If Mom had been with me today, she would have made me a hot cup of coffee in the morning. She would then have forced me to go and sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds as she soothed my baby into his nap. I would have felt the sun warm my skin and my soul. I would have stretched my arms, sore from rocking and holding the baby for hours on end, and smiled up at the blue sky.
If Mom had been alive, she would have come over to stay. After R left for work, she would have excitedly drawn out plans for me to enjoy my maternity leave. We would have showered and primped and breakfasted on piping hot parathas. Then, the baby in tow, we would have gone for long walks. Window-shopping. Manicure appointments. Bookstore browsing. My son would have absorbed the sights and sounds as his Mom and Grandma chatted and giggled and people-watched.
With Mom by my side, none of my afternoons would have felt lonely and isolating, stretching endlessly into an ennui I sometimes fail to shake. She would have talked endlessly about how I was the perfect baby at three-months-old and how she was certain my son would be awesome too. She would have held his little hands, looked into his eyes, and silently conveyed this to him. You are the sweetest, grandchild, she would have said. But your mommy will always be my favourite.
When night came around, R would have joined the party. He would notice how my face didn’t look quite so lined, my smile didn’t seem strained. He wouldn’t hear me complaining as much about the long and tiring day I had. He wouldn’t have to endure painful minutes of my ranting and venting, questioning everything, refusing to see the light at the end of the sleep-deprived, numb, mind-turning-to-mush tunnel. If Mom had been with me, I would have been able to appreciate the good moments much more. R would hear more about our son’s belly laughter. His rolling over. Of how he had spent the day beaming widely at his lion toy. It would have been a happier, happier end to the day.
Having a baby has exposed to me the truth behind many of my relationships. It has taught me how lonely we really are, how we fool ourselves into believing that anyone really cares. There is no dearth of unsolicited advice in the world, but there is a serious paucity of genuine concern and empathy. The last three months of my life have been supremely educating, and many of the lessons have been brutal. I have gushed at my son’s smiles—real, big smiles unrelated to gas that almost validate my existence. I have held him close to my chest and watched his eyes shut, stunned at the warmth and comfort he feels with me. He is so little that it hurts—what kind of human being can fit into someone’s arms, anyway?
Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with this little person I have created who welcomes each morning with contented coos and excited squeals of delight. I think about his toddler years, of how he will go to pre-school and then to big school, of how he will tell his Mom about his new friends, how he will ride a bicycle around the block and come to dinner and make a face about the bhindi we are having again.
I will make you pasta then, my son, and order you a pizza. I will buy you tons of books and listen keenly as you discuss them with me. I will encourage you to read and paint and play and spend time listening to birdsong. You might choose to do somersaults or chase your friends in a frantic game of your making, but when you turn to me, I am going to be there.
I hope I can become even half the person that my Mom was and half as good a mother. Perhaps it will help to imagine her by my side when the sun comes up every morning. We can be together in spirit.