“When Apples Turn Red”
My husband and I were waiting for the arrival of Mokhta, our grandson, when we heard our daughter’s car stop in the front of the house. I opened the front door and saw Mokhta already out of the car looking up at the crabapple tree. He turned toward us and after a moment’s pause, started to run. Afraid that he might fall on the pavement, I walked briskly toward him and he jumped right into my open arms. I kissed him and hugged him tight; my love of four months was waiting, wanting to be expressed. I kissed his little hands, his silky head of hair, and his cheeks that were not as plump as they used to be when he was a baby.
“We ate chocolate, Nani,” He said as if I had seen him just the previous day. Standing behind us was his Nana, watching and waiting his turn. I handed over Mokhta to him.
He had grown taller. A yellow suitcase, decorated with multicolored balls and cubes, had replaced his small red backpack. He pulled it on its wheels with its yellow handle. As soon as we were inside, he opened the suitcase and dumped its contents on the family room floor. Miniature cars of different colors spilled out and got covered with a pile of picture books that his mother had packed at the bottom. My First Alphabet Book and The Numbers Book were replaced with Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and Stan & Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears New Baby.
Mokhta had come to our home to celebrate his fourth birthday. Just before the guests were to arrive he followed me to the garden to pick daisies and zinnias for the dining table. The boughs of the crabapple tree were heavy with clusters of the fruit, still green. As he helped me collect flowers for the bouquet, he pulled down a branch of the crabapple tree that hung low and said, “Get small apples, Nani!”
“Not yet, Mokhtu. They’re still green.” I cut one and tasted it. “It tastes bitter.”
“I want bitter.” He said.
“You won’t like it. Yucky!” But he insisted so I let him bite into one. As I had expected, he threw it out.
“When can I eat them?”
“When they turn red and sweet.”
“When, turn red?”
“Next time you visit us.”
We decorated the dining room in “Thomas The Tank Engine” theme. We set the table with paper plates, mats and cups stamped with faces of blue Thomas and chocolate Percy and their friends. Their images on the four sides of the paper hung off the table under a bunch of rainbow colored balloons. I served his favorite Kashmiri dishes, rice with paneer that I had cooked in two different ways and, spinach, rice and yogurt. We watched as Mokhta blew candles, and made the first cut in the chocolate cake. I enjoyed helping him eat cake with his favorite ice cream, chocolate. Before he opened his gifts I wiped his hands and ice-cream covered mouth with a wet towel.
Almost all his gifts, puzzles, games and toys were about Thomas and friends railways. As soon as the gifts were opened he got absorbed playing. By ten o’clock he was ready for bed.
I read Maurice Sendak’s Where Wild Things Are and sang Kabuliwala, as I did when he was younger. And like then, when I was in the middle of singing the song for the second time, he was fast asleep.
The next morning it was time for Mokhta and his parents to leave.
“Bye Mommy, I’ll call you when we reach,” said my daughter before closing the door on the passenger side in front.
“Yes sweetie, call me as soon as you reach.” I said as I stepped away from the car.
“Bye, Nani.” Mokhta called.
“Bye Mokhta! Nana and I are going to miss you!” I said tears welling up into my eyes. I wished they lived close by. I kissed my daughter through the open window,
“Nani, come here,” Mokhta called. He was in his car seat at the back behind his father. “Give me a kiss!”
I walked to his window and gave him a kiss. “When will you visit me, Mokhta?”
He looked into my eyes, then glanced at the crabapple tree and said, “I will come when apple turns red, Nani!”
How lovely, Madhu, to read of your grandson’s visit with you and the celebration of his birthday. You made it all so real and so clear, I felt as though I were there at your table.
And his parting words were so precious. Those little minds gather everything in. But most important of all…he WANTS to come back soon.