It’s been an absolute honour for me to have had the opportunity to write a guest post on Motherhood: The Final Frontier, for one of my favourite bloggers / friends, a British girl (former pop-star) who blogs anonymously from California about her life as a mum. She inspired me to write a short piece about my mother. In Missing Person’s Report , I write about the difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that one’s mum has aged; I still see her through the optic of a young child.
This post is dedicated to all the wonderful Mummies out there.
Missing Person’s Report
Has anyone seen my Ami (mother)?
5′ 5″ with hair the colour of ebony. The finest ebony which is found in East Africa. Still. Shiny. Beautiful. Front strands often highlighted in slivers of bronze.
Her skin, glossy and creamy like cappuccino.
She goes out a lot in the evenings with my father, for a night out in Georgetown, DC. A few nights ago she wore a white Biba jumpsuit cinched at the waist with a purple belt. Gold Charles Jourdan sandals, with a matching clutch. Eyelids dusted in shades of lapis lazuli by Mary Quant. Lips glossed, her high cheekbones highlighted a pearlescent shimmer. Surma (kohl) from Pakistan, lining her deep-set eyes. Hair parted down the middle.
I stood next to her as she sat in front of her vanity, applying surma in her eyes from a small, intricately carved antique silver bottle. It belonged to her grandmother. Her mother’s mother. I watched nervously as she used her hand to effortlessly glide the needle-thin surma applicator through her shut eye; opening it to reveal a coal dust-like outline. Like the eyes of women from the Bronze Age. Every summer we went to Lahore, my grandmother would send this surma bottle to the village to have it refilled for her daughter with this onyx dust.
That night, Ami came to my room to tuck me in. I could smell Joy by Jean Patou, the smell that was only my Ami’s. She was winsome and lithe. And beautiful. But I feel Ami disappeared, soon after.
I never filed a Missing Person’s Report, as I am rather confused.
The lady I now see in my family home wears pressed black trousers, a bit loose. I am quite sure this older lady is Ami, but I tell myself, Ami would never wear those trousers. This lady also wears a loose-fitted ivory pullover and flat, black Ferragamo loafers. “Those resemble orthopaedic shoes, the kind I saw in the Farmacia near the Piazza del Popolo,” I think to myself. Her grey hair is dyed auburn and parted to the side. A bit papery and wispy at the ends. The same high-cheekbones and deep-set eyes as my Ami’s. “But my Ami has ebony-coloured hair,” I tell myself.
This lady doesn’t cook much. She stopped cooking after her separation. But on Eid, she makes aromatic rice for me, with those caramelised ribbons of onions which I love. I have to pick out the cloves, I dont know why she adds them in. That day, she also makes a pudding with vermicelli, sugar, full-cream milk, cardamom, almonds and raisins. She stirs the pot on top of the stove all day, waiting for it to become thick and creamy. She serves it to me in a little teacup to drink. To taste before she takes it off the stove. As I greedily sip the hot, creamy, sweet pudding, I nod my head. She always uses special sundarkhani raisins, from Iran.
This lady drives very slowly. I often peer out the window to see her pulling out of the long drive-way, forwarding and reversing a few times. “Not like my petrol-head Ami,” I tell myself. Ami used to drive me down Collingwood Road in our suburb of Washington, DC. The road curved up and down, up and down. She would drive fast till I got butterflies in my stomach and almost threw up my french fries from the McDonald’s Happy Meal.
I love this lady. She answers my calls even when she is driving or when she is asleep at 5 in the morning, when I have forgotten the time difference between Rome and Washington. She buys me an Eid and birthday gift every year, no matter where in the world I am, and gives it to me when she sees me. She teaches me what humility is. She keeps a glass jar of cardamoms next to the tea bags in the kitchen whenever I go home to visit. She knows I like a pod in my tea. She buys Trader Joe’s whole wheat waffles and keeps them in the freezer for me when I visit. Sometimes she forgets the maple syrup. But I slather them with raspberry jam and butter instead. When she sits on her chair to pray, I watch her hands. I recognise them from my childhood. From that day when she applied surma in her eyes. Now they are like putty and soft. She doesn’t sit on the musallah (prayer rug). She tells me it makes her ankles hurt. When she removes her hands from her face, after prayer, her eyes are always wet. I know why. I want to tell her I love her.
I love this lady but I want to ask her, “Have you seen my Ami?” She used to wear blue eyeshadow and jumpsuits, her glossy, black hair resting on her slender back. I haven’t seen her since.
Where did she go?
I shall be posting the recipe for my mother’s vermicelli pudding this weekend.