20th April, 2020 - the date that we were all looking forward to had finally arrived. Even in the midst of a global pandemic (silly coronavirus), you managed to throw yourself the best online 8th birthday party! You sat with me for days on end planning it– a whole list of 21 games that all of us would have to play with you. Your plan was to gather the entire family, including all of us and your little cousins in India, so we could celebrate together. It was to be full day affair, with the only break being the one you would take to change from your birthday dress to a more comfortable pair of shorts & a t-shirt! You would first show us all the decorations Daddy would have done in the living room for your party and then we would start with the games. A couple hours into the games, would be the cake cutting ceremony followed by a couple more hours of fun and games. And then, because it would be well past mid night in India, we would call it a day, wish you a very happy birthday once again and go to bed. You on the other hand, would spend the rest of the day watching your baby videos – most of which are either with Mommy or are filmed by her with her voice in the background. That was your way of feeling connected to her, I think, but at that time it was just lovely to know that you made sure she was part of your celebrations too J And that is exactly how we celebrated your 8th birthday – all of us in front of our computer screens watching you have the time of your life, while Mommy watched you from up above!
Your excitement about your birthday reminded me about your mother and how much the occassion used to mean to her! She would have hers planned well in advance too and more often than not, it used to be a grand affair! At the time of writing this letter to you, we were 1 week away from celebrating Mommys 34th birthday. In an ideal world, she would have been planning her big birthday bash here. Instead, for the past 5 years, she’s been choosing to do it in heaven :) When Nani first got pregnant in the year 1986, she and Nana were both hoping they would have a daughter. Obviously when mommy was born, they were over the moon! Sameera was the apple of her mothers eye and her fathers pride & joy. When I came into the world 3 years later, she instantly became my Forever Protector. And she continues to be all those things till today, just from a different vantage point.
There was this night at the hospice in the year 2015 when all of us had gathered to be with Mommy. You and I were playing a little game then and part of the story I made up for the game was that there were squirrels waiting to be rescued from outside. You were 3 and a half years old then and you told me to go check if those squirrels needed our help. I told you I wouldn’t be able to do that because it was dark and I was scared to go out all alone (also, there were no squirrels that actually needed rescuing). You seemed upset about not being able to help so I gave in and said I would toughen up and go look outside. You immediately stopped me and said “but maasi you will be scared, so I think it would be better if I just came along with you.” You were barely as high as my knee at the time but the idea of you thinking you could protect me was so endearing! While I was completely overwhelmed at that point, I wasn’t surprised at all! And here’s why…
You see as a child, I was always scared of the dark and sleeping alone was out of the question. Even though mommy and I shared a room, I would need to touch her while I slept – just to feel her physical presence around. She would absolutely hate it when I’d place my hand on her shoulder and get so mad at me. At the end of the day (or night) she would have to give in, because that was the only way I would let her sleep. Sometimes we’d watch scary movies at home alone (the first horror movie we watched together was The Exorcist – I don’t recommend you watch it ever!). She would love making fun of me then and I would be amazed at how brave she was to be able to go to the bathroom on her own after watching those movies! I on the other hand, would wake her up so she could stand outside the bathroom door, even though it was in the same room at that time! In a nutshell, I was quite the wuss and she would be more than thrilled to give me grief about it! Then one day, she left for college – 2 years in Pune – and I didn’t know how I’d make it through. For the longest time I slept with the lights on, but its safe to say that there were a whole lot of sleepless nights through that period. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that she would be back soon and I would have my Wonder Woman with me again!
A year after she returned from Pune, she got married and left for Cleveland. We both knew she wasn’t coming back now so we urgently needed a new plan. I would call her at night and she’d stay with me on Skype till I went off to sleep. That would work great because it would be the middle of the day there and she would still be unemployed for a little while. Totally doable. So that’s what we did for sometime in the beginning till we both just made peace with the fact that this couldn’t go on forever. And that’s when we decided to finally cut the cord, but not before she made sure I believed that there was nothing to be scared of. Today, I’m no longer afraid of the dark and am perfectly comfortable sleeping all alone because I know that no matter what, I have my Forever Protector watching over me. After all, she did train me well :)
That day at the hospice then, when you told me you’d like to come outside with me so I wouldn’t get scared; I smiled a little to myself. I looked over at your mom, in amazement again, even though this time I was only pretending to be afraid. I knew she was beaming from the inside, thinking in hear head “That’s my creation!” and trying to take all the credit for your empathy :) They say “the apple don’t fall too far from the tree”. That day, and every day since, you’ve been proving that adage right.
Even though Mommy hasn’t been around physically to raise you, her influence on your life is hard to miss! We see so much of her in the way you walk, talk, think and even dress! When you ask us questions about her, when you talk about her, when you insist on watching your baby videos with her, we know that’s just you trying to find the little pieces that connect your life with hers. Armeen, I want you to know that we could spend our entire lives helping you find these little pieces that make you feel closer to your mother – so don’t ever hesitate to ask! In the process though, I want you to look inwards as well – you will find a lot of answers there too. Your personality is unique to you and it is what makes you, you! Don’t change who you are for anyone or anything in the world. Your compassion, values, strength and self-belief are some of the virtues that will take you far ahead in life and so don’t ever let go of them. Just like your mother always held on to hers – even in her last breath, she held your hand in hers, looked around at all of us and smiled. She’s holding your hand always and will travel forever with you in your heart – but you’ve got to chart your own path. Do it wisely.