Piyali reminisces a day in her life and a casual conversation with her 16-year-old daughter, while working in the kitchen. What appears as an apparent listless day suddenly becomes very meaningful. Here’s a personal essay, a candid glimpse into the author’s life.
I am a part time library worker and full time mother of two. The days I don’t help customers get the books they absolutely want to read or the resource they absolutely need for their research, I do loads and loads of laundry, cook meals from scratch, organise music teacher, make doctor’s and dentist appointments, freeze in baseball games or practices, sweat in hot and humid indoor pools, arrange work schedules so that I may listen to my child’s music concerts. The days I don’t work, my life is not interesting, except for a few stolen moments in the afternoon, right before the children come home, when I crack open a book and get transported to another universe.
Yesterday was my day off. After all the commitments of Thursday, we were finally home for the night. I had enlisted the help of my 16-year-old daughter to make egg rolls for dinner. It is an assembly line production that she and I have perfected. She cracks the eggs, I heat the rotis. When the rotis are done, I pour the eggs on them and cook till eggs settle. I flip the egg roti on a plate, she assembles onions, ketchup, lime juice, pepper and rolls it up. We chat as we work.
“How was your day, Mama?” She asked me, as she wiped tears from cutting onions.
“It was OK. Nothing to write home about!” I replied, waiting for the day to end.
“What did you do?” She persisted.
I really did not want to talk. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I was wallowing in self-pity of how meaningless my day was. I started with, “Well, I did three loads of laundry, made appointments at the dentist’s office, then I spent some time talking to the insurance for the car, went to the library, errands….nothing interesting. I did nothing that I can talk about.”
She perhaps caught the slight catch in my throat. She said, “Well, we did not do any ground breaking discoveries either. It was just a regular day and we did regular things.”
“Yes, but you learned something new. You got to hang out with friends.”
On retrospect, it sounded petulant – comparing my life with hers.
She stayed silent for a moment and said, “You work hard mom. You work hard every day.”
We moved on then. I did not pay attention to her words or her sentiment that she understood my mood and acknowledged my need to be comforted at that moment. We had dinner, cleaned up, finished homework, set the alarm for next day and went to bed.
Today, as I worked around the house, I thought back upon the snippet of conversation with my daughter last night. She wanted to know how my day was and despite the mundaneness of my domestic chores she gave me my due. How often do we overlook these simple gestures that carry so much meaning? Also my work of providing clean clothes, taking care of scheduling needs, assisting with homework, cleaning our living area and providing healthy nourishment actually contribute hugely to the health and happiness of all of us. They are all important little pieces that make up the big whole. It is so easy to forget the importance of the little pieces of the puzzle due to the monotony of the chore yet the satisfaction when they fit into the fabric of our daily life is priceless. And when a loved one says, “I see you. I see all you do for us” – that is a lovely language of appreciation.
Pic by author. Illustration from Net