This past weekend was the long weekend and a holiday in the US on the occasion of Thanksgiving. The origins of the holiday are rather murky but it does bring into focus an important concept: giving thanks. And somehow, in its own cosmic way, the universe conspired to ensure that I’d be giving thanks for some of the most wonderful people in my life: my family.
Early on Saturday morning, Gy and I set off to visit my folks who live across town. If you’re a resident of this garden city or even an occasional visitor to my blog, you’d know that the one thing I absolutely dread is traffic on the streets.
Having lived here for the last 21 years, give or take, I’ve seen the city grow from a sleepy and scenic locale to a hubbub of urbanisation. A distance that would take me 20 minutes to cover back in college now takes upwards of an hour and a half. Fumes from polluting vehicles and terribly potholed roads only serve to make things worse.
Then, thanks to the arrival of the Metro rail in our part of town , six months ago, travel became a bit more tolerable. I could cut across the city in less than 30 minutes. We decided to take it a notch further this weekend and attempt the entire journey using public transport. Starting with a cab from home for the first 2 kilometres at 6 am, we reached the Metro in time to take the train. Once we reached the last stop, we changed over to the suburban track to take the passenger train to the area where my parents live. That involved getting off the Metro, switching to the other track, buying a ticket for the journey and waiting for the train. . . all in under 5 minutes.
All that daily walking helped! Gy could manage all of this easily anyway but I surprised myself by running up stairs and between platforms, to make the train on time. The trip itself on the suburban train was an experience worthy of a dedicated blog post, so I’ll talk about that another day.
The last leg of our journey involved walking about two kilometres to my folks’ home and given the early morning air, it was a pleasure. Gy and I walked hand in hand, watched shopkeepers and greengrocers opening shop, sweeping the place outside and washing the area to keep it clean. We inhaled deeply as we walked past a florist’s wares and dodged potholes nimbly with our walking shoes on. It’s almost as if things were coming together to create the recipe for the best weekend in ages.
Walking in the door of my folks’ home, I was greeted by the sight of my delightful family. I know a lot of people have trouble with their family, but I have no such stories, thankfully. Faces around the room lit up as we walked in, right from my 18-month-old nephew to my father. People were glad to see us and the feeling was more than mutual.
In no particular order, here are the people I am grateful for in my life, just from this past weekend.
My nephew: From blowing spit bubbles to attempting to ‘jump’ off the ground, this chap is the epitome of living life to the fullest. He is curiosity packaged in a foot-high bundle and is an absolute delight to watch. Being the only boy on both sides of the family, it’s interesting to see how different he is from the girls. From eyeing me warily on Day 1 to becoming my fast friend by that same evening, this child reminds me why it’s important to just be in the moment. Always.
My niece: On the cusp of turning 5, this child is very special to me. I was with her in the hospital the day she was born. I spent the first 3 nights rocking her to sleep and changing diapers while my sister rested. I crooned lullabies while she listened with wide-eyed wonder and held her close months later when she battled a raging fever. She absolutely idolises Gy, looking up to her as the big sister who can do no wrong. This child reminds me of the power of innocence and how much love the human heart is capable of. Also, aunts are meant to spoil their nieces and I do a fairly decent job of it, if I do say so myself.
My sister: I’m blessed to have a sister. I can’t say it often enough. We’ve been each other’s confidants for as long as I can remember. We’ve shared a room ever since we were kids and this didn’t change even when we went away to study! At the dormitory, we were assigned the same room. On this trip, we had a long heart-to-heart talk on so many topics ranging from work to parenting to relationships and it was with a bit of quiet pride I saw how she’s grown up. From that kid sister I needed to protect, she is now a rock I can lean on, when the need arises.
My dad: He’s the quiet force that stays in the background, never making himself obvious but always there, for anything from a deep conversation about life to sharing humorous anecdotes from our lives. He’s always been my go-to person when I’ve been faced with a dilemma. I mused out loud that my nephew was at the best age possible. He replied with, ‘Every age is the best age, if you just allow yourself to receive the blessings.’ His silent wisdom and his deep love for the family manifests in so many incredible ways that a short note here will do him no justice. I did write a post about him a while ago.
My mom: I am forced to pause whenever I speak of my mom. No words seem adequate to do justice to the woman that she is. And I don’t say this lightly. She is my everything. Even this weekend, I noticed how she went about taking care of each of our needs, right from an infant to her husband and didn’t flinch or express tiredness once through it all. Probably the best compliment came from my niece this weekend. I was assigned the task of giving her a bath and she asked me, ‘Periamma, how come Ammamma needs a stool to give me a bath while you don’t?’ I replied, ‘That’s because Ammamma is old and needs a stool to sit on.’ She burst into giggles and replied, ‘ So funny, Periamma. Ammamma is not old.’
Her amusement made me realise something else about my mom. She never seems old because she never feels old. She can play with a toddler with the same energy as she can dish out a 3-course meal for the family. That’s not just a testament to her energy but to the power of love, which keeps her going.
My husband: He was the first to be up on Saturday morning, ready to drop us off at the station. He then periodically messaged to check in with me to see if I’ve reached safely and had any trouble. Thank goodness for technology that allows us to keep track of one another in times that can otherwise be worrisome. I never have to be concerned about his food since he cooks very well, a blessing and a skill that everyone needs, to be honest. It’s a skill that has saved me many a day, especially when I am ill and unable to cook.
My daughter, Gy: I have left this one for last, not for anything else, but for the fact that she is the reason for this post. As I tucked her into bed last night, after we came back home, she pulled me down for a kiss and said, ‘Amma, I love you.’ I acknowledged that I loved her too. She wasn’t done.
‘Actually, I think everyone loves you, Amma. You are a very lovable person. Nobody can dislike you.’
Last night, as she said this and today, as I type this, I feel tears welling up. This is what gratitude feels like. It’s the affirmation from people you love without expecting anything in return. I thought of telling her that it wasn’t true.
That there were people who didn’t like Amma or perhaps didn’t love Amma the way she did. That jealousy and anger, the emotions she overcomes so quickly, are not that easy for most people to deal with. That even your best intentions are sometimes mis-read and people tend to dislike you for no fault of yours.
But I desisted. There would be time for her to learn all this. There would be moments in life when innocence gives way to disappointment. It just wouldn’t be today and it wouldn’t be at this precise moment of gratitude.
Hugging her, feeling her cheek nestle against my shoulder, I sent up the biggest prayer of gratitude for this child in my life. Together with every other member of the family this weekend, she has been the reason for giving thanks.
I hope you find your moments of gratitude, in the everyday gestures and the sometimes unspoken thoughts. And I hope it keeps you warm on a cold winter’s evening, the way it did for me.