Outdoor Ed

Little A is at outdoor ed. It’s a sleep away camp for three days that’s a rite of passage for 6th graders in our school district. Little N went on this trip four years ago. Boy, what a different trip that was!

June 2014: I was a clueless rookie middle-school mom then, little N was pretty chill with the whole deal, and N somehow did not feature in the planning process at all. Packing took all of 15 minutes, if that. Off went the girl to camp – lightly packed, with hiking shoes that were a little too tight (and stayed sort of wet for the whole time), and a blanket that was a little too light (and no heating in the cabins at camp). I dropped off little N at the front of the school and took a couple of quick pictures of her and her friends (man, where are those pictures now?). I missed little N a ton for the next two days, was wistful and hoped that she was having a great time, but there was not much more to do. The girl returned two days later, reassured us that camp was fun and she had a pretty good time (tight wet shoes and cold nights notwithstanding), and that was that.

June 2018: Little A has been talking (mildly apprehensively) about outdoor ed for years now. Almost since when Akky went there four years ago. So, when it came time to pack, she was not going to tolerate any slackers. Mom, dad, and little A marched off to the local sports store multiple times to pick out the perfect sleeping bag, flash light, water shoes, sneakers, sandals, bug repellent, sunscreen, you.name.it. We picked out the most optimal rolling duffel bag after weighing the relative merits and demerits of various luggage options, packed everything in, and quizzed little A on exactly where everything was stored (her idea). I dropped off little A at the bus and hung around hugging and taking selfies with her. Little N would never have tolerated any of this – not the hanging around, the hugging, or the selfies (were selfies a thing four years ago?) – so I really indulged myself today. 🙂

But the huge difference this time around is WhatsApp. There was no such thing when little N went on her trip (if it was around, well, I had no idea). But by this point, even I have caught on. I am in a WhatsApp group for little A’s class that I have not been active in, like, ever. In fact, I have contemplated a thunderous exit several times over the past year. But somehow I hung in patiently. And today, I got my money back for my patience. There is a huge flurry of activity going on there with hundreds of pictures being constantly posted from the camp by chaperone parents (what wonderfully good-hearted people to volunteer so much time at the camp, and also post pictures so that the rats that didn’t volunteer can enjoy too).

It is super delightful to see pictures of the kids (ok, pictures of my kid) away from home, all smiling and having a great time. I am especially thrilled to see the pile of food set in front of little A and her group at dinner (I mean, I am putting out burgers and a smoothie for dinner here since the cleaning lady came late in the afternoon and I couldn’t bear to start making an actual dinner after she left). I have wondered about what this camp looks like for over four years, and now I know (without leaving the cushy comfort of my home). Technology is truly a wonderful thing!

So here I am. Checking WhatsApp every two minutes, blogging, (not) making food, pretending to work, and waiting for my little A’s return, oh, in about 44 hours. 🙂

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45

N turned 45 today (happy birthday, baby!).

I remember going to N’s 20th birthday party. And eating mixture, murukkus, and mysore pak (after all, the Grand Sweets HQ was only a stone’s throw from his place). I remember having to leave the party early, and him coming to drop me off at the bus stop. I was so pleasantly surprised that he would choose to walk with me to my bus rather than continue to play host to the others that stayed late.  Hmmm… did he already have ideas back then? 😉

10 years back, for N’s 35th birthday, five year old little N and two year old little A (awww, my teeny tiny babies!!) did handprints on a plate at our local pottery place.  Inspiration struck last month when the chickis were idling away during spring break, and we went for an encore session at the same pottery place.

Will 25 year old little N and 22 year old little A come back together to do this yet again in 2028? Well. Time will tell. I will be v. disturbed, though, if their hands are much bigger than they are now. 😉

My MIL has always been one of the first to call to wish us for special occasions. With the time difference between India and NJ, I could almost picture her in the late afternoon (there) waiting impatiently by the phone for it to turn a decent hour here. And deciding by 6:30 am that enough was enough, people should be up by that late hour and then promptly calling us. As N and I were having our coffee this morning, I almost said, “why don’t you call mom first today before she calls?”. And then bit my lip. N told me later that he kept half-expecting mom’s call this morning too. I feel so sad for him. I know that even more than the initial crushing grief, it is in the small day to day moments and on special occasions that the intensity of loss really hits home hard.

N and I canceled our separate work lunch meetings, and stole an hour in the middle of the day to go get lunch together. Mithaas did not disappoint. Even though we are not in a celebrating mood right now, I am glad that we made the time to do a little special something to mark N’s birthday. But the evening is still young. I think I am going to churn out a semiya payasam to surprise N when he gets back from work, and eke out the birthday celebrations a little bit more. 🙂

My MIL

Ivar pola yaar endru oor solla vendum…

My MIL passed away most unexpectedly last Sunday. We heard afterwards that it was a massive cardiac arrest. And that it took less than a half hour from arriving at the hospital to the time of death. When N’s cousin called with the news, it was a horrible punch in the gut. N left for India right away, and he will be there for the next two weeks, grieving with his sister and the extended family, and performing religious rites.

I wish I could have gone along to support him during this very difficult time. I wish I could have gone for myself, to say goodbye to someone who was much more than a MIL to me. But here we are, the kids and myself, since school is in progress full swing. My mind is a few thousand miles away. And counting the days till N’s return. I wish N’s cousin had called to say that my MIL had suddenly taken ill and we needed to come there immediately. I wish N had the chance to see her one last time. Man, sometimes, life is just relentless with what it throws one’s way.

My MIL was very active in a spiritual and service organization for more than 30 years. I am hearing that hundreds of people from the organization came to the funeral to pay their respects to her. We knew of her deep involvement with the organization, but it is truly mind-blowing to realize how numerous were the lives she touched. On par with – and perhaps on some level more so – than her immediate family, her community was the center of her existence. It is comforting and overwhelming to see that she meant so much to so many as well.

My first encounter with my MIL was over 25 years ago (no, N and I were not dating yet). I remember landing at N’s place with a few friends to persuade him to join us at the beach (while also calling my parents from their phone to ask for permission to go to the beach in the first place). I remember that my MIL was not impressed – “why is this girl not listening to her parents when they are asking her to go back home instead of to the beach?”, she asked N (I learned later). I am happy to report that, with the passage of time, my MIL came to realize that I was a far cry from the wild party animal that she first thought I was. During the early days of our marriage, she used to amuse herself by asking if N and I had gone singing and dancing around trees like the heroes and heroines in the old Indian movies.

N and I celebrated 20 years of marriage this month. In all these years, I have never once heard a harsh word directed at me (or indeed at anyone else) by my MIL. She was truly a gentle soul, and one who constantly kept herself super active. Whenever we went back home on a visit, it would amaze N and myself that we could wake up at 5 am all jet-lagged, and find that my MIL had already cooked a full Indian breakfast for us, and was half-way through making lunch as well.

I have so many more stories of my MIL. Perhaps I will share them with you at another time. It is surreal that she’s not with us anymore. So suddenly gone at the ripe old age of 68. For someone who gave so much to everyone around her so generously, I wish her life had been easier. Wish. It’s a fine thing, isn’t it?

I went to work today and found a little potted plant with bright little green leaves sitting on my window sill. I had not told anyone in my office about my loss. I mean, what can anyone possibly say to make anything easier? I don’t know who put the plant there and why. But it made me happy to see it. I felt like it was a life-affirming sign from my MIL.

I have thought so much about my MIL these past four days. I realize, on some level, that she will always be with us. In the goodness of N’s heart. In the intelligence of my children. In my regret for closer interactions that could have been and are now gone forever.

Touche 5

By now, it is well known that little A says or does something that results in a “Touche” post every few months or so. Why am I so surprised then, each time it happens?

So. I have this quote on our little blackboard this week.

IMG_3637

Little A walks past the board early this morning, and says, “Ok Mommy, what word would that be?”

I was stumped. It was before my first cup of tea, so I wasn’t particularly alert yet. But don’t think caffeine would have helped much with my situation anyway. So, did the only thing that I could come up with. Hemmed and hawed and ended up with a kissy sound.

Little A was v. unimpressed. “That’s not a word, Mommy. And one word won’t do anything. You need at least a whole kind sentence, ok?” insisted my stickler.

Well. If you put it like that. 🙂

Photographic Memory

Surely v. strange when you see a photo of Piazza San Marco on a travel magazine cover and your thoughts are nothing like:

  • Wow, what an awesome photo, we’ve been here
  • Oh, how breathtaking were the views from the top of that Campanile
  • how 8-year old little A, all flushed and happy, chased after the hundreds of pigeons in that square
  • how absolutely glorious and perfect that summer afternoon was
  • how the pistachio and chocolate gelatos melted in our mouths

None. of. that.

Instead, the first (and only) thought that popped into my head was:

Ha! I know EXACTLY where the toilets are. To the right, just out of range of the photo. And grrr…. how super expensive to use they were!

Che, really gotta start embracing the larger life here, I say! 😉

Six Word Spins

Wow.  I haven’t done six word spins in a long time. Like in over a couple of years, methinks. SO fun to forget about these for a while, and then suddenly remember. You know what I mean.

So, here they are – most recent happenings in my corner:

  • Kala channa for dinner, super yum!
  • Instant pot fills me with joy
  • And warm, delicious food as well
  • Fast food genocide – mind-blowing read
  • Grocery store aisles filled with crap
  • Processed junk everywhere – God help us!!
  • Wish Whole Foods wasn’t so pricey
  • Or I wasn’t so super thrifty 😉
  • Qarib qarib single – really cute flick
  • Check it out, you’ll like it
  • Two super busy bees here today
  • Is March the month of homework?
  • Snow days – school closed, everyone home
  • Cat-like idle, and cozy too
  • Please, can we have couple more? 🙂

Landing

Little A and I walked upstairs last night for her bedtime routine.  As I reached the stairway landing, I saw little N standing on the top step ready to come down.  I paused at the landing so she could go first.  Little N saw me standing there and said, “should I jump down to you, Mommy?”

It took me a minute to realize what she was referring to.  When little N and little A were (really) little, they would stand at the top of the stairs, and I would stand on that landing (four steps below).  The girls would leap from the top step into my waiting arms (oh, what a giant leap it seemed back then!), squeal with delight, and clamber back up the stairs to repeat (and repeat again).  Such a little activity (and ahem, not particularly safe), but I recall that we enjoyed it so much back then. We would sometimes finish up with me carrying both munchkins downstairs, one on each arm.

Were the girls ever that little?

Felt so happy yesterday to suddenly remember those fun little moments from our past.

Felt happier that little N remembered them first.