Toothpaste and Tea Stories

It’s still warm in South Florida. The pool water is in mid 80s; after a two hour long swim with my mermaid, I take her for a shower in the cabana. After she comes out of the shower, I feel this compulsion to dry her hair thoroughly.

My Dad used to be a compulsive hair-dryer for me when I came out of the shower and didn’t feel the need to towel my hair (yes, one day I did have hair!). It’s amazing the things you pick up from your parents or you see them do, and feel compelled to do to your children.

After shower, we enjoy some wonderful spinach samosa, veggie egg rolls and orange juice; Shania and I devour to our hearts content. It’s almost 2 pm and now it’s time for our Saturday afternoon nap; I will open a story book and we will travel the land of princesses, green fairies or tulips that hold little people. I love reading stories to my princess and watching the amazement in her eyes when suddenly the dragon of my story explodes into a hundred little dragons and take over the empire! No worries, the brave prince and his lion side-ling always wins the day with their courage and audacity and rescue the princess! I will massage her forehead until her eyes close and her face fills with a glow that you notice only when she is asleep.

I remember the times my mom lulled me to sleep in Joypahar in the afternoons with some such story in hardcover books; my father was also a wonderful storyteller. He would also massage my head and make me fall asleep instantly. He was so good that one of my sister’s friends wanted to exchange her dad with ours. We were a bit appalled by the suggestion, because it came with promises for additional goodies.

Our children are fortunate for all the material things we surround them with; however, we were fortunate for the love, warmth and security that surrounded us in our early days in Joypahar, Dhanmondi or Poribagh. The world was such a beautiful place, where no war, famine or treachery could touch us…because our parents were there – always protecting us – always shielding us from the world.

Somehow, time passes, and we recognize that we are not young princes or princesses anymore; reality of scorched earth, unfulfilled expectations, prejudice and tragedy compels us to change our world view. No one protects us from our nightmares or the stark reality of the world around us.

Sometimes, I sit gazing at the blue thinking what I would do, if I could spend a few hours with my Dad again.

My dad with my sister and I (1968)

I would ask him about his childhood, youth, decisions in life; how he made this transition from youth to adulthood; how he felt when he first arrived in the US in the late 1950s or whether he trembled like I did when I held my first born. I would like for him to meet my princesses and Wasima.

When you have a parent around, you take them for granted; it’s not always easy to appreciate their love, protection and care for us.

Recently, one of my friend’s dad passed; another friends mom is going for very serious brain surgery this week. I realize their generation is starting to fade away. I know it is the “cycle of life” and this will happen to us in a few years (if we are lucky).

But for a few more years, I would like to protect my princesses from this unscripted reality; if I am permitted, I would love for them to go through college without this worry of paying bills and dealing with the daily stress of making difficult choices. Their innocence and incongruence with this harsh reality of our daily lives makes me feel like I have a greater purpose, to protect them and answer their questions. I realize, it’s naïve to try and protect, but, I just love it when Shania asks me what kind of toothpaste do mermaids use!

In a few weeks, I hope to see my mother after a year. We will share good stories, great food and some wonderful memories. We will fight about innocuous and irrelevant issues like President Obama’s healthcare mandate, because, that’s the fun of a parent-child interaction – arguing about irrelevant issues. I know I cannot hold her forever either; but I want to spend this time, enjoy the creamy/sugary tea with Horlicks biscuits (cookies), for as long as I can.

Let’s cherish these toothpaste and tea stories… all wonderful times, in our short journey through this beautiful world.

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