The Bean turns seven

My darling little menace,

I don’t know what I thought you’d grow into. But I had no idea it would be this. Filthy, fearless, funny. You have a fantastic sense of humour and a belly laugh to rival the best. You have the grace of a mountain goat (you get that from dada) and there’s no tree you haven’t climbed, no hedge you haven’t crawled through, no puddle you haven’t stepped in.

I admit there are days I look at clean little girls in neatly turned up shorts, glossy hair tied back in pigtails and then I look at you mournfully – in your brother’s hand me down tracks, sagging at the knees, your hair escaping it’s dozen clips, your tee shirt covered in paint, and I wonder if you’ll look back at your pictures when you grow up and wonder if I neglected you.

But then you’ll see the thousands of pictures I click – you standing on dada’s shoulders, his hands, hanging from his exercise bar and flipping over, balancing on a beam, swirling a hula hoop, chasing a puppy around a park, and you’ll know why you never looked as shiny as the rest.

You wield your tongue like a rapier. I find it tough to win an argument with you and shamefully often resort to the old – Because I’m your mother card. Your father, poor man, doesn’t know what he did to deserve two like us. On good days he smiles and says – Hah, I can’t wait to see the poor fool that falls for her and discovers her sharp tongue. He insists I didn’t show him the rough edge on mine until we were wed. You know I’m incapable of holding it for that long!

You haven’t met a rule you don’t want to break and I’ve had to pull you out of an empty home (you got in through the gap they’d left to fit an AC) and give you the dressing down of your life. You’ve argued and made me justify every bit of discipline I’ve tried to inculcate. But why? Many a time I’ve changed my mind because I realise that I’m merely trying to force you into a certain way because ‘we did it when we were young’. Barring some good manners, there’s little else I enforce now.

I don’t need to. You have your heart in the right place and are a fiery little creature, always ready to fight for the underdog.

But under the muck and grime and paint, you’re still tiny, like a baby bird. A delicate frame that I worry will snap, when I see you throw yourself off a tree. Long fingers that create wonderful works of art. Ugly little toes that I will never forgive your father for.

You’re unbelievably observant and I often send you to fetch and carry because your brother and father only stare blankly at me if I ask for cello tape, measuring tape, my black shoes or a roll of toilet paper.

You love dogs and I’m giving up all hope of ever having any grandchildren through you. You’re the one that will adopt dogs and refer to them as your kids. A thought that breaks my heart I have to admit!

I love the way you take pride in our home, painting little pots and appointing them in the most unstable corners. I love how you pat the Brat’s curls adoringly and say – ‘My anna is so handsome. Even strangers like to play with his curls.’ All this while your ‘anna’ growls at you in mock anger and very real embarrassment.

Your father’s parents have been won over by you. A fairly conservative couple who voted for a boy the moment they heard I was expecting your brother, they are in awe of your wit, your charm, your way with words, your sunny personality, your quick thinking. This is a huge victory of personality over tradition. It’s amusing too, because these very qualities in your mother, they find abrasive! But that’s a battle for another day. For now, I like how the female, skinny, dark, grubby little underdog took all her grandparents’ preconceived notions and flung them out the window, wrapping the old couple around her little finger. Your paternal grandpa called to wish you this morning, singing happy birthday on the phone and ending with an I love you – a phrase he’s never offered your father.

Your father and I have got used to you waving to the guard, the shopkeepers, the old gentlemen who brings his grandson down to play everyday. They all know us only as your parents. You’re our celebrity.

And just like that, I know someday you will grow up and win over everyone who ever crosses your path. You tire me, frustrate me, drive me nuts – and yet, I’m your biggest fan.

I love you,

Mama

Edited to add: You’ve been sick for the last 2 weeks now. Fever, cough, cold, gastro-enteritis, boils on your face, in your eye, nostril, and the final injury – urticaria. We had to cancel the party after weeks of running to the hospital every second day.

This morning I oiled your hair and  you sit there with your hair up in a clip, in your pajamas, your skinny limbs gracefully yet carelessly arranged. You’re engrossed in that very rare treat, the iPad, tapping your sock clad feet in time to the music and all of a sudden you’re not 7, you’re 17 and I feel my eyes shining with tears. This is it. It’s over. I had just this much time to be mother to babies. And I’m only 35 and it’s almost over. You’re growing so fast. I spend more and more time with you, clinging to what it is that I seek from motherhood, but it slips through my fingers and rushes on. I have no complaints. I have had more than I imagined and I cannot complain.

Dear Baby Button

I know your Mama and Dada love you a lot and probably write you letters in their head every night. But I’m your mad aunt and I am dying to meet you. By the time I lay eyes on you, you will be almost a year old and that thought makes me ache. Held by others, loved by others, recognising others and giving others your precious gurgles and smiles while far away I dream of you. As you can see, distance bothers me hugely, more so because I hate skype and refuse to be one of those mothers or aunts who forces kids to stand in front of a webcam and talk to pixelated faces that move in slow mo.

But your Mama arrived last night. I went to the airport to collect her and as she slowly turned the corner, all I saw was her belly. And right there in the middle of the airport I rushed to hug her and then promptly abandoned her and bent down to hug her bump. And right then I fell in love with you. Fortunately I remembered her swollen feet and rushed her into the car and got her home to a steaming hot meal. I sent SMS to all concerned on the way home (it was way past midnight) saying “The Eagle has landed”. And your G’pa promptly replied saying, “Wrong bird. We’re expecting a stork.” Yeah, you’ll learn, that your father gets his sense of humour from his father.

Anyway, this morning your cousins woke up delighted to see your Mama on their bed, dying to wake them up ( yes, at times your mother is more excitable than a 5 year old). The Bean sat up, cracked one eye open, grinned sleepily and said, “Where’s my baby Button?” and the sleepy Brat took a few minutes more only finally sitting up when I reminded him that Maami was carrying his baby Button in her belly. He wants you to be Robin to his Batman.

They’ve hugged you and kissed you before going to school and I can’t help but smile as I realise that a real live little baby lies inside mama’s tummy, soaking up the excitement and love, awaited by an entire family sitting on the edge of their chairs.

It is tradition to wear worn clothes for the first few days and I had put aside two outfits for you. A little red and white reindeer outfit of the Brat’s and a Winnie the Pooh onesie that the Bean wore. They come to you with love and luck and prayers and blessings. May they bless you with (selective!) traits that your cousins have. May you get the Brat’s loving, gentle disposition. May you get the Bean’s comic timing. May you get your Mummy’s absolute willlingness to try everything once and get up to all sorts of mischief. May you get your Daddy’s brilliant mind. And of course you have love from all of us.

I think what consoled me to some extent was seeing the Brat and the Bean hug your Mama and love her. Distance does make things difficult, yes, but when there is so much love, you survive it. They haven’t seen her since January and yet they hung on her every word and were unwilling to leave her and go to school. And I hope that when you come visiting us from the US you will enjoy our company and love your cousins right back. That you will not go nuts dealing with this mad aunt who won’t be able to stop cooing over you and kissing you…

God bless you baby Button…and hurry up - your family awaits you. So eagerly.

Love

Me

In the end it’s all the same

Dear Brat and Bean,

Years ago my nani used to have to face questions on why your Tambi mama wasn’t taught to call me didi. I was after all, a whole 14 (!!) months older than him. One, she said, 14 months didn’t warrant respect really. And two, when you’re siblings you are equals. There is no older, younger, respect, disrespect. There should just be love. I’ve often pondered over that thought and rolled it around in my head. Where did I stand on it?

As usual, the matter was taken out of my hands. Here are two pictures to prove her point.

Sometimes the Brat goes all grown up and indulges the Bean with a ride on his back…

And at other times he sleeps on her skinny little belly while she maternally strokes his head even in her sleep.

Koi shak ya sawaal as to why there was no didi and is no bhaiya? I thought not.

Love you, brats!

Mama

RIP Patchy

Dear Patchy,

You and the Brat became friends when you were both mere pups. In fact you were barely two months old when the Brat came visiting. Picking up the ball of fluff you were he flung you across the garden with all the strength his one year old arm had, which fortunately, wasn’t too much. I screamed and came running to pick you up, scolding the Brat and threatening to throw him across the garden too. The Brat of course understood nothing and as I tried to coddle you, you shook me off and went running back to him, happy to be tossed again. It was with great difficulty that we put an end to that game.

Soon the Bean came along and you were best friends. She ate out of your bowl, you ate food out of her mouth and all was well with your world.

And then you threw it all away and left us. Nani and G’pa hid it from me for a long time and when they told me, I struggled with it and wondered how to explain it to the babies. But they are so used to people coming and going that they have begun to take entrances and exits in their stride. Today, they began to ask for you “Mama, lets go to Allahabad, to play with Patchy..”

Err… err… I began, trying to make up something suitable when it came to me. “He’s gone to live with Jesus… ” I said. Now their concept of Jesus is one of their own creation. At X’mas the Bean saw the Nativity scene somewhere and said – oh look, Baby Jesus, Mama Jesus and Dada Jesus – like they were cattle or something. So I listened. And I realised they’ve picked up bits from here and there because finally we dialled Nani and this is what she was told…

Brat: Nani, Patchy wasn’t well so Jesus came and took him to Heaven to show him to a doctor there. And maybe he’ll get an injection too. And when he smiles down from Heaven his teeth shine and he is the brightest star.

Bean: and Jesus will tap (she means pat) him and he’ll be nice and warm and cosy….

Brat: so don’t cry – because he’s fine now. Maybe we can get a cat this time. I’ll get a big white cat with a collar and a leash and I’ll ride my cycle and it will race with me ..

And thus Patchy, they made their peace with your absence….

And yes, rest in peace you…

MM