Home — that blessed word, which opens to the human heart,
The most perfect glimpse of Heaven,
And helps to carry it thither, as on an angel’s wings.
– Lydia Maria Child
It was January 2009, my mother’s birthday was coming up in May. There was nothing special about the year or anything. Owing to mortal fear of my soul burning for ever in hell, I cannot tell you how old she turned that year. My younger brother A and I liked to surprise mom now and then.
When I was in the 11th grade, we surprised mom by inviting her estranged niece over, I still remember the pineapple cake – all mom remembers is her niece walking into the living room. She still can’t remember the cake…
She is a single parent. She balanced her job, running the house, us… Completely brought back to the verge of bankruptcy thrice by people she trusted, she never let her children go without food or education. Our small apartment was pristine, we had nutritious food and went to top schools in the city. We counted our blessings and thanked God every day.
As we sat thinking back on all the things she had to forgo for us, we realised how blessed we were. The people who stood by her were her friends. They never asked anything in return, they protected her, loved her, supported her, told her off, put up with her and were there for her in every step of life. In doing so they kept her focused, determined and strong. In doing so they also had a hand in creating the beautiful life we have. All these thoughts were swirling around in our mind… So… we made a plan.
It was 11.55 pm; we could hear the air conditioner in mom’s bedroom humming. We had this tradition, every birthday at midnight; A would wake mom up and play this movie he makes using all the pictures he took of her during the course of the previous year. Like a photo memoir if you will…
“Happy Birthday Ma!” we woke her up. Excited about the photos as usual, she rubbed her sleepy eyes, and sat in front of the computer… Picture after picture ran past her and as the screen faded to black A said “Surprise”… And there they were all of her friends, wishing her good luck, recounting old memories, telling her how much she meant to them. A and I had labored over the past two months, gathering information, visiting her friends and filming them, friends from other cities had their videos recorded in mobile phones and e-mailed to us. It was beautiful, she was beautiful, my mother sitting there her humble self, only thinking about what others meant to her, hadn’t stopped to think that she had enriched people’s lives too.
When morning dawned we spent the day with her and packed her off to visit a few churches with her mother in the evening. We had planned to have a surprise dinner in the terrace. So we made some paper lanterns and set up the terrace. She came home to an empty house and called us “Come on up to the terrace ma!” we said.
She was over joyed looking at the paper lanterns and rushed to hug us, but stopped in her tracks. She could make out some other shapes in the dark, dull lit terrace and there was a blur of saris and colognes and jasmine… Pandemonium- Friends meeting each other after a long time some of them after decades, laughing crying hugging and talking all at the same time. I would like to believe we found most of them and brought them together that day.
This is my home, built with tough love, some TLC and a lot of friendship. These memories are my dream home and every single person who touched our lives with love and friendship lives there with us and there is room for more…
Dinner was sponsored by my mom’s cousin. There was ice-cream and cake … maybe there was a pineapple cake, but I can’t remember.