A Letter to My Grandson
My Mokhta, My Pearl,
With your birth on September 16, 2006 you raised my status in the family by making me your, Nani, maternal grandmother. Thank you for that!
Nine months prior to that date when your mother told me that I was going to become a Nani I understood it but didn’t know what to feel. How to feel? I had heard a grandmother’s love for her grandchildren is overwhelming. Why didn’t I feel it right away? My grandparents had passed away before I was born so I had not experienced this love. I had some knowledge of what I, now a Nani, was supposed to feel for you but I didn’t feel it yet. I was more worried for your mother’s health during the pregnancy and delivery.
Being a painter, I began to visualize you–an adorable marriage of your mom’s ethereal charm and your dad’s lovable personality. You were going to capture everyone’s heart.
A month before you were born my daughter let me feel your kicks and hear your hiccups. I rubbed her belly, put my lips on it and murmured that I was your Nani-your lifelong friend. Did you hear me?
The moment I saw you at the hospital, it was as if time stopped. I had a glimpse of a miniature universe. Your luminous eyes of black pearls in tiny pools kept closing. I looked at your tulip pink lips, gently kissed the flawless skin, snail shaped ear lobes, pink toes and soles–the color of your lips and as soft as rabbit’s fur. Who created such tenderness with finesse? Who sculpted impossible perfection out of nowhere? Your radiant face had a peachy sheen and I whispered to myself, just like a pearl, a Mokhta.
While driving back home I realized that I was connected to you through a fragile yarn-as delicate as a cobweb’s. I felt that the delicate link had the capacity to strengthen into a cord from Spiderman’s web. A strange new feeling began to stir within me. How was I going to strengthen it? I thought one way of fortifying the yarn was by staying in touch. By renewing the family tradition of letter writing. My parents wrote letters to me when I was in college. I got to know your grandfather, Nana, through letters. When I was young no one talked on the telephone. We stayed in touch through what is now called snail mail.
When Nana and I immigrated to America from India it took us a few years to settle down in the country that we had chosen to live in. One of the ways we were able to do it was to incorporate the holidays of our childhood and youth with American holidays. We integrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day with Kashmiri festivals of Khecchi Mavas, Herath and Navreh. We spiced up our lives with multicultural traditions of our adopted country. Why not? If you like some parts of a different cultural tradition, adopt them. If you do not feel comfortable with some things from your own tradition, discard them. You have freedom to choose. Use it. Constantly try to improve your life by making sensible choices.
It seems like another life when I read stories to your mother and her younger sister (your Massi), and sing them lullabies. I can’t wait to read you stories and sing bedtime songs to you. We’ll sing, read, paint and go to the park. At the park, we’ll paint with watercolors and crayons. And when we return home, tired, I would serve your favorite delicacies. Right now I don’t know which ones but I will find out soon enough.
After I was blessed with two beautiful daughters I said to myself, I did not know my grandmothers but when I become a Nani I will try to be a good one. The Nani I wished I had. I wanted to create a family in which we could depend on one another. When someone was down the others could cheer him or her up. During the traumatic periods of my life-and there were many-I found solace in Nana’s embrace and my daughters’ hugs and kisses. In them I found the love of my parents and my siblings and courage to continue with my life’s work. This was true in their simple utterances as children and it is true now in how they make me feel; loved in bad times and in good.
Sometimes when I am in a contemplative mood, I wonder whether my presence in the world makes any difference. The kind of love you have stirred in me has made me realize that it does. If I can make my circle of family happy the world is better for it. Imagine, billions of families trying to create happiness! Together we make a better world. All that by simply strengthening the delicate yarn of love!
Remember that you have a unique place in this world. Your mother was born in India and your father in Korea. That makes you an East Indian-Korean-American. Don’t ever get bogged down by traditional differences and cultural boundaries. Your birth has endowed you with the power to show the meaninglessness of cultural barriers and racial discrimination that cause wars and bloodshed. Be aware of who you are. Pay attention to your identity and where you come from. Always be self-aware.
One of the advantages of being an American is that you are exposed to almost all cultures and traditions of the world within your own country. Be conscious of your foreign neighbors. Try to understand them, learn from them, and be respectful towards them. We live in the same neighborhood with people from different countries but often do not connect with them. It takes only one person to change peoples’ attitudes. May that person be you!
I may or may not be around when you meet your soul mate, marry and make your own family. I want to say that a bond of unconditional love within a family and individual creativity and imagination are essential for a life well lived.
With a grandmother’s love that seems to be growing by the second,
Your Nani for Life.