Photograph by Tammy Pineda
Sarah had not realized how tired she was till she sat down in the rattan chair in her back porch, overlooking her little garden which was in full bloom. Sarah called it her personal piece of heaven where she enjoyed her two cups of coffee daily in her favorite coffee mug which, once upon a time, was of a fluorescent green color with the cheesy message ‘I see, you see, we all see, COFFEE’. Now, the fluorescent green had become a faded green, the edges were jeweled with little chips and the inside of the cup looked like a spider had decided to weave its web there. The coffee mug. A hint of smile danced at the corners of her lips as she heard Naila practically screaming, “Ugh mom, when will you get rid of this hideous mug?” The thought of Naila brought the tiredness to the fore again. Sarah let out a sigh; she was not ready to deal with Naila today. All she wanted to do was close her eyes and float away.
Sarah was a home baker running a successful business, but this had not always been the case. She was never career-oriented and was content spending time at home gardening, beautifying the house, reading, cooking, first at her home and then at the home which she set up with her husband and daughter. Her first step towards her present life was unknowingly taken by her on Naila’s first birthday when she baked her first ever cake. It was a simple round vanilla cake but extremely delicious. This excited Sarah and slowly the frequency of cakes increased, the shapes changed from rounds and squares to fancier ones and the repertoire of flavors increased from vanilla to chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, red velvet and many more. Her home constantly smelled like a bakery and within no time, she was also baking cakes for friends and neighbors. Her husband understood the joy it gave Sarah and suggested that she should convert her hobby into a business. Though initially reluctant about it, the idea intrigued her and with her husband’s support, she took the plunge. Soon, her business took off and over the years, she became one of the most popular home bakers in the city. Sarah was most grateful about her business when two years back, her husband suddenly died of a cardiac arrest. Although devastated by his death, she got herself busy with work and was able to tide over the tumultuous times. Now, almost all her days were pretty busy but today were an exceptionally busy day as she had to deliver four cakes and that too complicated ones. She started her day at five in the morning and now it was five in the evening and it was the first time she sat down throughout the day.
It was a Wednesday and Naila had her painting class which meant Sarah still had an hour left to relax. Naila was 16 and these days, Sarah didn’t know whether to call her a daughter or a monster. She was fully aware about teenage tantrums and had been prepared to face them but what Naila displayed was something else. It was more like a rage and Sarah was flabbergasted by its intensity. Of late, every conservation they ever had ended with Naila screaming ‘You ruined my life,’ ‘You don’t understand,’ ‘I hate you’ and many such things. The tantrums had started with the arrival of the teen years and both the parents were at the receiving end; now, Sarah was the sole receiver. She believed that one of the reasons for Naila acting out was the sudden death of her father and another reason was that Naila was a popular girl with girls and boys wanting to be her friend and she was used to the attention and things getting done her way. When she brought the same attitude home and wasn’t entertained by her mother, she got angry and frustrated. Sarah, however, was determined not to give in to all of Naila’s whims and fancies and reprimand and discipline her like a parent should do and as a gift, received her wrath. However, it wasn’t that Naila was always thorns and never roses. There were times when Sarah got to see the sweet, sensible and confident girl that Naila really was but those times were intermittent and not too frequent. In spite of all this, Sarah had been trying to the hilt to be the best mother to Naila and didn’t complain. After all, she knew about all the crests and troughs that would accompany and had accepted them when she had signed up for the package, the package called parenthood.
‘Ding dong,’ the bassy ring of the bell broke Sarah’s reverie and she got up, ignoring the protests by her aching and tired body. Keeping her mug on the dining table, she walked towards the door. “Hi,” she said while opening the door, fully knowing that it would be Naila. In return, she received a grunt from Naila which Sarah couldn’t decipher but chose to believe, was an answer to her greeting. “So, how was your day?” Sarah asked after she closed the door and crossed the hall to come and sit at the dining chair. “I am the school captain mom. How do you think my day would be? It was busy,” Naila replied icily but not completely rudely, while pouring water in her glass from the bottle she had taken out from the fridge. ‘Hmmm, not too specific but not a complete Rudy Judy either,’ Sarah thought to herself. Good, this she could handle today, but nothing more than that. “Well, I had a busy day too,” Sarah said to keep the conversation flowing at least for a few more minutes. “And you know what---” “I am sure you made some awesome cakes but I am really tired mom. So, got to go,” Naila interrupted Sarah, clearly not interested in keeping the conversation flowing and made a beeline to her room. Heaving a resigned sigh, Sarah continued sitting in the chair for some time, her thoughts wandering and bouncing around, not taking any concrete shape. Then, as if awoken from a dream, Sarah got up from the chair with a loud “Aahh”; the silent protests of the body had finally found voice. Today, she was planning to serve leftovers for dinner and calling in an early night. She opened the fridge and started going through the containers when a loud ‘MOOOOOOMMMM’ filled the room.
Sarah closed her eyes and took a deep breath, bracing herself for the tempest that would inevitably follow, a situation she so much wanted to avoid tonight. Naila stormed out of her room and before Sarah could ask anything, bellowed, “Mom, have you decided to completely ruin my life?” “Huh?” Sarah said, not knowing what she did to warrant the statement. Without waiting Naila continued, “Did you talk to Sherry and tell her that I won’t be available to go to the interior design convention next Friday?” It took Sarah a moment to comprehend what Naila was referring to. “Oh that. Yeah, she called me up yesterday. I guess your phone was out of reach or something,” Sarah replied. “And you didn’t tell me! What did you say to her?” Naila blasted. “It slipped my mind and I told her that you might be busy next Friday but she should talk to you. I never said that you won’t be available but you, yourself told me that you really wanted to go to the painting workshop happening next Friday,” Sarah countered. “Ughhhh mom, it doesn’t matter what you said! What matters is what she heard and she heard that I won’t be available and she gave my ticket to someone else, thanks to you. Do you understand how important it was for me to attend the convention to get an idea before I start preparing for college?” Naila’s tirade continued. Completely perplexed by her daughter’s displaced and totally unfair anger, Sarah replied as calmly as she could, “Why are you shouting at me when it was your friend who didn’t talk to you?” “Mom, stop interfering in my life. God, I can’t wait for the day when I get out of here,” Naila screamed, then turned around and went into her room, closing the door with a loud bang.
Sarah stood in the middle of the hall for what felt like a few minutes and a few hours at the same time, seething with anger. She had let go of a lot of Naila’s unnecessary rants and arguments but tonight was not acceptable, just not. Before she knew, she was walking towards Naila’s room. When she opened the door, Naila was sitting on the bed. Before she could say anything, Sarah held her hand up and said, “Don’t you dare say another word. Now you listen.” She was taken aback by surprise by listening to her own voice and looking at Naila’s expressions, she was too. It was the voice which Naila used to call the ‘Angry Mommy’ voice when she was little, a voice reserved for special occasions. To Sarah, it appeared like a dam got broken and a wave of words was tumbling out of her mouth when she continued, “I want to inform you that the universe does NOT revolve around you because you are NOT the center of the universe, so stop pretending like you are and get a reality check. You are neither the first nor the last teenager going through the ‘my parents are my worst enemies’ phase, but with you, things have gone too far. I don’t care about how anyone else reacts but I very much care about you, and your behavior has turned atrocious.” Sarah was shocked by the way she was speaking but she couldn’t control herself. A tipping point had arrived for her and she could not hold it in any longer; she was, after all, a human too. “You keep on saying that I don’t understand you, have you ever thought about the way you always talk to me? Is that justified? Do you care about how that makes me feel? Why is it that I get to be the recipient of your worst behavior? Just because I am your mother! Being your mother doesn’t automatically make me your garbage bin where you can dump all your anger and not even look back!” Sarah could see Naila’s expressions change from shock to disbelief to somewhat scared. After all, this was the first time Sarah had lost her cool this badly. She wanted to stop her diatribe, fully knowing that she might make matters worse. Plus, she was the adult here and should be the one handling things maturely, but the floodgates had opened and there was no way they could be closed until everything came out. She continued, “You want to be a grown-up? Fine, you can start by taking some responsibilities within this house. Do the laundry, cook the food, take care of the bills just for one week and then we will talk. And what is it that you keep talking about interfering in your life? Sorry young lady, this is not your life. This is the life your dad and I gave you, a part of our life, the privileges of which you enjoy without batting an eyelid. Your own life would start when you step out in to the world and then you can do whatever you want to do with it. Till then, you have to keep up with my “interference”. And what you call interference is an attempt from my side to communicate with you, to understand you, to see what is happening with you, to help and guide you if and when the need arises, to help you make informed choices. Have I ever stopped you from doing anything that matters to you? You know the answer to it very well. I don’t ask you to thank me because as a parent, it is my job, duty and my biggest joy to give you the most comfortable life I can, but a little more respect and a little less contempt from you would be appreciated. If you reflect on your behavior, I am sure you will get to know how justified or not your behavior is.” Sarah could see that Naila was looking down now, probably crying or maybe seething with more rage and that she should stop but she couldn’t. “And this business of me ruining your life, you don’t have the slightest idea of what a ruined life is, so I suggest you not to throw words around so callously. Ask the thousands of children who are forced into doing labor, begging or orphans thrown out on the streets for whom, getting a single meal is a privilege and who would be grateful if they could lead your life just for a day. And if this life is your idea of a ruined life, I pray that every child out there gets a ruined life” and with this, Sarah turned around and stormed out of the room. She didn’t see Naila’s reaction or wait to hear what she says. She went to her room, straight to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on her face and then directly went to bed. Her head was throbbing now. She didn’t know what time it was and she still had to warm up the food for dinner but before that, she just wanted some quiet. Sarah couldn’t get up for dinner because within moments of hitting the bed, she fell in a deep slumber.
6:58 AM. Sarah got up two minutes before the alarm went off, just like every day. She didn’t need to set an alarm as her biological clock was completely attuned to her schedule but Sarah didn’t want to take any chances. Naila left for school at 8:30 AM and it gave Sarah ample time to prepare breakfast and pack Naila’s lunch for school, post which, she started with her baking. She got out of the bed and immediately, her thoughts wandered to the events of last night. Sarah knew that she could have, she should have, handled the situation better. She had no need to act like Naila but what was done, couldn’t be undone; everything had happened so fast. She was not sorry about the things she said. Those things needed to be said, but in a different manner. She had been thinking of ways to positively but assertively tell all those things to Naila but before she could do that, last night happened. Now, she might have to deal with an angrier Naila, a sulking Naila or worse, and angry and sulking Naila. Whatever the situation now, she would not lose her cool again, Sarah promised to herself. All these thoughts came to her while she was going through her morning ablutions. But before thinking about how to approach Naila, she had to prepare breakfast and she had no idea what she would make because like every night, she had not done any pre-preparation for breakfast. Sarah sighed and suddenly said to herself, “Oh God, I missed dinner last night! I don’t know if Naila ate anything” and instantly, she was gripped by a huge pang of guilt. She quickly came out of the bathroom, combed her hair and started going downstairs towards the kitchen, not thinking about any confrontation that might occur with Naila. As Sarah was descending down the stairs, she stopped midway in the staircase, looking at the scene downstairs.
Naila was standing near the dining table wearing Sarah’s apron and a dish was kept on the table, a video of which Naila had looked on a website; what the dish was, wasn’t important. Sarah immediately knew what the scene meant. It was an apology where no words were spoken but a ‘Sorry’ was said and an acceptance was done. She slowly started coming down the remaining steps thinking that who stood before her was her sweet and sensible daughter and not the angry monster she had feared. Something told her that last night’s events had made the monster take a back seat and that it would not appear again, at least for a while and whenever it tried to rear its ugly head, Naila would be able to tame it. As for the little squabbles and petty arguments, well how many times in life does one’s child get to be a teenager?
Sarah reached the dining table, looked at the dish and then looked at Naila. There she was, standing like a frightened student who was appearing for the most important exam of her life. In a meek voice, Naila said, “I thought I should make breakfast today to practice the dish which I learnt and had wanted to make for a while now.” Sarah sat down on the chair, took the spoon, dug a spoonful of the dish and ate it. For a few seconds, there was complete silence interspersed only by the tick-tock of the nearby wall clock. Then, in a timid and frightened voice, Naila asked, “How is it?” Sarah looked at her, broke into a smile and answered, “The best”.
Gargie Sharma is a content specialist with considerable experience ranging from working in varied industries, from media to the learning industry. At present, she works as an independent consultant. Being a book lover, she loves to read, tries to write and when not doing either, thinks about dogs and the next beach vacation.