As Christmas Eve and Hanukkah arrived this morning, I woke up incredibly thankful to celebrate the holidays surrounded by grace, peace, and hope. This year in particular I’m blessed beyond belief and it only keeps getting better. Wishing you all a wonder-filled season of light.
Here’s a Christmas memory from 2012…for the Sharmas with love.
an excerpt from Open Road: a life worth waiting for
Being with the Sharmas has healed me in ways that are difficult to articulate. For it's not in words that I find myself in relationship to them. It's in how I feel whenever we spend time together. The easy comfort with which they welcome me. The way they allow me to share myself with their children. The way Nidhi calls to chat and ask how I’m doing. To let me know that they miss me. To plan a play date or a special event or a surprise for one of the kids.
It's been a joy to take them all to Putt Putt Miniature Golf. To drive Satish and Danta to and from soccer practice. To beam like a proud aunt from the sidelines when they score a goal or make an assist. A couple of years ago, Amita's Girl Scout troop held an Edible Book Contest, and I was honored when Leena asked me to help her create a whimsical display that brought The Giving Tree to life. And what a delight to see her win first prize!
I've been there for their birthday celebrations, for homework and handwriting drills. For lost teeth and Halloween trick-or-treating. I've watched the boys learn to read and the girls grow into kind and caring young women. When I come over for a visit, Danta loves to read to me in a variety of hilarious voices, my favorite being his infamous "cowboy" which sounds just like a southern drawl. Satish always asks if we can play a game: Parcheesi or chess, Monopoly, or my personal favorite, The Game of Life. We don't mind bending the rules a bit on the latter as I like to teach Satish the value of buying a house that you can afford (and still have enough money for the insurance).
I've delighted in taking the boys to Children's Wonderland, a holiday exhibit and play center that I used to visit as a child. Their expressions are priceless as we pass the lighted displays and decorated trees. Like me, Satish says his favorite exhibit is the one with the animated raccoon family getting dressed and ready for their daily adventures.
The first year, as we walked past the Nativity, Satish pointed to the three wise men and said, "Look...those guys are from India."
I nodded. "Yes...those are the three wise men from the east. They brought gifts for the baby."
"Is that Jesix?" Danta asked. "Isn't He your favorite god 'cause you have a picture of Him in your yoga room?"
"Yes, that's Jesus," I replied. "And that's why we have Christmas. To celebrate His birthday."
"What are you?" Satish asked, wrinkling his brow.
"What do you mean?"
"Well...you know about Jesus and you also know the words to the Hindu songs we sing," he said. "Are you Christian or Hindu...or what?"
"I like how Gandhi explained it," I told him. "He was from Gujarat...just like your family. He said, 'I'm a Hindu and a Christian and a Muslim and a Jew.’"
"What's that mean?"
"It means I love to learn about all religions," I smiled. "Paths are many...God is One."
Satish nodded. "My Ba says that too."
Like Satish, I also call his grandmother "Ba." I love to sit at her feet and listen to her tell Hindu stories of gods and goddesses. She explains their symbolism and the lessons they provide for our own spiritual awakening. We can talk for hours, and sometimes, we practice a little yoga or breathing. Sometimes we enjoy a cup of tea.
Always we share a lot of love.
Like the flowers that bloom in my garden each summer, the time I spend with the Sharmas is beautiful and vibrant. Still, the blossoms are gorgeous, yet transitory, soon to diminish until another season comes around. The same is true in our busy lives, so I cherish the moments with Nidhi's family, for the wheel of time is always turning and there's always something new on the horizon.
Nevertheless, because of all the work I've already put into the tilling, the planting, the watering and weeding, the pruning and the nurturing, my gardens have become effortless to sustain. And so it is with Nidhi and her husband, Ashoke. With Amita and Leena. With Danta and Ba.
And of course, with my adorable friend, Satish.
Once when I was watching the boys while the rest of the family was away for the evening, Danta asked me why I didn't have any children.
"Don't you want any?" he wanted to know.
I nodded, giving him a tender smile. "For a long time I did. But now I can't have any."
"Are you sad about it?"
"Not anymore," I replied, leaning my shoulder against his. "I have you. It's like you're my little boy when I'm here."
"Am I your little boy, too?" Satish asked.
"Of course," I said, kissing his cheek.
I remembered a precious moment with them the previous Christmas. Satish and Danta were at my house one evening while their parents were shopping. Tired from a long day of play and holiday fun, the boys wanted me to read stories until it was time to drive them home. Sitting in the rocking chair, they both snuggled on my lap and listened while I read Berenstain Bear books in the glow of the lights on the tree.
Especially at Christmastime, I had wanted to hold a child of my own...in my arms...and in my heart.
And now I had two.
They feel asleep in the car as we drove back to their house, the stars twinkling in the cobalt blue sky. When I pulled in the driveway, Nidhi walked outside to greet me. She saw her sleeping angels in the backseat, covered with a fleece blanket and smiled.
"Thank you for taking such good care of the boys," Nidhi whispered. "They were looking forward to seeing you all day."
I've been looking forward to this my whole life, I thought.
I've waited a long time to be the aunt I've always wanted to be. To help nurture children who I can watch grow, becoming more of who they have been created to be. To cheer them on in their successes and encourage them in their struggles. To actively participate in their lives now and optimistically anticipate the journeys they have yet to take. To celebrate moments in their lives, big and small.
To give to them all the love I have that's overflowing with thanksgiving for the scared space they have filled in my heart.