Before leaving, I told her again to park away from the front of the school.
“Mom, please park away. I don’t want people to see it again,” I said with stern sincerity.
With a smile, “Okay, Beta (term of endearment in Hindi), don’t worry, I’ll remember.”
We had an old beat-up Nissan Sentra that my parents had purchased before I was born. The four-banger, manual transmission, was pushing a buck fifty and wouldn’t relent. From the outside, the car looked like it had its days numbered, but the Japanese are known for building bulletproof engines, and this one was no exception.
It had stains galore, ripped seats, and a smell of Nescafé and burnt toast that seeped its way into every fiber of the cloth upholstery. What was once a radiant red car, now had an off-color pinkish burgundy hue.
I took the bus to school, but had basketball practice and needed a ride home. Middle school is a hormone-filled teenage amusement park. Some are popular, others are nerdy, and then there are those that are in the middle trying to fit in, in this zit-infested ecosystem.
That’s where I was.
Not popular. Not unpopular. Not smart, or particularly studious, but not a blithering idiot either.
The only thing I had going for me was basketball. I looked fresh off the boat, but once my peers saw me on the basketball court, they forgot about the Payless velcro low tops and brand-less attire. Like many, I was still trying to fit in and find my place amongst this planet of adolescent creatures.
The last bell rang, and I rushed to basketball practice. At about 4:30 PM, I ran outside and saw the beat-up Sentra in front of the school.
“Mom, I told you!” I yelled while scurrying into the car.
“Don’t worry Beta, no one is here.”
Just then, my teammates walked by; some looked at the car and made deceitful smirks. I was embarrassed as I had just committed a minor bout of teenage social suicide. I was happy it was Friday and wouldn’t see anyone else but my best friend, Garrett tomorrow.
I looked at her with a look of how could you, but she just smiled. It was hard for me to be upset at her for too long about anything.
Moms are like that.
We drove home and the sun was slowly setting and giving off a tinge of her last warmth before evening would set in. I pressed my cheek against the window. It felt good. A temporary blanket for the face. I wasn’t ready to go home.
“Can we drive a little bit longer?” I said with relaxed sternness.
She smiled. I knew she wasn’t ready to go home either. We kept driving nowhere until dusk.
I forgot about how poor our car was. I could have been on air-force one and wouldn’t have known the difference. I could have been anywhere and it wouldn’t have mattered, because I was with her.
Now that she’s not here, these are the things I remember.
Stories are all we have. If there is a purpose or meaning to this game, it’s to make memorable ones, because the loss of our loves will find us again and again. The stories we make sustain us through the grief, because there is no elixir or magic pill that can take that pain away.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a feeling, a feeling has no words. They are like birds with white feathers that are too bright.
It’s like having our own personal cookie jar, so we can savor the sweetness of yesterday as much as our spirit desires until it’s our time to take that final rest.
If I may share any advice, it’s to make more cookies. Turn your feelings into stories. Write them down if you can, for they are garments for the soul, intended to keep us warm when our world seems a little bit cold.
I write articles, stories, and poetry on well-being. Subscribe below to get on my free newsletter so my work can be delivered directly to your inbox. Thank you for visiting.