Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after!

It’s the song my mother sings to me every morning. I don’t like it much; it gave me an eerie feeling. I used to joke that she needs to update her song list. She just smiled and replied “it’s a special song; it reminds me of my greatest victory.”
Grandmother has been living with us for the past few weeks, I asked her about mother’s obsession with the rhyme, it seemed to distress grandma, and she said she wasn’t sure, mother had been singing it since she was a child.

A few days later I was watching a movie based on the tragic separation of twins- a brother and sister, the beginning was quite happy but I saw my grandma’s eyes widen at the screen and leave quietly. I followed her out and asked her about what had happened. She looked at me and seemed to make up her mind about something, “I’m assuming your mother has never told you about your Uncle Sam?” I shook my head in surprise. “He is, or rather he was your mother’s twin, he passed away in an accident when they were just twelve years old” I wanted to know everything about him and she also must have wanted to talk about him because for the next one hour she spoke about her beloved lost son. He and my mother had been very close; she was very protective of him. He was at his happiest at the time, he was going to boarding school, his life was just beginning but then the accident happened. I couldn’t get Grandma to talk about his death; I guess it was too painful.
I couldn’t help but wonder why mother had never told me about him. I finally asked her one night, she looked shaken; she simply got up and walked off. I think I heard her have an argument with Grandma later that night. I was hurt. What about this did she feel she needed to keep a secret from me? Mother and I were always close but after father’s death five years ago she has become my best friend. She was my greatest confidante so why did I suddenly feel like she was hiding things from me?
I am leaving for University in a few days; I think this is why grandma has come to live with us. I’m so grateful to her. I used to worry about how mother would get by without me. She is so protective of me, she worries all day long, and I don’t think she’s very comfortable with the idea of me leaving. I know grandma will help mother adjust to our new situation. Last night mother and I started bridging all these gaps that had appeared in our relationship. We went to our favourite Mexican restaurant and over quesadillas and nachos mother finally opened up to me about everything. She was scared I was leaving but she had accepted it. She told me that I will never ever leave her heart, just like Uncle Sam never has.  He used to love to hear her sing, just like me! She sings for him every day, maybe she would sing for me too! I couldn’t help but thinking that my mother is the best!
Tomorrow my life beings anew, University, new classes and friends I can barely contain my excitement. Grandma has gone to my aunt’s house and tonight, one last time, I’m alone with mother. She’s singing “Jack and Jill…” again.
“Mama, what is this victory you always talk about?”
“Oh! I sing this song for your Uncle Sam”
She has been talking more and more about him these days, maybe she is finally being able to think of him with some happiness.
“Was the victory you won…something over Uncle Sam?”
“Yes it was, and now he can never leave my side and this song has everything to do with it!”
I’m getting excited “What song will you sing for me when I go away?”
“Ring around the roses, pocketful of poses, ashes ashes we all fall down, Baby you loved playing to this rhyme when you were young. You will always be a baby for me. I will never let you leave me, my thoughts I mean”.
I beam at her; no one will love me like my mother does.
“Come Baby, put your head in my lap, and let me put you to sleep, one last time.”
I go gladly, and as she fusses over me and tucks me in, I can’t help but stare at her. I remember dad’s words- her heart is as big as her. He loved teasing her about her big frame. I’ve always thought she loves with all her heart. I can feel her love tonight!
She’s singing “Ring around the roses” to me, I’m drifting to sleep, I don’t even realise when her hands creep onto my neck and start pressing too hard. I struggle. My eyes are imploring her to stop. “Baby I can’t let you leave me. You will be at peace after this; just like your Uncle Sam was, after I pushed him down the hill. We would not have been able to bear being apart, this way he never had to go to that horrid boarding school, don’t you see? Even you needn't go to college. You can stay with mama forever”.

By Radha Agarwal