June 29, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
As I puff hard to blow up balloons, I take a moment to relive the past.
Six years ago I agonized over every ounce of milk she would (or wouldn’t drink.) The pediatrician’s recommendations didn’t seem to matter to this healthy baby girl; she would drink as much as she wanted and not a drop more. She didn’t pay attention to the opinion of the lactation consultant, and she certainly didn’t seem concerned about the hash marks on the baby bottle.
Today as she carries her plate to the kitchen after finishing her dinner, she grins as she asks for after-dinner treats. She knows the deal: these treats, seldom enjoyed, come after she cleans her plate in a tidy manner and within a reasonable amount of time. And despite her petite frame, with the long legs of a ballerina-in-the-making no one can doubt this six-year-old’s hearty appetite.
Seven years ago when I was pregnant with her, my husband and I took turns reading to her from The Magician’s Nephew and part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’d read or possibly heard from somewhere that reading to children while they were in utero helped them foster a love for reading; at the very least it would provide them a deep familiarity with the voices of those who read aloud. And I like any excuse to read any of the “The Chronicles of Narnia” anyway.
Today as she reads Black Beauty and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan all on her own, she sits quietly in a corner turning the pages of these classics. She lives their adventures in the full color of her imagination, and she relays with glee particular details of these stories. When she has finished reading the new books that come from the library, she doesn’t hesitate to go back to the books in her own collection time and time again.
Eighteen years ago I fell in love with an Idea. In 1995 Shahrukh Khan starred in the role that would become a cornerstone of his career—he played Raj in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and convinced millions of young girls like me that they had every right to believe in romance and finding “the one.” Shahrukh, in the prime of his life, had captured the world’s fancy and love.
Today she grooves to a hit song from one of Shahrukh’s latest movies. Now in his forties, Shahrukh may not move with the same agility as he did almost two decades ago but he clearly is still having a lot of fun. And the fact is not lost on him that he has entranced the imaginations of a new generation that clamor to see him. It certainly isn’t lost on me when she requests “Chammak Challo” from SRK’s move Ra.One.
Five years ago when we celebrated her first birthday at her maternal grandparents’ home, she didn’t have a clue what we were doing. She saw the balloons and felt content to play with them. The number of people, the food we served, how we thanked our guests after the party—none of it concerned her. When the party wound down, she retired for her royal nap.
Today as I buy in fragmented amounts the items for the goody baskets we will bestow on the guests at her double birthday party, shared with her younger sister, she asks whether she can help assemble the baskets before the big day. She feels absolutely no jealousy that we’ll be assembling for other children the baskets with puzzles and Frisbees and beach balls and books. She’s happy to offer these baskets to her friends and her sister’s friends in appreciation for their attendance at the party.
From the time I was eight years old, I have felt within my heart and my blood the beat of the music. Whether I’m dancing or at Jazzercise, when my spirit feels at peace I hear nothing but the beat thrumming through me, and I obey its command. I am aware of nothing else.
Today as I watch through the viewing window at her dance class, I see her obey the beat and nothing else. Sometimes she hears the beat when no one else does, and her hand floats gently through the air and completes flourishes unique to her personal style. I relish the idea of the day when we can dance together on a stage. During my wedding ceremony more than nine years ago I wondered whether I would have to give up dancing for the rest of my life; now the opposite is true. I have given birth, most literally, a new dance partner.
Another deep breath as I anticipate blowing up the next balloon so that we can surprise our first-born on her birthday morning, and I try to understand that I am now the mother of a six-year old.