The Day my Heart Blossomed into a Nani Heart
It took me a while before I got used to my new appellation “Nani”-maternal grandmother. Nani was just a respectful title my grandson, Mokhta, was going to address me with. I began to think myself to be a Nani but it was very slowly but surely that I began to feel like one.
Another new term of endearment that took me a while to get used to was my daughter as Mokhta’s “Mommy.” My baby was now herself a mother. At the hospital, the day she gave birth to our grandson, I was not quite sure how the young couple was going to ease into routine after a major transition in their lives. Before we had left their home she had said not to worry and assured us that they were going to manage well.
I see now that she manages her day-to-day life much better than I did at her age. We have watched Mokhta grow beautifully. At each meeting he gladdens our hearts. The joyous moments when we saw him crawl, stand up, walk, utter words, make sentences and sing nursery rhymes was something to experience. By the time he was three he had learnt to recite the pledge of allegiance from his day care center.
Around this time, one day, our daughter called and said,
“Mommy, guess what Mokhta said at dinner?”
“What did he say?”
“I served pasta and he said ‘Nani makes Paneer’… evidently he loves paneer!”
A tingling sensation went through my body. I was pleased that Mokhta had remembered one of the dishes I had cooked when they had visited. He had liked it enough to recall it and make his choice known. Was this one of his favorite dishes I had imagined?
“Mommy, are you there?”
“Yes dear I’m here! Are you making this all up or did he actually say it?”
“How would I come up with something like that?”
Soon after that paneer (home made cheese) incident our daughter asked my husband and I if they could leave Mokhta with us for a long weekend. We were delighted, but his parents seemed to have separation anxiety.
A week before they came they began to prepare Mokhta for staying with us. They repeatedly told him that they were soon going for an office trip the way his daddy went sometimes. And while they were gone he would stay at Nani and Nana’s home. He knew the words “office trip” and had nodded at each repetition.
“What if he cries in the middle of the night?” She said on the telephone a few days before their arrival.
“We can manage,” I consoled her, “We have had children.” Besides they were going only a few hours drive away, if there was an emergency they could always come back.
“Emergency! What sort of an emergency?” She wanted to know.
It took my husband and I a while to assure her that we would take good care of her son, such good care that when she returned he might not want to go back with them. That she didn’t like.
When they finally left for their fun weekend she left a part of her heart behind.
So that Mokhta wouldn’t get upset when they left, we took him to the park in a stroller. He enjoyed himself and when we returned he asked where his parents were. We told him that they had gone for an office trip. He repeated “office trip” ran to the window, stood there for a few seconds and then turning to us said, “Mommy car gone!”
From then on he was fine.
The next two days we tried to follow his routine. He woke up, drank milk, ate a buttered toast with scrambled egg, played with his ball and made jigsaw puzzles. We went for a long walk with him in the stroller. In the park we fed mallards and geese. We slid down the slides and hung on monkey bars. Seated on a swing he said to me, “Nani you swing too.” So, I sat on the swing next to his and Nana pushed us both. Our faces against the wind, our hair flying backwards, the sun rays danced on our smiling faces.
His mother had instructed me that before Mokhta went to sleep I should read him his favorite book Good Night Moon and then sing him a song or two.
“What sort of song? I don’t know any American songs.”
“You know ‘Row, row, row your boat’ or ‘Jack and Jill,’ don’t you?”
“Well, yes but I never sang them as lullabies to you.”
“You’ll think of something.” She trusted my song selection.
At night I put Mokhta in his crib, read him stories and sang, Kabuliwala aya Kabuliwla aya Kabul Kandahar se, the song I used to sing to my daughters when they were three. At some point in the song I would ask them to say, “Mini, Mini, Mini, Mini!” and they would repeat “Mini, Mini, Mini, Mini.”
Mokhta listened with attention. As I sang I asked him to repeat after me, Mini, Mini, Mini, Mini. He did. So the following two nights I sang Kabuliwala and he repeated Mini, Mini, Mini, Mini before the song lulled him to sleep.
When his parents returned, apparently after an enjoyable trip, they were gratified to see him happy. And when the hugs and kisses were over he ran around and around them as if circumambulating his deities.
Mokhta’s stay was so brief. When I waved goodbye I felt pangs of separation, this time, surprisingly not for my daughter but for him. Early next morning our daughter called. I had not expected this call. She said, “Mommy just wanted to tell you that last night when I put your grandson to bed he wanted to hear Kabuliwala. I don’t know the whole song but I tried to sing it and when I was done he said ‘Mini, Mini, Mini, Mini!”
Upon hearing her, my heart blossomed into a Nani heart.