She could hear the cries. Again and again. Incessant. Every morning the same.
Mummy! Where did I keep my badge? Where is the belt! The bag. The bottle. The homework. The shoes. The laces. The shirt. The buttons. The thread on the buttons. The thread by which she was hanging…
She heard them now. Even after they had all gone. The birds had flown, they said. Empty nesters they said.
How will you survive, they asked. Won’t you miss them they wondered.
The questions never ended. The probes. The curiosity. Trying to get inside her head as if they paid rent to stay there and put nails on the walls. As if they even cared, they just wanted a little tour inside her head. She wondered why. Were they bored of their own? Maybe they just did not have enough interesting stuff going on inside their own heads, so they needed to visit others. Or maybe, they just had fun dropping by and messing around with other people’s heads.
Socialisation, she said. Socialising they called it. Visiting the insides of other’s homes, minds and heads, and leaving bits of themselves. Circulated bits, like unwanted gifts that do the rounds for years. Leaving a mark in every home, till after a while you cannot remember where it came from, only that it now was a part of your home. That cup, it was yours now. That notion, that the mummy was in service to the progeny, much like the chipped cup, a part of the household. The stale box of dry fruit biscuits, the one that no one wanted, but you had to finally one day. We consumed these beliefs like those biscuits – they were ours after all. We ingested them. Knowing we would feel slightly sick, but we could deal with it.
She remembered all those biscuits. The day she could not go for that job interview because her son was sick. No, there was nothing else to be done, she had to do what was right. So she swallowed that. Or the day she cancelled her … who remembers after all these years all those things that she had missed.
She missed them, of course. They lit up her life, they brought love and laughter. She brought some, and they rose together. That is why they were family.
And now they were gone. The house was quiet. So quiet that all she could hear were here memories.
“Where did I keep my green sash! Miss said you have to wear your sash on Fridays! Help!”
“Why don’t you look after your things, Priya! If you tidied up, everything would always be found. I’m sick of your things getting lost!”
“Mummy! Stop lecturing, and help me! I don’t have time for this mess”
“Exactly what I tell you! You don’t have time for this mess. What a stupid way to spend your time – hunting for stuff! Grow up, I won’t always be here to help you. You are on your own!”
“Is it this one?”
“At least say Thank you!”
“Thank you mummy, you are the best!!! Oh, and I won’t be home till evening – there’s an event. Bye!”
And so she had whirled away. Far far away. All of them had. It was only right and fair. Life moved on.
The house could be clean now, but she kept it a mess.
After all, it wasn’t an empty nest.