Posted on November 14, 2014
Ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes, two liquid pools of ink black eyes, and one tiny peaked nose. I do the count mentally, checking off the list in my head.
The pregnancy had been long, arduous, and worrisome. Early cramping and later spotting blood sent everyone around me into a panic. My mother had been the first card to fall. Eyebrows knitting, hands wringing, she had sat me down and concern-voiced her fears. Then came my mother-in-law. Her usual chipper facade exchanged for this new haggard, white-haired model.
It’s Remembrance Day in Australia today. A day of Legacy poppies, rosemary sprigs, and a minute’s silence. This day is marked by the playing of the Rouse and the Last Post, by an appropriate sermon, by men and women wearing medals of honour with pride, by flowered wreaths, national anthems and the Ode of Remembrance.
Posted on November 8, 2014
Brazen wisps of tandoori chicken snake sinously from the oven to duel with the tangy sassiness of makhani sauce on the stove. They will marry soon, overcoming the quarrels and barriers that have separated them so long, combining their finest qualities. Dressed in their wedding garb of carmine, like all good Indian brides, they will unite to the trumpet call of bubbling ghee.
When I was a child I lived in a multilingual house in Brunei. The siblings were overseas and far away at boarding school, and my mother was determined not to make the same linguistic mistakes with me. My parents spoke to me only in Malayalam, and the lady who helped with the housework spoke only in Malay. I was ensconced in a happy world where I was cradled by two loving tongues.
Into this world the siblings would plummet, tumbling and babbling, once a year, shovelling food like they’d been starved and talking all over the top of each other. I would stare, wide-eyed and awestruck, and utterly bewildered. Their very proper British-accented-Indian-boarding-school English was beyond anything decipherable in my coded world.
Cross-legged or legs folded under us, we sat on the floor of the walk-in robe of Ajita’s parents’ bedroom. The OUIJA board lay reverentially in the middle of our pre-adolescent circle, an upturned glass resting on top. The lights had been dimmed, and we automatically spoke in the hushed tones that darkness demands. We knew with the certainty of children, that witches, goblins and the denizens of evil winged their way around us. Small squeals of excited terror escaped one or another of us, as we impatiently awaited instructions.
~ Abraham Lincoln
A strange thing happens between mothers and sons in the teen years. The chubby fingers of childhood loose their grip, the adoring eyes fall less often on you, the gifts of rocks and sticks and feathers become fewer. A distance insinuates itself between you.
They appear, carrying your fragile heart in their hands.
Shlurrpff, off the breast.
“I do myself”; an experiment in feeding.
Mismatched clothes, and shoes on the wrong feet.
Backpack on and away to school.
Friends and teams.
Is that my car?
Carelessly tossed emeralds and rubies lie strewn across an ornately carved teak table, blinking their arrogance in the dawning light. A once opulent landscape, an abundance of crystal and silver pots filled to brimming with the most succulent foods, is lain waste. Bodies are scattered across the floor in various stages of undress, like dolls abandoned by a petulant toddler.
It’s been nearly two years now. Two years since a home was packed neatly into a shipping container and transported across the world. Two years since lives were packed neatly into suitcases, friendships folded and vacuum sealed, family washed and dried and placed at the back of cupboards. Two years since we’ve woken to the melodic gurgling of magpies, since the heady aroma of eucalyptus warming in the sun has charmed its way into our consciousness.