Family Short Story – A Reunion Much Awaited
Stopping by the market, she filled her basket with varieties of fruits, vegetables and some necessary groceries for making a delicious dessert. She made sure she did have enough time to cook the menu she had decided. He was to meet her after seven long years. Her excitement was growing every minute, so much so she couldn’t focus on anything.
Her husband observed her from a distance and came closer to help, trying to be supportive. He wasn’t even half as thrilled as his wife, with the arrival of their son. He would have preferred him to stay where he came from; even if they were given the least importance, Neeraj wouldn’t have taken the decision to get married to someone his parents would object.
On an ordinary day, the queue at the cash counter would have tested their patience, but very strangely Neeraj’s mother seemed very calm and composed compared to her spouse who was cursing the poor system of the hypermarket. On their way back home, she spotted a toy shop and insisted that they pick something up from there for their grandchild, for their son’s daughter. He scorned at her suggestion, but reluctantly slowed his vehicle and tried finding a parking space.
The shop was as fantasy oriented and as colourful like a child would love with a massive choice of Barbie dolls and soft toys. The toys were arranged in age order, and also an apparel section ranging from infants to ten year olds. Hema seemed clueless, she walked from one stand to the other in awe, wondering what would be the best toy she could chose for her 2 year old granddaughter. He saw his wife smiling at herself, wondering what was this unconditional love that a mother has towards their children no matter how they behave, or how they abandon their parents.
He saw his wife stack up her trolley with items that was more than required. Unwilling to hurt her, he placed his credit card on the counter and looked at his wife, who was still randomly looking through the clothing sector, and selecting a baby pink dress which had fancy frills on it and also came along with matching booties, underwear and a hairband. She animatedly gestured at her husband asking if she could pick that up as well. He smiled and acknowledged, signalling his approval. She came running happily toward the cashier who was waiting to close the billing.
They had been informed through mail that Neeraj would be arriving on Saturday midnight, India time, and would be there for lunch at their place on Sunday. Though they wanted to greet them at the airport itself, he asserted that they would prefer to go to a hotel to freshen up, and that was what Demi would prefer too. Demi was their daughter in law, whom they hadn’t met till now. Hema’s husband’s anger and stubbornness had prevented her to even see their picture or even their baby’s. But now, after seven long years, her husband’s thoughts changed, when he realised that his wife was unhappy, depressed and dejected. Her silence spoke a lot, and he decided to change the present for better days to come.
She always was an early riser, but today was different, there was a mystical element to her life, she looked livelier and the glow on her face which was missing all these years was back. Very rhythmically she moved in her kitchen, sorting out her tasks one by one, and very calmly following the necessary procedures. She had selected an array of dishes of Indian cuisine, but made sure that the seasoning and spice was minimal, considering the type of palate Demi was used to.
Hema’s husband was on his regular schedule that morning, completing his two hours of exercise and Yoga, he sat at the table expecting his elaborate breakfast, but was disappointed to know that breakfast included only a cup of tea and two toasted slices of bread with butter and jam. His wife excused herself, since she had a lot to catch up with the extravagant lunch for her son’s arrival and would not be able to involve a sumptuous breakfast as well. He accepted her explanation and binged on the toasts, hoping that their son wouldn’t disappoint his wife.
It was half past one, and there was no news from their son. She patiently waited for their arrival, while her husband tried reaching the hotel where they were staying. At around 2 p.m. the doorbell rang and she rushed to open the main door. On their porch stood their son, with a pale complexioned woman, who had an infant in her arms, that was blissfully sleeping cuddled in her mother’s chest. Hema acted in a reflex, and hugged her son and daughter in law, with tears streaming her eyes, inviting them inside.
It was a rather awkward feeling for Neeraj to be back home after a long pause, and it took more time than expected to break the ice, and initiate a conversation with his father. As they settled themselves on the off white leather couch, Hema busied herself with setting the table for lunch. Demi was awfully quiet and preferred it that way throughout the time she was at their residence. The wide display of food shocked her, but her appetite was low, and ended her meal with only one roti with yellow daal and a cup of yogurt. This saddened Hema, but she was pleased with the thought that at least she ate Indian food. Neeraj enjoyed his meal, and Nadia, their daughter was in her best mood. Hema’s happiness knew no bounds; she couldn’t distract herself with food, and her only focus was on her son and his family.
Post lunch Hema spent time connecting with Demi and Nadia over some scrumptious dark chocolate cake. But the exchange of words did not be more than a few lines. When Hema handed over the goodies she had bought for Nadia, Demi accepted it gratefully, but didn’t bother to unwrap the gifts or even show it to Neeraj.
They decided to leave by 7 pm, which his mother resisted and requested them to stay back at their residence for the next few days they were in town. But very politely, they refused the offer, and preferred to stay in the hotel. Neeraj’s father was a mute spectator to all that was happening and watched the gloomy expression on his wife’s face, when their son was leaving. Neeraj’s father took him alone to the side and asked if he would be revisiting them again, and hearing a negative response, he was taken aback and hurt. Hema held herself together and tried not to let emotions take a toll on her. They bid bye to their son and his family at half past 7 in the evening, and shut closed the door behind them. With a very heavy heart, Hema descended on the couch and took her last breath.