all grown up

I remember the days when Popples use to cry his heart out when it was time to leave for school after any break. His wails use to wrench my heart and bring tears in my eyes too. Popples left yesterday afternoon. No wails, no sobs, not even a whimper. He waived us a cheerful good bye and jumped in the car where his school pals waited full of stories and things to share. He was all grown up now.

Not quite I must admit. The day before he vanished in his room stating that he wanted to play alone. This was quite understandable as little Agastya my grandson, often appropriated to himself Utpal's toys and Utpal the kind big brother was always ready to share his toys. But Popples is only 8 and a kid himself and I guess playing big brother was not always fun. So his desire to be 'alone' was not questioned.

When he did not come down for quite some time, I sent Gita to his room to find out what was happening. Gita found him crying. No wails or sobs but silent tears that ran down his cheeks while he played with one of his favourite cars. When she asked him what happened his answer was a simple: I do not want to go to school but I know I have to. You see he was all grown up.

When I came to know about this I cracked up and ran to see him. By the time I reached his room the tears had gone. What remained was streaks on his cheeks. I took him in my arms and rocked him gently, like one would a child. He hugged me tight and we remained like this for a long time. No words were needed.

It was also time to ease matters so the next morning we set out to the cake shop not only to select my grandson's birthday cake for the 21st, but also one for Popples whose birthday fell on the day he would be back for his next break. It was fun and laughter all the way. The choice fell on a gleaming bike cake that would be ordered in time. The dark clouds had dispelled and all was well!

But not quite as Popples tears had touched a deep chord in me. These holidays he had time and again mentioned his mom in overt and covert ways. Be it the lost box or the many instances she appeared in the course of conversation or the most poignant time when the little boy stated that his home was where mom was. How did one explain to a hurting child that his mom was awol! That she had just left town and never bothered to keep in touch; that a court had given his custody to his maam'ji. True maam'ji was precious and someone he loved but she was not mom! And custody or person deemed fit, as the court order stated was too abstract a term to be comprehended by a still tiny little boy.

This time I was also treated to many kisses and cuddles. Normally Popples is quite reserved when it comes to expressing his feelings. He has been so since he left for boarding school and became a little man. Yet the past few days I have been hugged unabashedly. Maybe Popples needed reassurance, needed to know I was there, needed to know he was loved. It was time to put my deemed fit status to test but how. Did I need to ferret the mom out from whatever hole she had dug herself in? Did I need to start explaining to him that mom's sometimes chose to change the course of their lives? I must admit I am a little lost.

Children should be brought into this world for the right reasons. They never ask to be born. We inflict the gift of life on them and then sometimes wash our hands away leaving the child bewildered and hurting. Today I need to redress the tort, to heal the pain and above all to fill that little boy's life with abundant love and joy. So help me God.