Sunday, January 31, 2016

A kiss for Kashti

Last Friday I sat in my doctor's outer office waiting for my annual physical.  As I updated the information on my medical forms, couples and families filtered in and out, chittering about due dates, baby weight, and the excitement of an imminent birth.  I sat alone on the other side of the room, completely surprised to feel the sting of being childless.  It's taken a while, but I no longer lament not having babies of my own, and it's been years since a precancerous diagnosis allowed me to re-evaluate my priorities and let go of the life I had planned in order to embrace the life that was waiting for me.  Those of you who know me well know I've done that more than once.
Or twice.
Or three times.
Still, while being surrounded by the energy of excited soon-to-be parents and grandparents, I thought about the weeks of packing before my move to Big Sur.  In the midst of labeling boxes and sorting stuff for Goodwill, I had come across a bin of books that had been stored since my teaching days...books I had kept in the hopes of reading them to a child of my own, my favorite being Maurice Sendak's A Kiss for Little Bear.  When I was little, I had read it over and over again, delighting in how Little Bear draws a picture for his grandmother, then sends it long distance to her house via a host of animals.  Upon receiving such a lovely gift, Grandmother sends a kiss for Little Bear which gets passed among the animals a la "the telephone game", and reaches its final destination, but not without some hilarious mix-ups.
It was back then, in an attempt to lighten the load of moving cross-country, that I finally let go of needing to have a child of my own, so I gave away nearly everything I had been saving...except a couple of hand-knitted sweater sets and a small collection of children's books that were too precious to part with, A Kiss for Little Bear being one of them.   At the time it felt like a freedom and a door opening, even though nothing in Big Sur turned out as I had anticipated.  Still, in the years since my return from California, I've been able to get on with my life in ways both meaningful and heart-opening.
So the unexpected twinge of wanting a child startled me...but this time, only for a moment.

Earlier that morning I was answering emails and received a link to YouTube from a friend who lives in India.  Kashyap and his wife, Kruti, are Satish and Danta's uncle and aunt.  There's no word for "cousin" in their culture, so Kashyap and Kruti's daughter, Kashti, is considered to be my pals' sister...and they are her brothers. 
We met on a sunny Saturday several years ago at the Sharma's where Kashti and I sat near the fireplace, playing with Legos and reading books.  Kashti soon joined my Yoga for Kids class at her Montessori school, so I was blessed to see her every week...and even on the weekends when she joined Satish, Danta, and me for a play date that was always filled with laugher.  One hot, sunny afternoon, everyone came over to my house for an ice cream party and Kashti squealed with delight when she met my kitten, Aditi (which means "Mother of the sun" in Hindi).  
We all celebrated birthdays and Easter, Christmas and Halloween, and everything in-between until it was time for her family to move back to Gujarat in June of 2014.   Since then we've stayed in touch via the Internet and snail mail, but it's not the same as holding Kashti on my lap while reading her a book or singing a song or listening to her tell me a story.  So when Kashyap sent the YouTube video of a now very-grown-up Kashti sharing a creation she had made with Legos (a little house for a black cat just like Aditi), I cried tears of joy to hear her sweet voice, for then and now, she's like a daughter to me. 

While I waited for my turn at the doctor's office, I thought of Kashti...and Satish and Danta and Neela and Amita...children who may not be mine by birth, but are in my life so I can give and receive love that knows no limits -- not even the 7,800 miles between Gujarat and Ohio.   Someday the little sweater sets I've saved will be gifted to the kids, and all of the books are still in rotation in the basket in the backseat of my car so Satish and Danta can enjoy them over and over again.  Alas...I cannot find my copy of A Kiss for Little Bear, so I must have passed it on to a child who loved it as much as I do; otherwise, I would be sending it to my little one across the ocean in India.  
So here's a kiss for Kashti who has opened my heart that much more to the realization that mothering can come in all forms...and while I may not give birth to a baby of my own, I can nurture and love all of the extraordinary children who come into my life.
What an incredible awareness.

With Kashti, June, 2014
You can view her darling video here.