A lot of people ask me the question, “Where are you from?” I know most people ask because they are curious about my ethnicity, not because they want to know which state of the Union I identify myself with. But I am never really sure, so often ask, “What do you mean?” I will respond without hesitation once they clarify. In some cases, people are actually asking about the state I am from, after they catch the subtlest hint of what remains of my Jersey accent.
When the question is about my ethnicity, the responses I get range in nature from slight head nods to outward enthusiasm to the highly offensive. Here are a few examples:
“I love Indian food! I love Indian culture. That’s so cool.” An enthusiastic response.
“Wow, you’re pretty for an Indian!” Yeah, that’s a very informed thing to say. No, it’s not.
If you are reading this, I don’t want to make assumptions about how old you are. I’d like to think you haven’t stumbled upon my blog before you are a teenager, but the fact that you can read at 5 1/2 and that you constantly play with my iPhone and iPad are not working in my favor.
I am not bragging about the fact that you can read earlier than I thought you would. In fact, it just makes me sweaty, frantic and a whole lot of panicky because I thought I had way more time to clean up my language and to make this blog a place of positivity and light. You being an early reader increases the chances that you might stumble on the place where Mommy genuflects on some of her biggest insecurities and vices.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about how good friends know what to say to each other in tough situations. They know the difference between being painfully truthful and kindly, gently delivering a message. Other times, they might even tell little white lies to help you get the message. Well, I called it lies, but I realize now what I meant was not necessarily lies… more like, omission?
What do you mean? I want someone to tell it to me straight, you might think. Yeah, I say the same thing, but when it comes at me too fast, too hard, I realize I’m not always ready for it. Let’s just walk through a few scenarios and see how this might work.
A lot of my friends don’t remember their childhood. I think that’s strange because I seem to have so many memories of my childhood and I wonder sometimes if my memories are real or just fragmented narrations that I have mentally pieced together through pictures. Birthday cakes, favorite dolls, memories of parties, family and Jordache.
Lots of Jordache.
I think the year that I started to remember with clarity was around 1981. I was five.
That year, my mother took me to India to visit family. It was the first trip that I actually remember, although I had been there before. Going to India was no easy jaunt across the ocean. It was a long flight to New Delhi, with a never ending connection at Heathrow, a bustling place where my mother and I lost our way around for a while. Luckily, my mother was eventually able to steer us to the Duty Free to load up on Dunhill cigarettes for my grandfather during that break, so we got something accomplished before boarding the second leg.
There are these voices in my head. They can be LOUD. They can be annoying. One sounds a lot like my third grade teacher, Mrs. Williams, a woman who could look at me with the same derision I imagine some would reserve for Hitler. Or Judas. Or John Mayer after he’s been caught talking smack about Jennifer Aniston. I am pretty sure Mrs. Buckley, my eighth grade teacher who hated me is in the mix. Another voice kind of sounds like my mother’s. I can even swear I hear a bit of Oprah. But she’s not telling me that I won a car. Or that I can jump on her couch.
And she’s definitely not telling me that my first novel can be in the Oprah book club.
I am almost positive that one of the voices is my own.
“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
- Khalil Gibran, “The Prophet”
“Last morning, I peed my pants.”
“Last morning, I got a boo boo, Mommy.”
“Remember? Last morning, Shaila hit me.”
These are all things my three year old son, Nico, can say on a given morning. You would think that “last morning” might mean yesterday, or the day before yesterday morning. But no. Last morning can really be any morning that happened in the past. Heck, it might even be an afternoon or an evening.
We have a lot of stories about “last morning” going on in this house. “Last morning” basically is a sum of all our yesterdays; it’s where the accidents of our past took place and where we lay our mistakes to rest.
I had to go to the hospital for a small medical procedure this week. Don’t worry, everything is fine, but it’s something I have been putting off for a long time.
Anyway, I had to go under general anesthesia before the Doctor could operate. I was a little nervous, more about going under the knife and the pain I might feel afterwards than about my lack of consciousness. The Anesthesiologist was a sweet and lovable looking Indian man, with kind green eyes, and he assured me that everything would be fine. I allowed myself to be comforted by him and went under quietly and without a fight.
When I woke up, John was sitting beside me.
Me: It’s done?
John: Yeah, it took no time at all.
Me: Did I poop on the table?
John: No, not that I know of.
A while ago, I saw someone who is broken. Someone I love.
I used to think that you could fix anything. That emotional cuts could heal, that a painful past could be left to reside in its yesterdays. I have learned with time that it’s not so easy to compartmentalize the good and the bad in your life. That old memories have a way of inviting themselves into your life when you least need them. That things you think you are over, that you have tidily found a place for in the farthest corner of your mind, can tip-toe back to the front. Demanding that you acknowledge them and stop throwing them into the back of the attic to be hidden once more.
I used to be good at hiding things away. At applying salve to my emotional wounds and covering my cuts with enough Hello Kitty band-aids that I thought they would only leave some small scars as proof.
Look, if you had, one shot
Or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?
I was bold but shy. Inquisitive but reserved. I was going to own that joint even though some days I was too scared to even step into the room.
I was a badass. 5 going on 6.
The thought of going intoxicated me. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to jump up and down in excitement or crawl in a corner and hide. It was my first shot at independence. My first break at being an individual.
What if they found out I couldn’t tie my laces? The only way I could even remotely pretend to was with those damn rabbit ears and everybody knew that was just a pre-schooler’s way of faking it.