for your special day today.  I didn’t realize until last night that the engraving along the edge says Snow White. Oops. Oh well, maybe I can find something fitting about Snow White that might be able to connect to you.  Or maybe it’s enough that it’s a fairy tale idea of magic, beauty, strength and an revered female. That would be you.  Plus, I like when you sparkled in your gold jewelry or bright colours like your yellow Panjabi suit.  You sparkled like a jewel. Which reminds me of a Queen and a crown. Also, we all had to listen to you, because you knew what was best. 🙂  Definitely Queen – like characteristics.

And finally, the last charm on my bracelet so far was a gift from Raym, Aria and Kat for Christmas. It has a beautiful engraving of a dragonfly in it.  They chose it because of the dragonfly necklace I wear all the time- the aqua coloured one that you bought me. The last gift I ever got from you.  I hardly ever take that necklace off, and I always get compliments on it.

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Oh yeah, it is a dragonfly. I know you and I both thought it was a butterfly. But I learned a few months later that because of it’s longer tail, it is actually a dragonfly.  Now I am obsessed with dragonflies because of it.

Thank you for all our thoughtful gifts, not just the material ones. But also the love and generosity and the sweetness that only a mother could give.  Those were the real gifts that the bracelet and necklace represent and hold.  That’s why they are so significant to me. They came from my beautiful mother’s love.

My birthday Queen.

Happy Birthday.

Love Tas

 

 

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