Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ghosts in the air.

I love winter. We don’t get snow in my part of California, but it still gets very cold. I own a snazzy collection of coats/fleece leggings and cashmere sweaters, so it is by far my favorite season. Plus, it is always fun to go four months without shaving your legs. 

This morning is colder than usual. My breath is misting, there’s a fine layer of frost on the bedroom window and my Spinal column takes an extra minute to unfreeze before I can finally sit up. And then, slowly, everything falls apart. My neck hurts horribly (hello late 30s!), the toaster dies after burning one slice, my son has his 345th cold of the season.
And I feel so, so blue. 

“Don’t cry! Don’t cry! Don’t you dare cry,” I whisper to myself. A quick glance at the phone app confirms I’m likely PMSing, but that doesn’t make the sadness go away. I snap at the kids who are bickering and pour out my 3rd cup of coffee. The kids resume their whining, and I look outside the window at the neighbor’s yard. Yup, their grass is literally greener than mine. Well, hell!

15 minutes later. Shoes on, pants on, underwear on (yes, we check that too and don’t ask me about that one awkward day last month). Jackets donned and hats placed on little heads. We go outside to the car, clenched jaws and gasping for breath. It is so white everywhere. A heavy fog has crept onto the valley overnight and the visibility is only 20 feet. “Oh, great!” I think, sourly. Now everybody will drive at a snail’s pace. Just great!

I belt the kids in and turn on the car heater. I’m peeking at the rearview mirror and that’s when I finally see it. Two rosy-cheeked children, looking around in awe. Unlike me, the fog is their friend. It promises them fantasy and wonder and magic. We drive slowly, the mist parting before the car and then zipping shut behind us. Reya mouths a big WOW. Nirav is tracing shapes in the condensation.

On a whim, I roll down my window. A little tongue of cold, cloudy air snakes in. My daughter giggles. My son tries to grab it. More giggles. 
I smile and take a deep breath. “I love you, honey,”, I tell the obsessive woman inside my head. She’s trying to draw my attention to a pimple on our chin. Oh, did I know that I looked rather blotchy this fine morning?

So, I repeat. Loudly.

“I love you honey, but today I need a break from you.” She doesn’t respond, so I turn the key and lock her inside the dusty corners of my head.

“I love you too, Mommy”, Reya responds, dreamily. Now I’m chuckling. 

We arrive at the elementary school and park. Nirav is still trying to grab clumps of fog. I sense little hands tugging at my sweater. 

“What is it, Reya?”

“Mommy, you know why there are clouds on the road?”

“Why don’t you tell me, love?”

“Ghosts, mommy,” she tells me with utmost seriousness.

“What?!!”

“Lots of ghosts, everywhere.”

“There are 100 ghosts in the air,” Nirav proclaims somberly, like some new age Baba.

I stare at them, curious, puzzled, confused. They stare back, self assured and unafraid of the “100 ghosts” floating around them. 

You know those moments where you feel weak legged with pride and love. Amazed and humbled that you created these perfect, beautiful little beings. Some people get like that when their child is born/wins a prize/finally goes to sleep. 

On that frosty sidewalk I stand, overwhelmed and teary because my kids said “Ghosts”. I think back to my childhood - the countless horror novels I read under covers, those tacky Ramsay brothers shows on Zee TV. My first Zombie comic, the last time I wrote a short story about Creatures in the dark. You see, it’s not so much about the supernatural, as it is about letting your imagination fly free. And “Fog = Ghosts”? That’s the first step! 

I bend down and hug my weird kids. Nirav protests, but gives in. Reya kisses me and laughs at the little puff of mist we conjure between our lips. 
“Baby ghost!” she mumbles, delighted.

I wave goodbye and smile all the way home. Pulling into the driveway, I glance at the neighbor’s yard. Green. Brazenly, Obscenely green. Nothing like what God or nature intended. 
 
“Fake grass,” I mutter and walk inside. The grouch deep within me sleeps. I give her an extra pillow, smooth her creased forehead. “Tomorrow, we can talk”, I promise her.

Grabbing a book, I settle into the loveseat by the big bay window. The white, magical world outside moves, ever so slightly. Murky shapes, ghostly forms. Anything could be out there. I sigh happily and dive into my horror novel. 

I freakin love winter!


Notes: 
1. No, I am not high on something (drug/plant/alcohol)
2.Give yourself permission to have off days. But also allow yourself to have awesome ones!
3. Embrace your kids and their own brand of weirdness. Chances are, they inherited it from you!




Monday, December 3, 2018

Stree

I watched the movie ‘Stree’ recently and loved every second. (For those who don’t know, Stree is a Bollywood movie about an evil spirit who abducts men after calling out their name seductively.) Horror and Comedy are my favorite genres, and as the credits rolled, a little idea popped into my head. You see, I fancy myself something of a prankster. So that same night, once the kids were asleep, I crouched under my bed and waited for my husband to retire for the day. And soon enough, he came, eyes glued to his little screen, watching some YouTube Video. A little later, I felt the familiar creak as he settled down on the bed. Patience is my forte, so I waited a minute more. Then I jangled a few bangles I’d kept ready for just this purpose (Much like Baden Powell, my motto is Be Prepared). 

*Jangle Jangle Jangle* 

The tinny sound of the YouTube Video paused. Now I had his attention.

Then in my creepiest ‘Stree’  voice, I said:
“Raghav,”.
I heard him sit up. Silence. I rattled the bangles some more.
“Oh Haha Pavi. You got me! Come out. Where are you, anyway?”
Fighting hard to control my giggles, I counted down to 50. This was so much fun.
47…,48…,49…,50. Ok time! Stree mode on!
“Raghav…”
He looked under the bed. All he could likely see were some Amazon boxes (artfully placed there by me as a cover). I heard him walk around the room, opening and closing closet doors. Even the laundry hamper was checked (seriously, dude?!!). 
He’s a total Fattu about horror movies. He watches them to maintain that Macho image, but we both know the truth. Now, I’m sure he doesn’t really believe in vengeful spirits and all that. But when you hear a disembodied voice in the middle of the night, it’s hard to not let your mind go to those dark places. Or at least I hoped he would think along those lines. 
So I smiled to myself, put my head back and groaned.
“Ragh-”
For a second I couldn’t breathe. Two large black eyes looked at me from the edge of the bed. An upside down lock of hair waved in the gentle AC breeze as her little mouth opened wide and screeched.
“Mommy, what are you doing Mommy? Why are you under the bed, Mommy? Can I play, Mommy? Please, Mommy. I’m all done sleeping, Mommy,”.
(When you hear a disembodied voice in the middle of the night, it’s hard to not let your mind go to those dark places.) 
Heart hammering, I screamed. Which led to my daughter shrieking in wounded surprise. We both did a jaunty little howling Jugalbandi for a few seconds, with me hitting the low notes and her going high. 
The next 15 minutes were not pretty. I bounced around an inconsolable 4-year-old while Raghav sat on the bed, doubling up with laughter. My son walked in, confused at the noise and promptly climbed into our bed, asleep before his head hit the pillow. I threw death glares at Raghav as my daughter finally drifted off to dreamland. 
With a loud huff I turned around and shut my eyes, squished between the two warm kids. And tried hard to ignore stifled giggling sounds coming from my spouse.
It must have been 3 am when a little voice piped up.
“Mommy,”.
I lay still hoping it was a dream.
“Mommy”. Second time.
“Mommy!” 
No one can escape my little monster when she calls out your name three times. 
“Why did you hide under the bed Mommy? That was so scary, Mommy. Next time don’t do that Mommy!” 
So I sat up and apologized for the millionth time. We read books under the covers for a long (long) while before she dozed off again. 
And 2 feet away, Raghav slept like a content baby. 


Moral of the story: Pranking is Overrated