Love needs a family

She hums to herself in the backseat of the car as she points out shapes in the fluffy clouds drifting by.
Then suddenly – “Cupid is around. I can see him”.
I try not to brake too hard. One gets used to such declarations with her around.
“Where can you see Cupid?”
“He is in the sky. Right there. You shouldn’t try and see him now though. You are supposed to be driving”.
“I won’t. Say my Hi to him, will you, please?”.
“Don’t you know? You have to wait till he talks to you, you cannot talk to Cupid”.
I wonder whether it is true – love picks us out for the part, we merely fall into place to say our lines when chosen.
The afternoon gets sunnier, her humming more contagious. The sky is cornflower blue. The roads are glimmering slivers. A few minutes pass in silence; the golden afternoon resolute in its staunch cheer.
“Did you know that Cupid has a brother? Cuppy. That is what they call him.”
“Really? What does Cuppy do?”
“He spreads peace. Like Cupid spreads love”
“Ahha. And why do we not hear about Cuppy as often as we hear about Cupid?”
“Cuppy spreads peace. Not everyone wants peace.” Perhaps we never know what to ask for when granted a choice. Perhaps one always gets to choose one over the other.
She doesn’t volunteer more. But I am spellbound.
“Where is Cuppy now?”, I ask
“He could be anywhere.”She waves her arms to encompass the world as she understands it. “He could be on the top of this car now – we can never tell!”
She giggles at the thought of Cuppy sharing a ride with us. And yet we spend an eternity, all of us, hoping Cuppy will ride with us. No matter what the destination.
“Cuppy is for those that go home alone at the end of the day. They have no one to talk to. And when they feel sad, Cuppy lets himself in through the window and makes them feel peaceful. Cupid is the noisy one. Because he spreads love and love needs other people. Peace can be alone”.
The enthrallment gives way to a deeper understanding. I thank her for sharing. Because life doesn’t always give us a prologue before sharing a lesson.
She leans back and continues to point out patterns in the sky. Music seeps into the silences in the car as we ponder our way home. Outside, the milieu throbs with life as we navigate the streets. I wonder what other thoughts are going through her head and whether she has already forgotten about Cuppy and Cupid.
As if reading my thoughts, she says in a soft voice, perhaps to herself, perhaps to all those that need to be reminded of simple truths, lest they forget the lesson “Cuppy and Cupid always find each other. Peace and Love. They are family”.

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The Happiness Contest…

Ms A gets into the car with a sense of urgency when I pick her up from after-school care. “I am going to be busy this evening, I have so much of Easter stuff to do”, she announces. She tells me she will need to borrow my laptop and hopes we have enough paper for all her printouts and cards and thank-you notes. I wonder aloud why the normally wonderful teacher has handed out so much work and left it till the last minute.”Oh,these are my ideas, this is not school work”, she informs me.

“You want to make Easter cards for the girls, yes?”
“No, not really. It will be a contest. For happiness. Everyone will win”
“What will be a contest?Who is taking part?”
“Claire is going to be my helper”
“A, WHAT contest is this? And who is Claire?”
“I told you, I want everyone to feel happy about easter. Claire is from Year 3. She is nice.”
I gather that Ms A, with her tendency to spread cheer, has decided to organize an Easter egg colouring contest for the girls. My heart does somersaults.

“Ummm, is this like a class activity?”
“Nooo, I thought of it all by myself. We need printouts. And everyone needs to win. Because it is all about happiness”.

A part of me begins to see the grand plan this tiny person has hatched. Another part of me begins to worry about this tiny person’s grand plans.

We get home and she switches the laptop on and connects the printer even before she has changed into her home clothes. She talks excitedly of how she needs a “demo” copy for herself.She wonders who her helpers will be. She hopes she has enough copies for the whole class.She tells me how she plans to encourage all the girls and say something nice about everyone’s work.

I am caught between wanting to hug her for her meticulous planning and hoping she gives up this idea of pulling off something way that I deem beyond her years. When she says she wants to hide easter eggs around the corridor for the girls to find, I do hug her tight. “A, you have 10 mins of recess, how can you do all of this?”, I ask.

“I will not eat my fruit, I will just get started as soon as the bell rings”.With each declaration of selflessness, my heart sinks a little bit more.

The innocence of a child is capable of hurting you like no pain ever can. I realize this in that blinding instant.
In my mind’s eye, I see her do all this just to realize that all the other girls have gone off to play and that no one is interested in her plans. That after all her planned printouts, and egg hiding – there is no one to take part in her happiness contest. The thought stabs at me, makes me want to protect her from the pain of rejection and indifference and scoop her up and take her back to babydom again.

“A, ummm, you know not all the girls in the class will take part. Some of them may have other things to do!”
“I know, I dont mind. Some of them will think it is silly” (this being said with a giggle)
“And you don’t mind?”
“No, because I am doing it to spread happiness, I am happy, Mommy. And some of them will do it, wont they?”
I suddenly want the whole class to join in and help her. I also know that while hope is a great filler of the empty spaces in the heart, it is no panacea for the voids.

So, we make the cards. And the games. And the cutouts. And store them carefully. I tell her that if no one participates in her contest,I will colour in every single Easter egg and play all the games she has planned and that I hope to get a card from her collection.

“Oh, Mommy, thank you. I hope I have a card left, because everyone will love the contest, won’t they?”

No one tells you that motherhood mainly deals in the territory of vulnerability. That your heart has areas so fragile that love often blows it into smithereens.

I worry about her the whole day. I make up theories of how all of us as children, had disappointments and friends that let us down. How we had days that pushed us closer to reality and to growing up. But all the while, my heart is beating, my hope is fighting itself and I wait for the school day to end so that I can look after her. I stare at the clock all day and hope she is not too hurt, not too scarred, not too put off by cold responses.

“How did it go?”, I ask her, as soon as school is done for the day.

“It was FANTASTIC”, she squeals. “Three girls did it with me, three. Three girls were happy with the happiness contest”.

I gulp in the evening air and heave a sigh of relief. Three from the 18 girls in her class. Three is less than 18. Three is better than none.

“And T was sorry she didn’t know about the contest, so she took it home – that makes it 4”. Four is better than three.

“Awww, A, I am so proud of you” I tell her. Feeble really -but words evade me at that moment. I am fiercely proud though, because she has chosen to see what has achieved and what didn’t work out was never a part of the equation for her. “I am proud of me too”, she giggles.

The reality is that, the minute a child spies a star, makes a new friend, dreams a new dream or hopes a new hope – hurt ,rejection and failure present themselves as options and hitch along for the ride. You stand there and watch your child with your powerless heart, with vulnerablity peering over your shoulder, with a band-aid in your hands and a prayer on your lips.

You can protect your children all you want and try to keep them safe as you point out the stars through a window. But they will venture out someday and go out to claim their share. And they will do it on the premise that it is a tough world out there. You cannot gather you share of star-dust from a window sill – the journey begins only when you leave the confines of safety…and when that journey begins, all you can do is be ready to look out for a grazed knee and a wounded heart, so that you can heal them and send them out to gather their bounties again…

Someday…

There will be a day in the future when I will race up the hallway to answer the door as soon as I hear you ring the doorbell. You will no longer be a child in this vision of a distant future – the printed pyjamas and the tousled tresses and the gap from the missing tooth will have been replaced by permanent portents of an adult world. I will wonder why I was so weary to tidy up after yet another sleep-over that involved stuffed toys, midnight treats and clothes on the floor all over the house even as I wonder if your memories of the days of yore are the same as mine.

But now, as you giggle and ring the doorbell yet again and your friend asks “Anyone home?”, I continue to drink my coffee and read the newspaper and answer with a “Nope, come back another day”.