Sunday, July 31, 2005

15. Respite

Her mother was startled. She couldn’t believe her ears, but without waiting to wonder, she sat down cross legged and gently laid Nida’s head in her lap. She stroked her hair in silence, feeling her baby’s trembling body soothe at the loving caress of her fingers. She had given up all hope of ever playing the crutch a mother deserves to be for her daughters; knowing how independent her’s had been brought up to be. And all of a sudden, Nida had walked in breathing heavy and hugged her as if she would fall to pieces without her mother’s embrace.

She had dreamt of this so often it almost seemed like a distant memory. And now it was real, Nida needed her and she’d be damned to hell before she would let the moment slip by amongst questions and curiosity.

Nida, for her part was equally confused when the sight of her mother standing in the kitchen, weeping silently over the simmering cooking pot had suddenly seemed like the only person in the world who could bring her any degree of calm from the fear coursing through her heart. She looked at her mother, a little broken, a little weakened but still standing firm like the pillar of strength she had always been for the family and realized for the first time that she herself was everything she was so proud to be because her mother had been the kind of woman to let her be all that.

It was a strange epiphany, the woman she had resented so often for being weak and un-ambitious and too docile to ever amount to anything worthy of her daughter’s admiration, had always been so much more than Nida had ever been capable of realizing before. But now in the absence of the sister she had chosen to emulate, the never ending love her mother had always harbored towards her seemed like the greatest gift she had ever had. Suddenly, devoid of anything other than guilt for the years of misjudging a mother’s love, feeling unworthy yet desperately in need of her mother’s embrace she went up to her and hugged her. She asked her mother to let her sleep in her lap like she had always been reminded that she used to as an infant. And mom had complied without as much as a raised eyebrow at this sudden change in her personality. So she put her head in the safest place on earth and closed her eyes and felt her mother’s hands gently untangle her hair. Smiling, unable to imagine why she had been missing out on this taste of heaven all her life, she fell into the perfect, peaceful, dream less sleep of angels.

The father walked in to find his haggard yet graceful wife of 30 years, smiling year to year with their last remaining daughter sleeping quietly in her lap. Taken aback at this vision of domestic harmony in the middle of his world falling to pieces he stood staring at them stunned. It was too soon to be happy… too soon to relax, to breathe without a whimper, to be satisfied with what was left behind.

Rida had always been his favorite and he made no bones about it. He wanted Nida to be like her older sister and she had done her damndest to be as much like her as she could have been. But neither of them had ever been like all the other little girls, They had been brilliant and charming and proud. But there were no hugs in their family, no tear filled good byes, no mornings filled with affectionate laughter. He had brought his daughters up to be strong, and he was proud of that, but he couldn’t stop regretting never having hugged Rida. Never knowing the warmth of his daughter’s tears drying on his fingers. Never knowing what she looked like when she felt defeated. He saw Nida now, sleeping calmly in her mother’s lap, and the smile on his wife’s face and he couldn’t help but let the joy seep into his heart.

He walked over to the two, kissed his daughter on the cheek, his wife on the head and sat down at her feet, gazing through eyes blurry with tears. His heart still ached for Rida, but the tears he shed now were of satisfaction with what fate had left him.

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