“ Another story, please mommy just one more”. “ My kids pleaded as I put them to bed. Of late my childhood stories have become the subject of interest and I enjoy sharing them.
Set at a time and upon a continent so far from their own surroundings, I wish for them to see me, see me as a child, one amongst several in the joint family, where food was rationed and toys were rare, and I want for them to know that despite what they imagine that I was a happy child.
Earlier that week a neighbor had casually mentioned that the home that we are currently living in once belonged to a Sudanese basketball player. “He was about seven feet tall,” she mentioned causing me to imagine him bending his head in the basement. She told me that he didn’t know how to use the micro oven and had put his food into the trash compacter instead and in a state of panic had knocked on the neighbor’s door for help. I laughed at this story, with her, at her and at myself.
After all I too had grown up not knowing a lot of the comforts taken for granted by my children. Upon researching him on the Internet I discovered that he sent almost all of his earnings back home to help many, many people. A generous soul that provided a doorway to a new life for many!!
Coming back to the dimly lit pink bedroom, with the princess drapes, warm comforters, an assortment of stuff toys, a row of American girl dolls and closets full of clothing. I mention to my children that I had only two or three sets of clothing growing up. They look at me in surprise. “We washed them everyday”, I continued, “so I never needed any more than that”.
With that comment, my story for the night steps out just like that.
Once the elastic on my underwear snapped right during lunch hour at school and my underwear kept slipping, we wore dress uniforms and I was convinced that it would fall off at some point. I was just in kindergarten and I was terrified of my convent teachers and wouldn’t dare mentioning it to them. So I went to my sister instead! She too felt the deep shame of my predicament and dragged me hastily to a stall in the bathroom, trying desperately to fasten this slipping garment. But the school bell rang and she had to leave! So I put my hand in the pocket of my uniform dress and held my underwear up with two fingers and cried silently in shame. It was to be playground time soon after math and I searched my tiny head desperately for a good excuse to miss it.
Once inside the classroom, my anxious mind did not spare me any quiet or rest. I could not stop imagining all kinds of outcomes, all in which I would be further shamed. I put my head down on the table for naptime and cried silently! Suddenly I found the light!! There was a huge rubber band on the floor below my desk! God put it there! I picked it up real quick, slipped my skinny legs through it and fastened it upon my underwear. I stood up, and removed my hand slowly out of my pocket but not all the way out just in case my plan failed. But it worked! I stepped away from my desk confidently, ran to the playground and played without a care.
I remember that day as vividly as one would remember a miracle!
On the way back home, my sister congratulated me on my quick thinking and my mother was mortified when she noticed that I continued to use that rubber band on my good underwear as well, “just in case!”
With that my story ended. My kids laughed their head off at this story and were still smiling as I tucked them in and kissed their heads.
I so… badly want for them to know that happiness is not about things you have but it’s about not having people who care and love you. I so… badly want for them to be able to laugh at themselves and have people with whom they can share their stories. I so… badly want for them to know that they will be all right, no matter what happens!
But sadly I cannot teach them that! Some lessons have to be learnt from your own life.
Originally published at vandananittoor.blogspot.com on November 26, 2014.