I know I am running late. I rush to the school auditorium balancing cranky Little Princess on one hand (who has refused to sit on her pram), a camera and a handbag stuffed with her paraphernalia (that I could require for my two hours away from home) on the other. I barely reach the auditorium when Little Princess chooses that exact moment to throw up (Oh!!!). We rush to the nearest washroom to clean up with practiced speed (considering that this is one job that I have mastered over the weekend). I gather up a very angry toddler and the baby-bag-cum-hand-bag (that accompanies us on our every trip out of home) and rush to the school auditorium to watch Sid give his solo performance for English Elocution.
I manage to find a seat (thanks to sweet mommies who have reserved one for me thoughtfully) and settle down, only to find out that I just missed Sid’s recitation of the poem “Mrs. Stein”. Little Princess who is now fresh and comfortable, unaware of the sudden emotional outburst that I am under, decides to play “head, shoulders, knees and toes” with her new-found friend (another enthusiastic toddler) who is sitting on the seat beside us. A quick decision that ‘Peppa Pig’ on the phone (which is on mute) is better than this budding noisy friendship between the toddlers is made owing to the fact that this newly found toddler game could persuade the school authorities to politely show us mothers and our exuberant toddlers out of the auditorium.
I feel sad, upset, disappointed (so much for all the planning that went in to give him a surprise). My presence during his recital was indeed intended to be a surprise for him or (if I were more truthful) my way of making up for not being able to help him enough during practice sessions at home for I was too busy cleaning up and attending to Little Princess who was down with a viral infection. One of the ladies say, “everything happens for a reason and definitely for good,” convincingly and on an afterthought adds, “he performed well…too well. He is one of the best so far,” adding to my growing guilt. There is no point crying over spilt milk, I convince myself. Little Princess has calmed down the phone in hand and I am soon absorbed listening to talented children bringing beautiful poetry alive onstage. I see the parents burst with pride as they juggle between recording every detail and waving to get their child’s attention while the children deliver their best on the stage.
This takes me to a time a place back in time when my father and I had walked into my school one late evening for the annual concert. He dropped me off at the green room when one of the nuns in charge pointed at my shoes disapprovingly. I had worn the wrong shoes and we had exactly one hour to begin on stage. He left me with the nun and dashed off home only to get back just in time with the right pair. I remember looking out for him from the stage and then spotting him amongst the other parents in the audience. I was quick to hold my head up higher and deliver my lines better for which I later got to eat two full packets of caramel popcorn from the school canteen. I heard him brag about my performance to his friend who visited home the following day.
It was a moment of absolute pride for me as ‘praise’ did not come easy with my father. He was not one to engage in an open display of affection or endearment. He gave us the best of what he could possibly afford, be it education or a surprise treat. An absolute stickler for discipline, his glare was enough to control two brats – my brother and I – who, for the most part of our childhoods, tested his patience. We secretly named him ‘volcano’ owing to the sudden eruption of anger that burst forth followed by a cold glare after another one of our ‘accidents’ during a game of catch or a remark from the teacher after we simply ‘forgot’ to get our report card signed or mysteriously ‘lost’ the notebook with an incomplete homework or came home an hour later than usual after play when there was an entire lesson to be studied for test the following day or after that fierce fight that followed a bitter argument regarding whose chunk of that shared piece of chocolate was bigger. His insistence on sticking to routines is what I follow up to this day. Our early morning walks around the lake, followed by a few exercises in the park and a quick explanation of the role of physical activity in daily life and its impact on our health is one I continue to follow. Most of what I am today, I owe it to him – his actions, his words of wisdom and his support have been my guiding light during my darkest times.
Sid, after all, did win a trophy for his performance (that I never got to see) at the English Elocution and I stood in the audience and understood what it must be like for my father to see me perform and emerge a winner.
It is a few days past Father’s day, but it is never too late to wish my dearest daddy, my children’s daddy and all the wonderful daddies of the world – Happy Father’s day!!!