The man my mother was seeing when she died asked me about my former step father. My mother never spoke of the former step father. The only time he came up was tangentially – when my mother refused to go to an Indian restaurant for a fundraiser.
I understand. I maintained a solid refusal as well. For 3 years if I wanted Indian food, I would order it in another province. I order like a pro, barely looking at the menu. Staying away from naan and butter chicken, ordering saag and chapati and rice. Mostly veg, a bit meat, but goat and chicken, rarely beef. This is the food of my childhood, as much as sloppy joes and shepherd’s pie and the odd prime rib.
I miss it.
I miss my mum.
A year has past and my mother has become like winter sunshine through a window. Not hot enough or strong enough to hurt. Enough to make you feel safe and secure. It carries enough warmth to remind you of the better days of summer, of times when you were happy and free. It sneaks in gently and pools around you.
My mother was never in her life gentle. My memories of her are. The things I miss about her – her indomitable spirit, her drive, her grit and her very fierce love of things – they are present in me. Present but perhaps slightly moderated. A winter’s sun on an arm chair then.
India was the place where my mother was happiest, the place where she was most herself. In the hottest part of the world my mother became gentle and content and peaceful.
Tonight after the sun goes down I will break my rules against Indian food. I will show up at the best Indian food in town and I will order without the menu. I will return a bit to some roots I have denied.
We will lift our glasses and our chapati. Let the smell of turmeric and the taste of coriander roll around our mouths. I will let memories come back in.
Winter sun through the window doesn’t hurt.