“I am convinced there is a ghost in our house!” Sahana proclaimed as one of our musical Christmas knick knacks on the coffee table started playing Christmas music without any assistance on our part.
We were having dinner. We all stopped chewing and looked at each other. How, on earth did that happen? After a few moments of silence, Sahana also said, “Well, I do believe there are ghosts and one lives in this house. I have felt a presence. And she likes me the least. She has smacked pies out of my hand!”
Ryan, who keeps a baseball bat with him (or a kitchen knife sometimes, much to my chagrin) when he is alone, silently looked at her for a few seconds. He said he too is a believer, his voice filled with awe and a little fear.
Then he looked up at the air on top of my head and pleaded with the ghost, “Well, you are welcome to stay. Just don’t cause us any harm.”
I said I also don’t NOT believe in ghost. There is a possibility that spirits linger but I advised the ghost to remember that only weak seek revenge, strong forgive and smart ignore so either be a strong ghost or a smart ghost but please don’t be a weak ghost and seek revenge on us.
That statement elicited a chorus of “MOM, DO NOT SAY SUCH THINGS TO THE GHOST!!! She might be provoked to harm us. What are you doing?” This outburst was followed by Ryan looking at the air on top my head again and saying, “Please forgive her. She does not know what she says. Hey Sahana, do you know if our parents killed anyone in this house when we were little?”
I happened to address the ghost as “it” which was not acceptable to my children. “Don’t dehumanize her, mom. You will make her angry!” Sahana exclaimed.
“But this ghost is not human. It is former human!” I justified.
“You called her it again”. Stop doing that. She will get offended!”
“So what pronoun should I use? And how do you know it is a she?”
“Ugh, don’t use it!! Use they/them. Keep it non binary. That is the best option. But DO NOT dehumanize the ghost by calling them ‘it’. They may seek revenge.”
“Well, then they will be a weak ghost.” I shrugged.
“MOM!!! Don’t provoke them! What are you doing?”
The deed was done, though. I had provoked them. The Christmas music thing kept on playing at interval throughout the night as I gnashed my teeth at the ghost.
Next morning my husband said, “Jeez, that thing was playing at night. Let’s turn that off!” I did not find a turn off button on it, so I handed it over for him to try.
Sahana and Ryan are convinced it is our non binary ghost playing a prank. Another Christmas prank.
The music continues to play intermittently. Our non binary resident ghost continues with a prank of their own. Time to take the batteries out of that infernal Christmas toy! And if the music still continues, we will call an exorcist. Ghost, you have been warned…..
One day, right after Thanksgiving, I caught my husband smiling a Grinchy smile.
‘Why are you smiling like that?’
He said he had an idea. A wonderful idea. Just like the Grinch, he had “a wonderful, awful idea”. He told me his plan and I gave him a hearty clap on his back for being so deliciously evil. He came up with the plan and I executed it flawlessly. It was a perfect team work.
I bought gifts early this year, right after Thanksgiving because what else am I going to do during a pandemic? As the gifts started arriving to my doorstep, I scooped them up, wrapped them right away, and wrote Sean’s name on each one of them. That was the plan. Sean thought of the idea of addressing each gift in his name so the kids would wonder when their gifts were coming. As the pile of gifts under our Christmas tree grew, Ryan and Sahana grew increasingly perplexed. Why was not a single gift for them?
They did not say anything for a while hoping their gifts will arrive eventually. To make it believable I wrote Ryan’s name in one big package and couple had Sahana’s name on them. They gave each other gifts so Ryan’s gift totaled to 3 and Sahana’s 4. Sean’s name was on 17 gifts. A week before Christmas Ryan started mumbling, questioning if more gifts were coming still. I said I was done.
“What?? NO! Are you kidding me? You can not be done. Sahana and I hardly got any presents. Its all for dad!”
“Yes, I see that! You know, I bought impulsively this year. I did not keep count on how many I was buying for who and I got carried away with Dad’s presents.” I replied with an embarrassed smile. That threw him off guard – for the moment.
Sahana was confused like her brother but she is older now and did not verbalize her thoughts but silently supported her brother’s tirades.
Over the course of the week, discussions during dinner were dominated by different thoughts on the inequality of the number of gifts, questioning my love for certain family members, quantifying Sean’s good deeds to have deserved so many gifts. Sean simply smiled while I said things like, “my love for you is not measured by materialistic gifts, my darling.” I do not believe that placated my son. To be fair to Sahana, she smiled and laughed mostly and said, yeah, yeah’ as Ryan carried on about how few gifts the ‘children’ got. I continued to look shame faced.
“Sorry guys! It does seem a little unfair. I guess I just got carried away!” That continued to be my refrain.
On the night before Christmas eve, when all hope of arrival of more gifts were extinguished, Ryan forlornly looked at his 3 gifts and said,
“I guess I am considered the scum of the family. Only 3 gifts while dad has 18. Even Sahana has 4 and mom has 7! What kind of family is this where parents get more gifts than kids?”
I said his gift was expensive and he will be happy. He was quick to show his gratitude.
“Mom, I thank you for that. But why did dad get so many gifts? How good was he this year?”
Sean and I laughed till we had tears in our eyes in the privacy of our bedroom. Ryan is absolutely hilarious without even trying. And his laments about lack of gifts were in good humor. I laughed helplessly at his funny quips and he laughed loudly too with his broken, teenage voice. It was truly entertaining last 10 days or so before Christmas. Laments and funny quips got more desperate and hence funnier as the big day approached.
Christmas morning dawned. We decided to take photos with our gifts in front of us. Here are the initial photos as I handed out the gifts.
Right before we were about to open the presents, I pretended to look at the number disparity and shook my head.
“I went a little crazy with dad’s gifts and it looks bad for the photos. Here, why don’t we reallocate them and you two help him open presents.”
“No, no! Let all your friends know what you did this Christmas. Make sure you post them on Facebook. Why will we open dad’s gifts? Let him open his. We will wait. I have only 3 anyway.” Ryan said in his fog horn voice.
“Nah! Let’s redo this.” Amid protests from both brother and sister, I redistributed the packages. And then accompanied by unadulterated laughter, we told them about our naughtiness.
I had written Sean’s name in all caps for Ryan’s gifts. Printed his name for those meant for Sahana and wrote Sean’s name in cursive for the ones that were actually his. After reallocating the packages, the story changed, Ryan’s smile returned, Sahana’s weak smile brightened, Sean and I laughed till we cried!
Since he had no idea we had played a trick on them, Ryan wrapped an empty box for Sean with this note in it:
He looked peevish when Sean opened the package with this note, “Jeez, I feel kinda mean now!”
At the end, it was indeed a holly, jolly Christmas. There was laughter, there were exclamations, there were squeals of joy and thank you’s. There was acknowledgement that ‘we got them’. They never guessed what we were up to and ultimately it ended up being a fun prank. What we got out of it? Days of endless mirth at their bafflement, the fact that our son is very materialistic, our daughter has matured enough to not harangue us with questions about her gifts.
It was, after all, a joyful Christmas. And if you charge us with bad parenting, we plead guilty. But the laughter and evil planning behind their backs were oh so worth it. 😀
As we stood side by side preparing our quick lunch in the kitchen on a work-from-home day, I casually mentioned to Sean that I will be needing the office space that night from 6:45 till 8:00 pm as I was co producing a virtual class for the library.
“Oh no!! I have a virtual cocktail meet with big donors where I am presenting and answering questions!” he exclaimed. And looked at me with I-am-so-sorry eyes.
We really don’t have an office space in our house. There is a little office room which we transferred into nursery when we moved in as I was pregnant with Ryan. After spending all his infancy, babyhood, boyhood years in that little room Ryan finally took over Sahana’s room after she went to college. Sahana beautifully rearranged Ryan’s former (tiny) room and settled in it when she came back home due to the pandemic. It has a cozy dorm room feeling to it, complete with color changing lights.
Over the years, all our ‘office’ work and school work were done on the kitchen table. We did not feel the need for an office since I work for the library system and Sean travels all around the world for his job. The little time we had after our respective jobs was spent on carting children to soccer, basketball, music, swim practices and meets. Once the pandemic hit and we pivoted to online work we realized we were in trouble and we also realized as a family that Sean is a very loud office mate.
During pandemic, I took many trainings while we waited for the library system to resume service, facilitated book club and had to meet with co workers virtually. I often found myself glaring at Sean, who also met with his colleagues virtually and rather loudly. As he gained steam and got excited about whatever they were discussing, the decibel level increased. I often glared at him and huffed off with my computer on mute to the bedroom and shut the door. More than once I was either asked by colleagues if I was on my bed and if planned on falling asleep 😃 ! After both our meetings, Sean asked, “Was I too loud? I am sorry!” The next time our meetings conflicted, he would start off with normal voice and then predictably grew louder and louder as his meeting progressed.
As months went by, Sean started bringing his office into our home. It started innocently enough! A big ring light came for his zoom meetings, then huge banners of his organization were delivered to set up as back drop. The last straw was all the photos that he had on the walls of his office came home with him one day along with the bowls he used at work and silverware. He then took a very handy desk from our main floor which held all my electronics, laptop and devices, and took it downstairs to the basement and set up a nice office space with the ring light for zoom meetings. My stuff were relegated to a small white table.
When I saw the neatly set up office space, I rubbed my hands in glee, immediately planning to usurp it whenever I had classes to teach or facilitate. My classes are generally in the evening so I figured they will not coincide with Sean’s meetings since those are primarily during day time. Win, win! Or so I thought. The first day I decided to stake my claim on his hard work, he had a cocktail meeting. Who has cocktail meeting during virtual work? What is the point of that? Sean does not even drink!
Sahana happened to be in the kitchen when we were having the conversation of our meeting conflict. She decided to be helpful and made a comment. Big mistake! I jumped on her right away.
“Can I use your room then?” I turned to her with bright eyes. She had a lovely set up for her online classes.
Although she was taken aback, she agreed and I found her room nicely cleaned, all ready for me once I got back from work. The class worked out beautifully. I did make Sean feel bad about the conflict, admittedly unfairly and he relinquished the office to me for my next class while he took phone calls from all over the world upstairs, next to the children’s bedrooms where they were trying to attend virtual classes. And he was, as usual, loud.
This morning was beautiful and Sean was talking to his colleagues over phone on our back deck. I saw that he finally met his match. A blue jay flew close by, settled on a branch near him and proceeded to tell Sean, in no uncertain terms, that s/he can beat him hands down in volume any day. Its on! Sean became louder by the minute and the blue jay kept pace. As I heard the competition between bird and human, I smiled. Situation is less than perfect in so many homes. We need to find whatever humor there is, we need to laugh, we need to give, we need to share, sometimes office space even. We need humor to get by.
I forgot to pack my notebook as I packed some grubby clothes hurriedly in a newly purchased tote bag to take to Cliff Island off the coast of Maine for seven days. My extremely outdoorsy husband had purchased two kayaks because the kids ‘needed’ it you see and was planning on bringing them. The children declared they absolutely needed their bikes to ride around the three and a half mile long island with their cousins. There was a tennis court on that tiny island, so how could we not bring tennis rackets and balls? There is also a baseball field, we could not simply leave behind baseball glove and bat, could we? I sighed as I looked at the accumulating junk and dictated folks to take bare minimum in clothes so we could each carry a bag pack and keep both hands free so we COULD CARRY JUNK! The island does not have a grocery store for provisions so we needed to plan and buy seven days worth of groceries, and then figure out a way to carry them!! I forgot to pack my notebook though, in the hustle bustle of planning. I planned to write down my stream of consciousness as I sat in front of the ocean. In the absence of tangible medium, I wrote and painted in my mind’s canvas. Before life gets steadily busy, I hope to put down those thoughts on these blogs.
Like many others on this planet with children, our lives are hectic and rigidly scheduled. As August came closer, all four of us counted down days to break free from work travels, deadlines, swim meets, baseball practices to reclaim our time together, doing what we love to do – reading, walking, talking, listening to music, swimming, playing. We planned a retreat from real life with Sean’s siblings and their families in a tiny little island off the coast of Portland. We rented a house for a week starting Saturday, right on the water. However, my family headed north early, on a Thursday morning at 5 am to jump start the vacation. The plan was to meet our one day old niece in Boston and then drive up north, find a place to stay for two nights, Thursday and Friday, and then get on the ferry from Portland to head to the island on Saturday.
We started our long journey before the sun rose. Sean had secured two kayaks on top of our minivan and two bikes behind the car on bike racks. I had a niggling fear that one of those would go free, go flying and hit fellow motorists. That did not happen thankfully. We arrived in Mass General Hospital with all our JUNK intact but went round and round the busy city of Boston to find parking for our heavily loaded car. We held and kissed our baby niece, full of joy at the miracle of life and hit the road again after bidding the proud and tired parents goodbye. We wanted to visit some of the beaches of New Hampshire or maybe Maine, get a couple of days of sandy beach fun before we met others at the ferry and headed over to Cliff Island. First stop was Hampton beach. We tried to get a hotel for two nights but nothing was available. It was coming up on dinner time and the day was slowly losing its luster. We decided to move on, drive up and find accommodation somewhere farther up north. We were not worried. Next stop was Ogunquit, Maine. The beach was gorgeous, the town seemed inviting. Four of us started to feel hopeful about finding lodging and eventually some dinner, but ‘no vacancy’ signs greeted us as we passed cute hotels, motels and bed and breakfast. A resort right on the beach showed vacancy sign. We parked and jogged to the reception desk. The children, cooped up in the car for 10 hours, ran to the beach to touch the water.
The resort offered one night’s accommodation for almost $400. Friday night was full. Crestfallen parents called the kids back to the car to continue the journey, but the lovely restaurants and the handmade ice cream stores were too tempting to pass by. We stopped for dinner at Hamburger Harry’s. The kids got busy ordering while the parents desperately searched for lodging on their smart phones. The children, with their bellies full of sumptuous burger, kept reassuring us they could sleep in the van if needed. I glared at them instead of appreciating their effort to be accommodating 🙂 ! I recognized their effort later, when I relaxed finally in a comfortable bed. After several attempts, we found accommodation for two nights in a hotel in South Portland, only to find out later that the Boston Marathon bombers stayed in the same hotel before their heinous deed (the knowledge would not have made any impact on our decision of staying there at that point anyway). We drove up to our hotel, after ice cream of course, and crashed.
We woke up Friday morning ready for a beach day. We wanted to have the total boardwalk experience with all the glitz since we knew we will be in isolation in an island far away from the madding crowd. We found Old Orchard beach that fit the bill, complete with an amusement park, boardwalk fries, tattooed skin and crashing waves. The kids ran towards the amusement park before they said hello to the ocean.
As Sean and I stood in line to buy a few tickets for a some rides, a man walked up and gave us two passes for unlimited rides, FOR FREE, just like that. He had to leave the beach and had no use for those passes, he gave them to us. Before we could collect our wits to thank him profusely for his generosity, he left! The children rode every single ride till Ryan threw up and decided enough was enough and sometimes too much. After a mediocre lunch in a taqueria, which had an interesting name with a frog in it, we finally headed to the beach. My thin Indian skin can not tolerate the coldness of the Atlantic Ocean in Maine, so I slept on the sandy beach while my family rollicked in the waves. Completely satiated with our day of sand filled and sun filled activities, we headed to our hotel to get ready for our big preparation day on Saturday. The day we had to figure out a way to transfer our kayaks, Sasha and Hexel (yes, they are even named), our two bikes (no names), luggage, books, towels and seven days worth of provision across the ferry from Portland to Cliff Island. But before we did that, Ryan got lost. I will leave you here with a cliff hanger like mystery writers do, so you will wait with baited breath about the fate of my son, till I write the next installment. I am evil like that. 🙂
No matter what you do, never ever call a 10 year old would-be athlete who is flexing his muscles in a skin tight, two sizes small Under Armor undershirt, looking extremely skinny – a string bean. You will get an uproar of protest and you will be subjected to almost half an hour of persuasive argument that his muscles are not string beans and you will be made to witness him flex his muscles in different (very funny) ways to prove his point. I am warning you, don’t do it.
I did not do it either. Of course, I know better. It is the big sister who did it. On a lovely fall Sunday, our resident would-be athlete was getting ready for his game of baseball. It was the first game, we did not have the team shirt yet, so he was going to go in a stylish black and grey, hand-me-down Under Armor undershirt. He wears that particular one for superstition as well as style. However, it is a couple of sizes small on him. I watched the entire process of trying to put that shirt on with different maneuvers. I tried to intervene when I became alarmed at the prospect of his limbs getting stuck in the tangle of the sleeves of the shirt but I was paid no heed. What do I know? I am just the mother. So I left the scene to pay attention to other chores that needed looking after. In the mean time, he got the shirt on (I really am not sure how) and went in front of the mirror to check his reflection. He must have immensely liked what he saw since he went to his sister’s room to brag. I was told he started doing some ninja moves in front of his sister to show off the muscles and “six packs” (two packs max) that were highlighted by the tightness of the shirt. Ryan is by no means skinny but he is on the slender side. However the shirt had constricted his muscles so tightly that he looked like a straight line. Sahana watched him spring around her room for a while with bemused expression and then said with an indulgent smile, “Dude, you look like a string bean!”
The dude was in the throes of vanity and hence the term string bean did not bode well with his ego.
“I am NOT a string BEAN! Mom, Sahana called me a string bean!”
This was said with chagrin. His self worth was bruised, ego affronted. He ran out of Sahana’s room to do his ninja maneuvers in front of me to repudiate Sahana’s comment.
“Do you see my muscles?” He asked hopefully.
The only words popped in my mind were….you guessed it…string beans. And laughter – bubbling, uncontrollable laughter threatened to frizz out of me at his antics and his skinny arms, flexed hard to show off. I controlled my twitching mouth and oohed and ahhed appropriately to salvage the vanquished pride. I said he was starting to look strong and if he ate right and continued to exercise he will grow big and strong and most importantly, healthy.
Sahana continued to call him string bean but he is used to her teasing so with my support, he dealt with it better by trying some ninja moves on her. Before the situation could escalate, I said, “Oh look at the time. You need to get going. Get your bag and water!”
Baseball saved the day. But Sahana and I had a good laugh behind his back about his skin tight shirt and his stringy bean ness. But don’t tell him that 😀 !
I was often asked in the early years of my marriage to a man of different ethnicity, how do I deal with the cultural difference. I scratched my head and pondered. Was there much of a difference? Sean and I were different culturally but the core values were (and still are) very similar. We both firmly believe in honesty, integrity, transparency, we are both stubborn, control freaks, we both love being parents. We have similar views on world peace, gun control, liberalism so on and so forth.
There were some cultural differences though. And the differences came to mind as I slit two green chilies and threw them in the egg curry I was making for supper a little while ago. When we were newly married, he called me a hot chick and I took extreme umbrage at the endearment. I lashed out at him for not respecting me as a woman. He was flabbergasted at my reaction to his effort at being romantic and quickly mollified me by saying, ‘Must be a cultural difference, I meant you are attractive!’ After asking around and being laughed at by our mutual friends I accepted the fact that he was genuinely trying to be cool and romantic.
He called my purse ‘pocket book’, I never figured out why.
“Why do you call this a pocket book? It is neither a book nor is it a pocket!” I exclaimed.
“Well that is what it is called. Not purse. Purses are small!” He countered.
Then we would get into a major argument over it till we decided to let it go by terming it as a cultural difference.
He laughed hard when I swatted at him and said, “Don’t give me that cock and bull story!”
“What is cock and bull?” He laughed.
“What!!!! Don’t tell me you don’t know what that means! You are a native English speaker! Hello!! Do I need to teach you English now? I laughed back at him.
“We call that bull shit!”
“Well, I am classier than that, I guess!” I came right back.
One time we fought over the meaning of ‘karma’ all morning. We both got dressed in a huff and ran over to Enoch Pratt library to look at dictionaries and encyclopedias. This happened at a historic time, pre Google. Can you believe time existed, life existed before smart phones and Google? There you go, I went ahead and dated myself.
And we joked constantly over British English and American English. It took me a while to drop the ‘u’,s in favor, color. But eventually I did. I conformed. I gave in. Although I am still an anglophile at heart.
After 20 years of knowing him we don’t think of cultural difference any more. Now the difference of opinion is in our choices of football teams and baseball teams. So why did I think of the cultural difference as I evilly threw in the green chilies? Because Sean, despite his fondness for Indian food, can not tolerate the smell and spice of green chilies. And I can not ever become American enough to forego my love for it. I put green chilies in dal, vegetable, paneer either as a garnish or I make a puree of it by processing it in the food processor. I assure you, I go easy on the number of chilies I put, but if Sean happens to chew on one, he yelps and hiccups. I feel slightly guilty and decide not to add them next time. But when I see the golden daal simmering beautifully in the pot, the Bangali in me reaches for a lovely, lush green chili (errr…maybe more). It looks so beautiful and familiar, it smells so fragrant and yes, familiar. How can I resist it? Similar with achaar (Indian pickle). I have indoctrinated my two children into loving achaar – lime pickle. Their meal is not complete without it. While Sean can not stand the smell of it.
“You are not a true Indian!” I say to him. “I have failed to Indianize you!!”
“Uff, I don’t know how you can stand that stuff!” He replies.
And then, when he discovers a green chili in his daal, he says to the kids, “Your mom is trying to trick me again. She is trying to kill me! Help!”
You will think of me as very mean, but I will go ahead and confess that I laugh hysterically (although soundlessly) after he bites into a green chili by mistake. What? It has some vitamin or other. It is good for him. As they say in India, you don’t really grow up unless you learn to eat green chillies. I am just helping my husband grow – culturally.
Disclaimer: This blog has some gross stuff. If you are squeamish about doggy doo doo, please stop reading now 🙂 !
If not, here is a story:
‘Bring a urine sample and a fecal sample when you bring Sage for his annual check up. And collect the first urine in the morning, that gives us the best information about his kidney functions.’ The vet tech informed me as she gave me an appointment for Sage’s annual vaccinations and well check.
‘Ummm, urine sample?’ I gulped nervously.
‘Yes, our records show that he hasn’t had a urine culture done for the last three years! It is time for one!’ She said sternly! I could hear ‘you negligent doggie mother’ going through her head.
‘Ok, Ah, I will try!’ I was still squirming, feeling judged.
‘Just take one of your throw away plastic containers and hold it under him as he raises his leg to pee! You will be fine!’ She tried to be reassuring.
Poop, I wasn’t worried about. Don’t I pick up his poop everyday to keep our environment clean? Don’t Sean and I get into a poop counting competition – who collected more poops from our backyard? Yes, the fecal sample is a piece of cake! What? You don’t like that analogy? Well, should I say fecal sample is a walk in the park, then 🙂 ?
The only time I collected urine from Sage was when he was less than a year old. The vet’s office had given me a tray and asked me to hold it under him when he peed. I came home with some trepidation about the whole thing about collecting pee and felt irritated that I had to be the designated one to do this job – the mother, of course.
I remember the day being extremely windy. I remember Sage being exasperated with me and then decided it was a game I wanted to play with him. He kept running away and play bowing, ‘Catch me if you can!’ He was still a puppy and hadn’t acquired the dignified disposition that he has now. I had led myself to believe I had trained Sage to do his business on command. On shivering, cold nights, I held on to his leash and said, ‘Hurry up!’ When he did his stuff, I gave him a treat. He is an extremely smart dog, he caught on quickly. The day of urine collection, ‘hurry up’ command failed. Long story short, I got the urine sample somehow. I remember the urine blowing in the wind and me blowing with it. Anyway, the deed was done. I ran it to the vet’s office, paid a bunch of money to get the urine tested. Sage was proclaimed disease/germs free and I felt the money and the effort was well worth it.
I do not know how I managed to dodge the urine check up for the last couple of years. I probably said I won’t pay for it, the accusing eyes of the vet be damned. This time however, the vet tech’s serious accusatory tone was my undoing. Also Sage is 4 years old, still young but getting up there. I acquiesced.
The appointment was at 9:30 in the morning. I did not sleep well the night before devising different strategies for collecting pee. When morning dawned, I was loath to get up because of the unpleasant task that lay ahead.
Here I must give you a brief description of Sage. A friend described him aptly – he is that kind of dog who gives you the feeling that he will don his bifocals and read the Sunday New York Times. He is dignified and Sagely. He never grabs a treat from your hands, but takes it between his teeth daintily. He stares down his food but doesn’t eat it unless he hears the magic word ‘ok’. He doesn’t break his ‘stay’ command (unless given by Ryan) till we say Ok. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. His wild side comes out while playing with his 8 year old human brother (who, he considers a fellow puppy), when people come to the house, he goes overboard showing his love and errrr….when he discovers fox poop. He rolls in it! Other than these indiscretions, Sage is very dignified. And so am I.
So a dignified dog and a dignified woman were on a mission – to wrestle some pee out of the dog and collect it in a container.
I put him on a leash and took him out at 7:30. Hurry up Sage! Sage knew something was up since I had a container in my hand and a leashed walk this early was highly unusual. The usual routine is a grumpy woman opening the back door for him, first thing in the morning. He wasn’t going to make it easy for me. Of course!!! He sniffed and sniffed and my hopes leaped. Maybe now, may be now! Now???? After 10 minutes, I gave up, came back in to yell at Ryan to get ready for school. Sage looked at me with his beautiful, chocolate drop eyes, ‘What is wrong with you, today???’
I didn’t wait for Ryan to get on the bus, like I usually do. I gave him a kiss, said goodbye and took Sage for a walk, armed with the container, a ziplock bag and a big plastic bag to hold it all. My focus was only on the dog, or rather on his back legs! When would they rise, when would I hold the container? It rose in a while! I jumped ahead and put the container under him! The leg dropped. I had collected a single drop! Literally, a single drop! On top of that I got a look from Sage which said, ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOINNNNNGGGGAAAA???’
You’ve got to be kidding me!!
I realized then as I straightened up and looked around me in frustration, that each driveway had children and their moms standing, waiting for the elementary school bus. I had started walking too early. And they were staring at me, at my container and my baffled dog.
I was too determined to turn around. I wanted the job done. The dignified me wanted to dig a hole and hide in it but the ‘let’s get this done’ me wanted to get this DONE once and for all. I plodded on. Sage, finally lifted his leg at his favorite fire hydrant and let out a stream. Elated, I crouched down and held the container, ignoring the warm spray on my hands. And then he dropped his leg. And his leg hit the container held in my hand. And the container dropped from my hand! I looked in horror as the precious yellow liquid stained the white snow!
Now, I am not the one the one to curse. But once in a while, I reach my limit. This was my limit!
SHHHIIIT!!! I semi-yelled.
And then I heard a whisper, ‘What is she doing, Mommy?’
Another whisper, ‘I don’t know honey! Shhhhh….!’
I did not look. I knew it was one of the little kids waiting for the bus. I pulled down the brim of my baseball cap with my unpolluted hand and walked on without looking back.
Finally, Sage did do his business. I did get adequate sample. Sage could not figure out my erratic behavior and I did not explain.
We went to the appointment armed with our booty. Sage shivered and asked me repeatedly to take him home. He got 4 shots, lots of love, bunch of treats and a clean bill of health. All’s well that ends well. I will not do this urine test for him for the next three years. He’d better stay healthy!
Oh, the indignity of it all!!! But the clean bill of health makes the pee collecting effort, somewhat, worth it.
‘You know, I love men!’ I said this to my husband as we took a leisurely stroll on the eve of our anniversary. If I had said this on the eve of our first anniversary, my husband may have raised his eyebrows. But we have been married for seventeen years and time has made Sean immune to my eccentricities. He takes them all in his stride and puts up with it all, with a chuckle.
‘That’s wonderful! I am glad you love one half of the humanity. Is there a specific reason?’ He wanted to know. He was humoring me, I know. But I never let an opportunity to talk, pass. Honest confession, I am chatty.
Having made the generic statement – I love men, let me qualify. My love for men is not unconditional. For instance, I don’t love those men who feel empowered by hurting women, children and animals. But then, I don’t love women who do those things either. I do not claim to understand men completely. I sometimes find them condescending, specially towards women who talk about sports. Sometimes their denseness frustrates me. I don’t understand why it is so hard to admit ‘yes, I am cold’ in sub-zero temperature and what is the point of arguing with the GPS in the car about directions. It is a machine (with a woman’s voice) giving directions, for crying out loud! And I certainly don’t love the man, who flipped me the bird, when I refused to take a left hand turn and throw my car in front of aggressive, oncoming traffic, the other day!!! That guy needs anger management classes and safe driving lessons. After those, I may consider including him in this love fest.
Anyway, as I sat in one of Ryan’s baseball practices, I watched men, protected behind my shades. The men I watched were dads of Ryan’s teammates. They were teachers, corporate high-flyer, lawyers or physicians in their real lives. But as their cars pulled into the parking lot of the ball park and they donned their baseball gloves to throw with their sons, they seem to be stripped of their adult careers, adult responsibilities and became 8/9 year olds themselves. When their sons ran to their coaches, the dads started throwing amongst each other, without stopping to introduce themselves and without missing any of the continuity. As I sat on the bleachers and eavesdropped, I heard stories of high school sports and glory days of their yesteryear. information about each other were exchanged as the ball flew between them. A sort of friendship slowly emerged while the ball was being thrown and caught. This seamless integration with each other, I notice, when Ryan or boys of his age go to any social setting. No words are necessary to become a part of a team and start throwing a ball. The men have the same formula for integration, I observed. This quality is so natural and so endearing. They parted with a hearty handshake, a hard clap on each other’s back and with a ‘see ya at the game’ – their sons’ game over the weekend. Ryan becomes part of a team every season. So does his dad – he becomes a part of a team of dads, men who enjoy coaching, throwing the ball, practicing, helping the little boys in their baseball skills and perhaps, reliving their own Little League days. I have heard horror stories of parents taking their passion for their children’s games too far, but I haven’t witnessed any nastiness….yet!
The moms are different. We introduce ourselves, ‘Hi, I am _____, I am _______’s mom.’ That is our identity, at least on the ball park. The moms, generally, don’t talk about their highschool sports or their own athletic prowess. They talk about schedules, and the different sports their children play, the amount of homework they get, whether they are in the gifted/talented program. Moms bring dinners at the ball park so there is one less thing to do when they get home. They keep an eye on the siblings who are just tag along. The mommies organize the volunteer snack schedule, who will be the team mom during the game. They keep the children from climbing the fence, throwing gloves at each other, they make sure the boys stay hydrated. They arrange for carpools so they can take their other children to their respective practices. They pull their husbands away from the game and remind them when Joey needs to be picked up or where Samantha needs to be dropped off. The husband turns to his mates and winks, ‘I don’t know any of the schedules, I just do what the boss tells me to!’ That evokes communal mirth among the men and empathic nods and smiles.
Girls grow up faster than boys and very rarely revisit their childhood. The moms are busy holding it together. Men do. They can become little boys from time to time, as THEIR little boys/girls play baseball, football, lacrosse. Then as they drive out of the sports arena, reality sets in, and the men become dads again. Childhood waits…till the next practice or game.
Forgive me, for I have misled you. I have given you false information from the beginning and I am truly sorry. Well, please believe me when I say that I haven’t willfully told untruths, I have been duped.
It all started when the yellow fuzzball came to our house. It was veni, vidi, vici – we were silly putty in his little paws, floppy ears, cute pink tongue and round chocolate drop eyes. He saw the male in the house and very wisely showed him the belly in submission. Now, I understand, it was all a ploy – to sneak into our hearts and make his permanent abode there.
I took him to Ryan’s preschool for Ryan’s show and tell. The 20 week old puppy lay quietly on his back so 16 little 4 year olds could rumble over him. He didn’t bat an eyelid but savored the love. He was the star student in his puppy kindergarten class. The trainer insisted I should think of using him as a therapy dog. He is an honorary lap dog, he crouches down low so the little dogs and puppies can have an access to his face. He literally whimpers as we walk by the lion-hearted, neighborhood alpha dog Chihuahua’s house. I almost crumble at the behavior of my 94 pound dog and the ultra pacifist, anti-war me urges him to ‘stand up tall since he can eat that little dog for breakfast!’ He doesn’t kill the stink bugs, just sniffs them and turns away. His dad is very curious about what he would do if he ever caught a bunny or a chipmunk.
‘He won’t know what to do with them. He will probably end up licking them and loving them!’ says the man.
I used to nod my head as my heart swelled up in pride for our pacifist, gentle, loving pup. But now, I am not so sure.
Sage has worked hard at building up his image of gentle giant. I puff up in pride as I grant the requests of children and adults
‘May I pet your dog?’
‘Oh sure. He is very friendly!’
It took him a few years to figure out that he really can’t do much damage to the teasing chipmunks and the taunting bunny rabbits in our yard, so he shows them a sagely non chalance. He exudes a ‘I have achieved Nirvana, and you can’t reach my inner peace’ kind of a vibe when the annoying animals come close to his fence. He pricks his ears and watches the blue jays and cardinal couples carefully as they land on and take off from his fence post. I don’t quite know what he thinks of those species who fly around in air. Only the fox who peeks in our yard from time to time is simply intolerable, still. He paces the floor when he smells the fox scent, tells us with his eyes to open the back door and once we comply, he flies out to yell obscenities at the fox and drive him away from the periphery of our yard. But the beautiful fox points out the futility of Sage’s manic behavior as he calmly sits and grooms himself, just partly hidden from the human and canine sight while Sage foams at the mouth.
I believed in the gentleness of my boy and I expounded it in blogs, updates and conversations. But I have been disillusioned and it is time to tell the truth.
On a beautiful summer evening, my shadow and I ditched the kids in the house and decided to spend some quiet time on the back deck. Just Sage and I, and the cerulean sky above us, the emerald foliage around us, the few fireflies, the occasional chipmunk, some birds and the general stillness. I sat looking out at the big tree in my backyard, looking up to see the sky turn pink with the rays of the setting sun, Sage rested his head on the ledge as he kept his eyes on the flitting birds. There was a small white butterfly/ moth like creature hovering around Sage’s snout for a while. It was flitting around him, doing its dance. Sage was so still, I wondered if he even felt it. I was contemplating getting my camera so if the butterfly/moth ever sat on Sage’s fur, I would take a picture of my gentle dog who wouldn’t hurt a (butter) fly. Suddenly…SNAP and the CRUNCH MUNCH!!! He calmly snapped at the poor thing, took it in his mouth and crunched munched it up. Very calmly, in a very Sage like way, but very expertly like a professional killer.
‘Sage, you monster!!! You just ate a poor, little, pretty butterfly!!’
He looked at me with his gorgeous chocolate eyes ‘Lady, do you mind keeping your voice down? I am contemplating nature here!’ And turned away! Not a trace of remorse! Nada!!
Now I can never say ‘Oh Sage won’t hurt a fly!’ Because he FREAKING ate one. Not a fly, perhaps, but a butterfly!!! Or a moth!! Or whatever that winged creature was.
Nothing traumatic happened to me in my childhood to make me the way I am, when it comes to humility. It is somewhat cloying, for want of better words. It is one of the lesser attractive traits in my character. My parents taught me the usual mantra ‘let the world tell you are good, you just do the right thing’. I try to follow the second part of the dictum, I try to do the right thing. But when the world tries to tell me I am good, I fight it. I posted a picture recently which attracted very generous comments from friends and relatives. Instead of gracefully thanking the kind people, I got into my usual habit of telling them why I look good in that picture – ‘the sun was on my face’, ‘Sean is a good photographer’, ‘the camera is good, makes anyone look good’ etc. The folks who commented on that photo must have thought, ‘Oh dear, what did we get ourselves into?’ My children, however, are completely on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to humility.
I want to write a few incidents that show the humility, or lack thereof, in my children. The first one was when Ryan was five years old. He was in a swimming class, the instructor was lining them up to swim a race. Ryan was waiting next to a little girl, whose dad was taking this 5-year-old swim race a little too seriously. He kept advising his daughter how she should move her arms, kick her feet with all her strength, how she should charge the wall at the end of the race. The girl had tuned the dad out long time ago, but dads don’t pick up on these signs as moms do. There, I said it, now accuse me of stereotyping!! The poor dad was going on and on about focus, determination etc. If I wasn’t getting a kick out of the speech, I would have tuned him out as well. Now, since both my children are crazy competitive, all I say to them before a race is, ‘try your best and have fun’! That particular day, I didn’t even say that. I didn’t need to, Ryan was listening intently to all the dad was saying. Once, when he found a break in the dad’s lecture, this is what he said to the poor man, ‘You know, I am going to beat her!’ First, I couldn’t believe my ears, then I felt a heat emanating from my reddening face. I believe I hissed at Ryan to be quiet and listen to his instructor. The dad was quiet, I was quiet also, debating in my mind whether I should apologize for my son’s nonchalant rudeness. I have felt embarrassment a few times in my life. This incident is somewhere there at the top of the list.
Couple of weeks ago, Ryan hit a triple in a baseball match. He swaggered back to the dugout, took off his helmet and told his teammate sitting next to him, ‘Go out and hit a triple like me!’ This incident was narrated to me by the other boy’s dad. I was at a loss for words, yet again. Finally, after some mental gnashing of the teeth, I managed to say, ‘Yes, we need to work on modesty!’ The dad was a good sport, he said, ‘Well, Ryan certainly backed up his statement, he went out and hit a triple – a second time!’ He hit two triples in a game. That is a big deal to a seven-year old. While walking back home, I congratulated him on his good performance and then broached the subject of humility.
‘Ryan, it is wonderful that you hit a triple but don’t tell others to go and hit a triple like you! You can wish them good luck and say hope you have a good hit!’
He looked up at me and said, ‘Why? If they hit a triple our team will win!’
“Yes, but don’t say LIKE ME!”
“Why? I hit a triple!”
I gave up at that point. His words were not laced with malice, the innocence was precious. I thought I would make some other time a teaching moment, and let him savor his success.
When Sahana was younger, I found her standing in front of the mirror singing ‘I am awesome, I am awesome!’ in different tunes and intonations. I told her I thought she was fantastic, but I would really like to know why did she think she was awesome? She said, ‘Because I am!’
Sahana, a couple of years ago, was talking to a girlfriend, when I called her. She didn’t hear me, I called her again, saying, ‘Sahana, you can’t hear me?’ Her girlfriend turned to me and said, ‘No, she couldn’t hear you because she was talking to ME and I am awesome!’ I was dumbstruck by the comment of this 10 year old. When I got my wits back, I thought in my mind, ‘Poor child, we need a reality check here. I fervently hope the world thinks you are that awesome, or else, you will have to deal with a lot of mental baggage when you grow up!’
I love the fact that my children have a strong sense of self. I am fortunate because some parents have to bolster the sense of self in their children. But I worry that this ‘strong’ sense of self doesn’t become ‘inflated’ sense of self. Sahana and Ryan are confident, young people and I love that. But I also worry that failure at something may crush them. It may sound terrible coming from their mother but I want them to taste failure once in a while. I feel it is important to learn that failure at anything does NOT mean the end of the world. It DOES NOT mean one is worthless. It just means you work harder and do it the next time, or the next. I strongly believe it is important for every individual to know and appreciate their worth. I am working on it. At the same time, it is also important for us to know what we need to aspire towards, to become truly awesome. I wonder if we are teaching our children that lesson? With participation trophies for everybody, everybody is a winner. But in reality, there is only one winner. When they reach adulthood, will they be able to deal with NOT necessarily being that winner? Will they have it in them to pick themselves up and TRY to be that winner? And if they can’t, will they move on to other things and win other battles in life, even if there aren’t medals and trophies waiting for them, only joy and satisfaction?
We need to strike a balance where we tell the children they are fantastic and special. Every single one of them are unique and the grown ups – parents, relatives, educators, counselors, coaches have the responsibility to nurture their uniqueness yet keeping them grounded to reality. We have the responsibility of teaching them that they can work on the qualities that they already have to BECOME their best! They have their whole life ahead of them to learn, practice, experiment, fail, learn again and WORK towards who they want to be in life.