A scene comes to mind. A face, an unlikely location. You are the protagonist but everything else appears to be a dream. You have another home, another husband, another life. You do not recognise yourself. This cannot be you. Those are not your words, your thoughts. You aren’t like this.
You aren’t like this any more. You changed, and the scene changed too. Or maybe the scene changed and you changed along with it. Who knows what comes first, the chicken or the egg.
Sometimes, looking into the past is like looking into the future or into a parallel universe. It all appears to be a vision, a hallucination brought on by an idle mind. Then your children walk past and there’s the answer in flesh and blood — they are yours, the dream was reality once. However unbelievable it seems, it was reality once. You take heart in knowing you survived. You give thanks in knowing you are in a better place now. You make a tiny wish for the future, and send up a prayer of forgiveness and closure for the past. There is life beyond life.
I was crabby a few days ago, sullen about the fact that I had to cook dinner when I’d rather be writing something. “I wish we had domestic help,” I grumbled to the kids, “I wish I could be doing something of more value than housework.”
“But what you are doing is of value, mom. Change your perspective,” the elder one cheekily said, walking away, leaving me fuming in the kitchen.
In a few moments, I was caught up by the feel of cottage cheese between my fingers, the smell of pepper in the air, the state of quiet that only cooking can bring. What is value, I mused. Is it the alert ping of the phone when a cheque is deposited in my account? Is it the accomplishment of a writing project well done? Is it a work meeting that went fabulously? Or can it be something else entirely?
Can it be the sizzle of the paneer tikka on the pan as well? The hungry, drooling face Ronnie makes as he looks on, standing just outside the kitchen since he’s not allowed in? The daughter happily filling up her plate? The empty dishes in the sink? The sense of family, and of home? The knowledge of shared history and linked destinies? The experience of being a mother, a wife, a creature of warmth, comfort and an infinite reservoir of hugs?
Could there be value there too?
Could there be value in love?
I thought of all the homemakers in the world — my own mother included, whose contribution to my life cannot be calculated in numbers or words. They don’t bring home the money but they contribute something of perhaps greater value to their homes and families. They contribute themselves.
When I’m at the end of my life, the bank account will end with me. The newspaper articles I write will float, forgotten, in cyberspace. The kids will forget these moments, the dogs will move on to doggy heaven and forget all of us. But I will smile, for I will know I lived life the way Life wanted me to, I loved no holds barred, I dared to dream, and I made paneer tikka when my daughter asked me for it.
Big things create value, no doubt. It’s the little things that are invaluable.