For many adults, the connection of mothers and motherhood to levity and laughter is not easy to find. In the complexity and gravity of the mother-child relationships, the lighter side often gets obscured, if not lost. But, if we dig a bit deeper into our awareness, the flower-seeds of our mother’s laughter is indeed to be discovered. We may have to go back to our mother’s childhood, as is revealed in the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore:
“Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?“ the baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast —
You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games;
In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother you have lived.
In the lap of the deathless Spirit who rules our home you have been nursed for ages.
When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered as a fragrance about it.
Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow in the sky before the sunrise.
Heaven’s first darling, twin-born with the morning light, you have floated down the stream of the world’s life, and at last you have stranded on my heart.
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong to all have become mine.
– Rabindranath Tagore in The Crescent Moon
So, what if we were to go back to the moment when our mother was born. To imagine her as a young toddler, learning to walk, full of life and laughter and play. To think of her as a teenager trying to find her place in the world, with all the hopes and dreams that come with being ‘oh so young’ and naive. What if we were to think of her as she experienced her first ‘falling in and love’ and her ‘first heart-break’? Were her fears and hopes and prayers that much different than what we have for those that we ourselves hold dear to our heart? Surely, she laughed and cried and walked barefoot in the grass and smiled the same way at the first onset of spring’s flowers as we do today.
But then, something changed when the spirit of That girl started feeling the effects of the added responsibilities of life – and That spirit full of life and laughter, of defying gravity, of wearing flowers in her hair and singing like nobody was listening, of dancing in the first monsoon rain like nobody was watching – got buried somewhere deep under the weight of that single word. Mother. For not every girl is adequately equipped to treat that word with levity and unbridled joy.
And how do I know that all of this levity and laughter was within Her all along? I know it from the sparkle in her tone when she would ask me about her granddaughter during our weekly phone calls. I know it from the friends that she used to ‘card-shark’ during her weekly games of gin-rummy (yes, they told me all about it – your secret is out, Mom :)). I know it from her delight in eating fresh strawberries and chikki on our day trips into the local mountain resorts of Mahableshwar and Khandala. I know it from the stories they – my birth mother and her sister who raised me – shared about their childhood days in Lahore and Chandni Chowk…
The gravity and responsibility that surrounds ‘motherhood’ often forms many an opaque layer that hides the levity and laughter of the girls and boys (their surely are many fathers in ‘mother’ roles). Maybe it is up to us to poke some holes in these layers and shine a different, lighter light through them. If we still have the opportunity, we can invite our mothers to tell us some of their ‘young girl’ stories… and tell them some of ours.
For, in every new story told, like every new spring rain, lies the potential for new seeds of love and laughter to grow.
Thank you Mom, for telling me some of your stories. I can pass on your childhood pranks to your granddaughter 🙂
P.S. Join us Sunday, May 8th 2016 at 9amET(USA)/1pmUTC for our weekly twitter chat in #SpiritChat – bring some light-hearted stories about your mother. If you are a ‘mother’, bring some light-hearted stories about your motherhood. Thank you, and enjoy the flowers 🙂