“Sigh”

The drive home had never felt so long before. Tonight, she was extremely tired. Her anger wrapped in calmness was giving her chest pains. Nothing to fear, the pain was from controlling herself from screaming out of excitement. She was happy driving tonight with her two little ones and the dog, Lulu tucked quietly under blankets.  

It had been a while since she had driven at this hour of the night. It felt liberating. The darkness of the night felt bright and clear like never before. She was driving within speed limit feeling wild and crazy. She never realized it until tonight, how much she enjoyed driving.

It all started at dinner time. She was preparing dinner for the kids and like always feeling inadequate and inefficient. Kids were having dal and rice, which by any basic Indian household standards was quite a healthy dinner. Yet in her mind, it was the ‘no effort’ meal put together last minute. And just then the doorbell rang, and they all came in. A whole bunch of family members. Correction, extended family members with their big enough weekend bags. She sighed a small sigh, making sure she was not audible to anyone but to herself. It had been like this since the beginning of her marriage. She never thought how exhaustively tough it will be to marry into a large family. Even though she herself had many cousins, aunts and uncles yet it was never like this in her mom’s house. There were hardly any surprise guest visits. The only ones who surprised were truly the ones she loved and looked forward to meeting. She was not trained to be the smiling nurturer, eager to cook without notice for uninvited guests.

It had been over 7 years and she was just simply tired. All she wanted was to scream at everyone and ask them to pick up their dirty dishes on their own, make the beds in the mornings or be careful about using the only 2 bathrooms in the house because there were little kids in the house too. She just wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea and watch her kids play and enjoy their summer vacation.

Strangely, it seemed like all this only affected her in a family of 6 adults and 5 kids. It was strange that no one cared about the 5 years old kindergartner who was always awake till 10 pm every night waiting for his mommy to tuck her in. The mommy who had obviously lost track of time while serving and preparing last-minute dishes as per everyone’s liking.  Almost every summer vacation was spent working like a crazy headless chicken doing everything that others needed but not what she truly needed. Like her alone time with her kids reading books, taking walks, or cooking their favorite dishes. She could not remember the last time they took a planned vacation. For every vacation was a last-minute effort to save themselves from the wrath of tiny humans.

To any other person with no family or near and dear ones, her house looked like a dream family to be a part of. Everyone was always surrounded by loved ones, there was always someone to talk to, or someone sharing the new family gossip, but strangely no one to help in household chores. And truly, only she realized the scary truth that none of these people would give a damn or help her if she asked for anything from them. They all were that bunch of family members you must live with because that is how you were raised, to be polite and ready to compromise at all times.

But tonight, something happened, she could not take it anymore. She needed to break the cycle. After all, she was raising her kids to be independent and strong humans and it was high time, she set an example for them. All she needed was to take that one step and the rest would follow.  And so, it happened, she took off the apron and washed her hands, served chilled glasses of water to the just-arrived guests and put the tray down. She picked up her kids, made them wear jackets and shoes. They dared not ask anything to their mom for they knew when to be quiet. She gave them 5 minutes to pack their favorite toys and holiday homework and wait for the next set of instructions. In the meantime, she got a small bag of their essentials and a few clothes ready and then asked them to follow her out. She walked up to her husband chatting and laughing in the living room and gave him a kiss, who was totally taken aback considering she had kissed him in front of the guests and other older family members. She then smiled and whispered in his ear, “I decided to make the trip a week early. I am driving to Mom’s with kids & Lulu right now. And I am taking the sedan, so you have the SUV for the guests to drive around.” He looked at her and gave her a big smile followed by a hug, “Have a safe drive and call me when you reach. Love you sweetheart” he whispered back.

The chest pains had given up on her, now she smiled while driving. And singing her favorite all-time song,  “Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you”. 

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