Thursday, November 27, 2008

The day I cried...(1)

My mother was a stay-at-home mom while we were growing up. I just remember a clear picture of her getting us ready for school and rushing out the gate to catch the school bus just in time. I never had to do much rushing though because my school-bus gave me ample time to prepare. My elder sister's school bus however would be honking as early as 6.25 am! The girl would barely have enough time to gulp down her tea while my mom ran outside to reassure the driver that she would soon be out. That was the routine almost every morning.

Once school closed and we got off the school bus, we knew there was a steaming meal waiting for us! The school bags would go flying to one corner while we make our way to the kitchen with shouts of "mommy good afternoon!". Then off come the sandals and socks - I still wonder how we managed to do that with one fluid movement. By the time we got to the kitchen we'd have stripped to our little singlets and panties. And sure enough, there was food waiting for us! We knew however that we could look at the food but not touch it until we'd picked up every single piece of school accessory we'd dropped on our way to the kitchen. It was almost like a ritual.

I can't remember not ever meeting my mom at home after I came back from school. She was always there and ever patient to listen to all our ramblings about how school was that day. She always had some little project she was working on. If she wasn't fixing torn clothes with a thread and needle, she was sewing a new one with her sewing machine, or knitting a sweater, or tending to her chickens in the backyard.

If we needed anything, we went straight to mummy to ask for it. When she finally gave it to us she'd say don't forget to thank daddy for it o! Whenever our school fees were paid she'd make sure we knew it was daddy that paid for it and we should not forget to say "thank you".

As far as I was concerned, my daddy was a far away thought. He was never really around. Not that we never saw him or that he abandoned us, but he was always on one business trip or the other. He'd only stay for a few days in-between trips. Even then, whenever he was around, I had this uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know, like he was spoiling all my fun. I just couldn't wait till he was off gain cos it always seemed like he was a spare wheel! Funny now that I think of it. How did I manage to form that opinion about him? I must have been between the ages of 5 and 9 during that period!

Just before I left Primary school for junior secondary, it finally dawned on me that my dad wasn't going anywhere anymore. He'd been around for like 5weeks already and he wasn't budging. What was I to do? Pretend he wasn't there? It didn't take long though for me to see that something had definitely changed about my dad. What was it? There was this quietness around him. if you ever met my dad, you'd find he was anything but a quiet man. His voice always boomed across the room when he spoke and when he laughed? The walls literally shook!
His voice was enough to send us kids scurrying when we knew we would be reprimanded for some wrong-doing. He was a disciplinarian and you really didn't want to cross his path! You can imagine why he wasn't exactly our favourite parent then.

But he'd fallen silent. Not that he didn't talk or laugh like before but there was this atmosphere he exuded. He had definitely changed but I couldn't put a finger on it. There was one of those days, I remember the incident vividly but not the words that were spoken. In my mind's eye as I write, it comes across like a silent melodrama - no words, only actions and gesticulations....

I am pressing some clothes and my dad approaches me from his private living room. He asks me a question and I shake my head. He says something else with a serious look on his face and I start giggling. What he says isn't funny in any way, in fact there is an earnestness in his face but my giggle only progresses till it becomes full blown laughter - mockery more like. He just stands there and stares at me, visibly fighting the anger that must have begun to well up inside him. Suddenly he turns around and walks away. I turn off the pressing iron, run up the stairs to my room, flop on my bed and cry. Strange incident. Really strange indeed. Was I taunting him? Maybe testing the waters? Why was I laughing at him? Why didn't he just grab me and 'deal' with me for mocking him? Till this day, I have no idea but that incident left an indelible impression on my heart - my dad had changed and he was truly home to stay.

From that day, the way I saw my dad changed. I saw he was making efforts to be included in our lives. We started having family devotions, and there began to be an atmosphere where we were free in the presence of our dad. Rather than go through our mom, we were now able to go straight to daddy to make our requests. He threw open the doors to his private living room letting us into his world. I discovered for the first time how so very funny my dad was! It was a new life...a whole new world was open for us to explore.

If you would stay close to my blog, I'll take you through that world....the world of my father.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"..........We have no time to stand and stare?"

Does anyone remember this poem from long ago? It goes like this...

What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see in broad daylight, streams full of stars like skies at night.
No time to turn at beauty's glance, and watch her feet how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her mouth began.
A poor life this if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.

(W.H Davies 1871-1940)

In primary school then, we were made to memorise several poems and this one was one of them. I had completely forgotten all about it when I ran accross the poem again recently and I laughed at myself when I, for the first time, actually understood what the poem was all about!

I must have been barely 7 or 8 years old then and my only concern was just to ensure that I recited the poem (whatever I thought of it) for the audience without missing a line. At the end of the recital, I'd wait dutifully for the applause I knew was coming and when it was done, I'd courtesy and return to my seat, my heart pounding in my chest the whole time!

But now, about 20years later, I read that poem and find that it holds so much meaning. What indeed is this life "if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare"? You know, like they say, stop and smell the roses!

I believe that if we let it, life will just happen to us. Afterall, if we just sat and did nothing, the day would break and night would fall. Time would simply pass. And that's all our lives will be in the larger scheme of things - A passage of time. Sad if you ask me! On the other hand, we can actually make life happen for us and enjoy it the whole time!

A few weeks ago, it seemed like I was being inundated with so much bad news that i felt overwhelmed! I had challenges with my health, two of my sisters got knocked down by a hit-and-run driver, just as two of them were getting better, one of them reacted severely to one of the drugs she was taking and it put her life on the line, a neighbour was seriously ill and even her husband feared for her life, a friend's sister lost her baby yet again, my car got bashed (yet again) by a careless danfo driver ...... the list could go on. It seemed like I was placed in such a vulnerable position that news such as Christians in India being killed which obviously seems like a remote problem made me feel like it was all happening in my own back yard! (Not that it shouldn't or doesn't concern me....)

Everything was happening all at the same time and I found my mind consumed with the problems and challenges that were before me. Laughter seemed so far away and I even questioned my faith at some point. The truth however is that these things are a part of the life we live. Of course some of our problems are self inflicted and so could be avoided in the first place but there are other problems that still come to us even after it seems we'd played all our cards right.

Something however kept me going - faith. My faith in God that everything would be alright in the end kept me forging ahead and helped me make the right decisions at each turn. That faith helped from time to time, to look away from my avalanche of problems and count for my self those things for which I am grateful. It made me see that everything may not necessarily work out the way I planned, but would all work out for my good. Sometimes I felt that my faith was useless and I sought to squelch it but it would not be quenched, a flicker remained and gradually that flicker was fanned into a huge flame by the little victories I recorded each day.

Did you ever watch that animated movie "Prince of Egypt"? I love that movie especially the lyrics of one of its soundtracks - "When you believe".

".......Now we are not afraid, though we know there's much to fear.
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could......
....there can be miracles, when you believe, though hope is frail
it's hard to kill.
Who knows what miracle you can achieve, If you believe, somehow you will......"

That song touches a special spot in my heart and makes that bible story ever so vivid before my eyes. A classic case of overcoming all odds to reach the finish line. It reminds me that even though sometimes we cannot choose the challenges we face each day, we can make the choice to surmount them or be surmounted by them. We can make the choice to sing even when all around us seem to draw tears from our eyes. We can choose to have faith or be consumed by fear. We can choose to focus on our problems or to count our blessings. Whatever the case, the choice really does ultimately lie with us.

So I ask again - "What indeed is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?"