This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 17 Aug 2013 and won INR 500
This short story is selected as Story of the Month July’2013 and won INR 1,000
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
My mother always told me that summer was her favourite time of the year. She said it was so powerful, that the trees swayed to escape its heat.
She said it was so holy that rivers willingly sacrificed themselves to be taken up as an offering to the sun. She said it was so amazing that people rushed to beaches to be bathed in the sun’s rays.
Frankly, I never understood it.
I only saw it as an excuse to eat a lot of ice cream.
But now, as I stand in this room, my head leaned against the window pane, my eyes closed, I realize with reluctance that she was right. Summer really is magnificent.
One cold winter, when I was ten, my brother passed away. Ever since, I’ve seen my mother detest winters. She’s always sat at home and blamed the frosty air. She called it fatal. But every time summer was around the corner, some hidden happiness seemed to take over her mind. A lasting smile crept up on her face, her skin began to glow and her eyes would sparkle.
She fondly called it ‘The Sun Effect’.
Recalling that now, I look at the photo of my brother hanging up on the wall. He was 21.
That was when horrible things started to happen to us. His passing devastated my father, till eventually, it took a toll on the marriage. But one day, he and my mother came to a mutual solution that seemed to be the only one that would work. He left.
That sent my mother further into depression and I would wish that he had taken me with him, just so I could escape her moping. But now, looking back, I realize that had he done that, I’d have missed knowing my sunny mother and that would have forever been my life’s biggest mistake.
So, I’m glad he was selfish enough to not care.
The sun hits my face and I squint, moving away from the window.
The room around me is dull. Bare.
There is an aura of sadness around it that engulfs me.
It reminds me of the time when I was a little older and started going to high school. That was when I worried a lot about my mother. She would hardly leave the house and I sat in school picturing her cutting herself or hanging from the fan in our smelly bedroom.
So, I would run home and upon finding her to be fine, hug her tight.
Looking back now, I realize that a lot of my teenage was filled with such constant panic.
But then, I’d have my good moments too.
Eventually, after the dark, cold days, the sun would rise, bright and high, and so would my mom.
She’d dress up in her best summer skirt and hold my hand. We’d run into the fields and lay on the grass for hours, enjoying the sweat and the feeling of the occasional hot breeze against our moist skins.
I am old enough now to admit that perhaps my opinions were misguided.
You see, I’ve always hated this particular season. But I loved what it did to my mother. And that indirectly forced me into loving everything about those two sweaty months.
I hear a groan calling me from across the room.
Pulling myself away from my thoughts, I run to the other side to where my mother is.
I look at her frail figure, unmoving, on the nasty old bed in our house.
Holding her hand, I sit on the edge of the spread, looking into her eyes.
“The sun is out, mom!” I smile, my eyes filled with tears. “Please, please get up.”
She groans again.
I notice the harsh contrast of how lively she used to look and what age has done to her now.
Outside, the sun is still round. It still shines brightly.
But inside, my mom doesn’t. Years have gone by and now she’s become dull.
I miss that smile of hers, the bounciness of her hair, the twinkle in her eyes. These were the things that I have failed to cherish back then. Things I can’t get back now.
“Window” She whispers, her voice raspy.
Shaking my head in amusement, I smile and get up to open them for her.
Even in her last few moments, she can’t help but think about how wonderfully hot it is.
I see a small smile on her face as she takes a deep breath and squeezes my hand as tightly as she possibly can.
Her eyes make contact with mine briefly.
In that one look, she has managed to tell me a lot of intimate things that she hasn’t shared with me over our decades together.
I reciprocate, hoping that she understands how much I love her.
The rays hit her face with delicate brutality, as if reaching out to her.
That’s how she breathes her last.
My mom was right. Summer is magnificent.
It gave her life.
But, it also took that life away.
I see my mother, completely still and I let a few silent tears fall.
She’s gone to her son. She’s also gone to the sun.
Minutes later, I step outside.
Looking up at the sky, I know with absolute certainty that I will always love summer.
Not because of the unknown reasons that made her happy, but because to me, summer is my mother.
Because I know that as long as the sun is up there, my mother is with me, laughing.
As I begin to walk, the rays touch my skin and I smile, knowing that it’s her.
Knowing, that it will always be her.