The List

I sat on the prayer mat for long hours, in the night mostly, when everyone was sleeping peacefully. Or so I thought. Peace seemed to have evaded all of us. I looked outside, the night was a pale black, the moonlight forcing itself on it. A cool breeze sent a little shiver down me but it was pleasantly soothing. The time of the night, when it was a matter of minutes to dawn, was my favorite. The sky was a gorgeous blue, not dark enough to look like black, nor the day blue. A tranquil shade that comforted the eyes and my soul. My soul was agitated, restlessly tiring itself to find a way. A sense of helplessness had brought me to knees, to beg for His help, to show me a way. My life  could be defined in one word,chaos.

The night was the only time I had for myself. Where I could pause my life, and have some me time. Soon, it would be dawn and I will have to set to kitchen, prepare breakfast for my four kids, my old mother, send them off to school, before I started work at my small bakery shop. I wouldn’t really call it a shop, as it is more of a extension room with shelves of cookies, cakes and other goodies. I started it a month ago, driven to poverty as we ran out of our savings, after my husband of 15 years decided that he could no longer be a family man. You would think he found himself a new love interest.We had these huge fights, arguments, accusations and by the end it all came down to him being too tired of carrying out the responsibilities. He abandoned us. For the past 6 months, I have heard nothing from him. Not as much as a phone call. Except for one of our friends dropping by to say he has gone on a road trip. Where to, he had no idea. He had left us some money, that is what the friend had called us for, after which, I never saw him again. Adversity comes in company and leaves you alone.

I was an artistic patisserie, whose love of art transformed into small treats of deliciousness that hot sold in the restaurant I was working in, before I had my first born. I was determined not to give in to life this easy, so I started again. I couldn’t go for a job, my youngest required by consistent attention and my ailing mother was a little help in that sense, even though her words are enough to instill new hope in me, everyday. However, the shop needs time, and I am running out of it. I took out the list from underneath the mat. Silently taking in its contents, reading them one more time, when I already knew them by heart, my mind preoccupied with it every second of the day. Every time a customer checked in and gave the shop a disapproving look,  a voice inside of me would shout. There goes the rent! Every time, a customer took a sweet off the shelf to taste it, and walked out without buying, my mind would rant again, school fees gone! I was helpless and it was maddening.

My gaze shifted from the list to my children cuddled together across the room. Little Amy had stirred in her sleep forcing a smile out of my lips. My children were precious, they were all that I was living for. I took a pencil and started working on the list, prioritizing them one by one.Rent.Food Supplies.School Fees.Mom Medicines.Groceries.Bakery Supplies.Pantry Essentials. Talk to Tia and Lauren….

I stopped there. I was dreading to have ‘the talk’. I could not gather my courage to break their hearts. To tell Tia, that she could no longer take the Ballet classes she so much loved. To tell Lauren, that his summer cruise trip, he had so eagerly been waiting for since last year, could no longer be supported. It broke me, the thought of having to say these things to them. To know that they will understand, and laugh off the idea as not being important, to know they would come and kiss me and say, Mom’s its alright. We understand. It killed me. It would kill any mom to see the small wishes of her children unfulfilled. To know, an instant was enough to change your world, and to see your children struggling to cope with it. Pretending to be alright to your face, when you could read their agitated souls. In a day, my life changed from being a happy homemaker, a loving wife, a proud mother to a destitute earner, cursing wife and a tormenting mother! Life is made of these moments, one moment it makes you feel like you are the queen and the other makes you a beggar of the street.

I had to work things out, if I really wanted to check off that ever growing list of mine. I cannot afford to give up. It is not me, has never been. I am strong enough. God doesn’t burden a soul beyond what it can handle. I chanted this every time my strength was giving in. I cannot stop. I have to stand and support my children,they are a world to me. I fold the list inside the mat. Looking outside, it is just about to dawn. I work my way out quietly from the room into the kitchen, that doubled as my working station.I reflexively set to work, absentmindedly doing the routine chores thinking hard how I could improve my sales today. Suddenly I remembered my dream, it came right then to me.

I was a little girl, in a pretty pink floral frock that went to my knees with a lovely satin ribbon bowed at my waist. Happy, smiling and excited to be at the fair, with my parents. My father had come from the sea, and I was always glad when we were together, all five of us, me and my two siblings, as family. Dad loved me so, he always said he was proud of me. He was; I could see his eyes reflect the pride and love when he looked at me. I was his favorite among the three, much to my sibling’s jealousy. His face warmed my heart. We were a happy family, if there is such a thing. I wanted to play the Hoopla to win the beautiful red riding hood doll. I so wanted it. I played three times and still lost. My siblings jeered at me. Upset, I threw the rings away, when my dad paid for a fourth time. He sat me on his lap.

Do you want that doll?

Yes dad, I sulked.

Then go get it.

But I can’t. You saw. I lost three times.

Yes, so?

Won’t you get it for me, dad, please!

But I don’t want the doll, he laughed.

For me?

If you want it so bad, you have to get it for yourself. Its your fight. You lost three times, so what! Try again, and again till you have it.

Dad? What If I loose again. They will tease me, make fun of me. I don’t like that.

See darling, it is all up to you. You want that doll, you try get it. If you lose, they will taunt. You will feel bad. But, if you win, do you know how that will feel. Imagine that. Imagine the doll in your hands, and take the risk. Losing and winning are just in your mind. Always, always have the winning attitude in life. If you lose today, don’t let it defeat you tomorrow.

I try again with pumped determination. I lose again.  But in the next try I have it; jubilant in triumph, as if I had won some war. People turning their heads onto me, smiling, amusingly, while my cheeks turn crimson, with the red doll pressed close to me.

It was a beautiful memory that showed itself in my dream. It brought a new hope, more strength from my father beyond. And, an idea! I could get my sales up, at lower costs. I remembered that day, after my win, my dad had treated me to an Indian Sweet that I liked so much. Ras Malai. It was an cottage cheese dumpling in a flavored sugar syrup. It tasted heavenly. That’s what could be my edge around here. No one here, served it. I could give it a shot. I should definitely try!

It has been 5 years since my husband abandoned us. Eventually everything falls into its place. Life needs time to set itself upon us. We are just like we were before, indeed stronger, happier and more close as a family, but still none of us is the same. I take off the notepad from under my prayer mat. Thanking God for his help, I checked off every item on the list.








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