Recently, I sat at a kitchen table of a woman I had never met before. My mother’s friend, let’s call her V, is her walking companion most mornings. They go shopping together and have an easy camaraderie which reminds me of the friendship of little girls. Now V aunty (since aunty is the necessary blanket suffix used for all the parents’ women friends and acquaintances) expressed a desire to see me and so I accompanied my mom to her place. A younger me would have wriggled out of the situation but as I get older, I find that I wish to humour my mother’s wishes and do what makes her happy.
V aunty kept a spic and span home. A mildly obsessive compulsive husband helped with weekend deep cleaning so it was a joint effort. The entire house was done in dull shades of brown that kept temperatures cool and somehow had a very calming effect. At one time she was a working mother but now she’s an empty nester who carries the ache of a silent house in tired eyes. The energy she exudes though is another force altogether, one of sheer enthusiasm.
It was a hot morning when we reached her place and my mom made her way to the kitchen, a familiar practice for the two. I followed and sat at the table from where the window on the other wall was a living screen. A brilliant copper pod tree stood right outside it and the grills held a neat napkin and a basket to dry dishes. The window remained my muse through their chatter and I watched a crow come to the window for a drink of water.
Aunty V set out three glasses of the most refreshing buttermilk spiced with ginger, curry leaves and shallots for us to drink. The two of them exchanged notes about their common friends and I was content to listen to their voices wash over my mind. These women had their share of life’s struggles and at this stage still giggled like teenagers. How does age shape thoughts and actions? Would I have the lightness these women brought or would a current spell of darkness be a permanent night? The buttermilk was just the necessary distraction and aunty V was delighted to give me a refill. Something about feeding people that makes my mom and others of her generation happy.
The table brought back memories of a scarred dining table in a home I left behind, one that was an equal participant in similar conversations with a friend. That walnut table looked across the kitchen to an old silver oak which was home to a pair of crows. Maybe they were a much married avian couple quite like us humans with one doing the talking while the other sat stoically. Kitchen windows have an odd comfort, a sense of slow time that is gentle and forgiving. Writing about it, I can see myself at my usual chair looking out of that window and straying into thoughts of my dad. His presence is an unassuming one on days when I wander in quicksands of the mind.
There wasn’t much time to linger in fragments of the past as the two women decided to move to the living room. The windows there looked out at a beautiful mango tree. A thoughtfully designed ledge along the window sill was a cool spot to sight squirrels scampering in the compound and sparrows carrying little twigs. Maybe it is nesting season for those tiny birds. A lazy cat ambled atop the compound wall with typical feline elegance. I didn’t realize summer days as an adult child of my mother also has its pleasures.