When the cat is away

Recently when I had to go out of town for a few weeks, I was worried about leaving the L&M alone to fend for himself. He is a good cook and takes care of a lot of housework like washing and cleaning perfectly well and even better than I do. But please don’t tell him that, will you!

It is human tendency to think that we hold the world on our shoulders and it would stop the moment we relaxed even a bit. So is it any wonder that I think my household would grind to a halt with the L&M and the Brats starving and looking like tramps with unwashed bodies and clothes. And don’t even think about the house which I am certain would look like a dump the moment I walk out of the door with my travel bags.

And then I torment myself about things that might go wrong without my having to warn the others to be careful; dread the possibility of them misusing the stuff around the house including utensils/crockery/cutlery…worry about unsorted clothes getting washed together and getting stains….keys getting misplaced/lost…maybe even the car remaining unlocked at night…(shudder, shudder)…you name it and I have something to work myself into a panic about.

I cook several dishes and put them in the freezer/fridge which he could eat over a few days, prepare some rice mixes and stuff.

At that point the L&M comes in. ‘Why are you doing all this? I can manage for a few days, can’t I?’ he asks.

About to say, ‘No!’ I bite my tongue. Of course he can manage. I am not indispensable, am I? But instead of making me feel reassured, that only makes me feel more jumpy. To cut a long story short, I am a nervous wreck by the time I leave early the next morning, still shouting instructions to him from the departure hall.

What spooks me out is that he hasn’t lost his temper even once, which makes me feel sure that he would do all the things I don’t want him doing behind my back! ‘Did I put away the new towels? They would become rags by the time I come back,’ I muse as I nervously look out of the window at the clouds.

*********

Nothing had changed in the couple of decades since the brats were small.…

I had to visit my parents since my mother was unwell. I could not take them with me since the school session was on. The younger one was just seven.  I had found a cook who would make roti/dal/subzi for them in the morning. But I was not sure about leaving the younger one behind. When I had had left his older brother at his age, my in-laws had been there and so it had been fine. This time, the two would be alone till the evening when their father came home.

I would be gone only for a few days and the L&M assured me they would be fine but you know how the boys/men are when there is no one to keep an eye on them, don’t you?

The little one looked crestfallen but his more experienced older brother knew the score. Come to think of it, he never ever missed me when I went away for short periods. His grandparents would be lenient and pamper him because his mother was away, his father would take him out for a bite of things that swam or walked and he got to see his favourite cartoon shows. So now, he surreptitiously nudged his younger brother, and the duo left the room. Obviously his older brother had painted a wonderful picture of life without mother since I caught the younger one doing a jig in the next room. And it really dented my self image.

‘When are you going, ma?’ I looked up quickly. It didn’t sound anything like a kid distraught at being left behind by his mother.  Looking at my shocked expression, his elder brother rushed in with, ‘Thatha and Pati will feel good to see you, won’t they?’

Something warned of things as they would be once I left. I would have cancelled my trip then and there had it not been my overwhelming desire to meet my parents.

I called them everyday and since my mother was better, I cut my visit short by a couple of days and returned home. I felt contrite and vowed to make up to them and not scold them even if the house looked like a dump and they looked like a pair of tramps.

The house was spick and span – the beds all made up, the table free of clutter, the kitchen sparkling… The house had never been this clean even when I was around. I was pretty impressed. It all seemed too good to be true.

‘It was as clean as this, everyday,’ said the older one and broke the nice bubble I had floated into.

But where was the younger one? I thought he would have come running to hug me when I came back.

‘Why did you come today?’ he finally burst out. ‘Appa was going to take us out for lunch!’

Oho, so that’s what had upset him! And here I was, worried sick about him missing me and the L&M unable to cope with them both in addition to his work and home.

For a moment I felt hurt, unwanted and all that and my reaction would have been one of anger, but then I decided to get into his little head and see everything: here they were all excited about going out for lunch and their mother spoils their plan by coming two days early, and needs to be picked up from the station. Now they would have to eat at home. What a bore!

I came out of his head.

‘But why don’t you go for dinner? I am too tired to cook and want to sleep early. Is it ok?’ I made it sound as if they would do me a favour by going out.

At that, the atmosphere lightened considerably and the kid came running to me and gave me the biggest hug! ‘I am so happy you are back!’ he said and I knew he meant it.

Then I felt a pang again – only this time I got into the heads of my parents. Wouldn’t they have felt the same way when I chose to leave earlier than planned because I put my kids over them, the same way I felt when the kid put eating out before his mother?

But I quickly got out of others’ heads and came back into my own. Nothing changes, does it? But the best part is, barring a momentary pang, parents are totally ‘cool’ with their offspring’s choices.

And after all, eating out can never replace a mother,  or am I kidding myself?

64 comments

  1. Hey Zephyr,

    Came here via R’s Mom’s blog. Have been lurking her a while. I admire your witty way of writing. There is a lot to learn from you and I wish I could be half as cool as you when I reach your age 😀

    ‘It is human tendency to think that we hold the world on our shoulders and it would stop the moment we relaxed even a bit’ – So very true. We always tend to believe that we are indispensable.

    Following you and will be frequenting here.

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    1. That’s a wonderful compliment Seema, thank you! I think my latest post is an extension of this one. We are conditioned to believe of ourselves as being the nurturers and homemakers and this gives us the sense of indispensability. So aren’t we to be blamed for our own condition in most ways? And here we are talking of normal relationships, which are non-abusive and reasonably ‘equal.’

      Looking forward to your comments in future posts. Just commented on one of yours 🙂

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  2. Rashmi Shetty · · Reply

    Hi Zephyr!!..Rashmi here..I ride with the “younger one” as part of Bisons ride hard..god i love reading ur posts!..i am a mom of a 7 year old who is currently going through pangs of jealousy since i have been showering a lot of attention on my new born nephew..and its a wonderful feeling..for me:-)

    Relate completely to the part where u wonder – how will they manage without me..hence i only go for single overnite trips..bcoz beyond that i assume they at home will all go crazy without me!..the importance we women attach to ourselves:-)..but have learnt that they manage pretty well and miss me a lil too:-)

    As I am new to ur blogs..cud u educate me more on the L&M bit..It does refer to ur better half..but what does L&M mean..the full form..

    Thank you for writing so beautifully..its such a pleasure just reading and smiling with that “I know!!” feeling..

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    1. Nice to know that you read and enjoy the posts. And you are a Bison? That sounds great! We really give ourselves indispensable status don’t we? Actually they manage all right but the mess is something else altogether. As for the L&M tag, didn’t you read the page about it? I have explained in detail all about the name and the series too. 🙂 Do keep visiting. Do you also have a blog?

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      1. Rashmi Shetty · · Reply

        Hehehe..Lord and Master!!..soooo love that!!

        Yup me a proud Bison..and nope i don’t have a blog..being a public relations and corporate communications person by profession i am aware of this blogging world and have interacted with bloggers professionally..however this is the first time i have just sat down and read a blog for personal joy:-)

        Loved ur latest post and its true u can be alone but rarely lonely..

        Heres wishing u, L&M, the brats and all ur loved ones a great 2012!!

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        1. Aren’t they all L&Ms? And even if they are not, what harm is there in letting believe that they are right? 😀 I feel honoured by your interest in my blog and am glad you like to read the nagging posts 🙂 Do subscribe to the posts so that you can choose which one to read, if all are not interesting to you. Come again 🙂

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  3. The posts that go into ‘The L&M and the brats’ post is always nice to read. Somehow or the other it shows the glimpse of our houses and your narration with the humour is such a pleasure.
    In my house it was slightly different, I used to hate when mom had to go out of station as my dad can eat only home cooked food and so the cooking used to eventually fall on me……Though now after marriage its different I dont mind leaving the house in hubby’s control for few days as though I know the house would be a mess atleast he cooks……But yes I do go through the drill of a list of ‘do this and don’t do that’ and also call him to check………

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    1. Hey, nice to have you here again, Sowmya. I just hold a mirror to our lives, which are the same with minor variations, in the bargain laughing at myself the hardest 🙂 My L&M can do things much better if he puts his mind to it but I still worry. Call it the prerogative of the female species 😀 So what you do is perfectly normal too 🙂

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  4. Maa is Maa. EAting out is just like a fun or pleasure for a change. But food cooked by Maa is the real happiness. After all it is a mixture of love and emotions 😉

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    1. Someone is missing one’s maa badly 🙂 Yes dear, mother can’t be exchanged for anything, least of all a meal in a restaurant!

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  5. Your this post reminded me of how nasty eater I hv been through out my life, my mom had tough time making me eat specially during exams..but when I left home for job I realized importance of good food and care 🙂

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    1. The brats are too happy to be on their own and thanks to them, I have no guilt trips to take and so take my normal trips. Of course leaving the L&M behind means that guilt is replaced by anxiety as to things behind my back 😀

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  6. Humorous 😀 Especially the jig part had me giggling 😀 Could completely relate to the brats 😛 It’s like someone just set you free from a jail 😛

    But, yes.. it’s good to get a break sometimes as it reinforces the value of those special people and relationships in life that are the most often taken for granted.

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  7. What..of course moms are replaceable if we get to eat out everyday…thats R’s funda in life..but then…I know when she turns 30 like moi..she will say her mom is the best..just like I am saying now 🙂

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    1. Nothing changes really, does it? Only the generations change and the years 🙂 Our wisdom sprouts with age, for sure.

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  8. I know don’t all of us feel this way. Last year, I flew down to Mumbai for exactly a couple of days leaving both my sons and hubby alone for the first time. They had so much fun going to the zoo, eating at home and eating out that my elder son actually asked when I was going again :). The house wasn’t that clean but that’s fine. And, then again this year I had to go to Mumbai for a few days. This time every time I called, both the sons said, “I miss you, mom.” The hubby took great care of them but sending them to school caused some hilarious goof ups :). We all laughed over those. Of course, my husband can cook and take care of things. But, a small separation actually makes you feel precious in their lives and they in yours :). Mother hens need to get away too, guiltfree!

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    1. Oh yes, all of us feel this way and going by the comments of both the parents and the kids, the latter feel the same way too 🙂 The house would be spruced up for my return home and the cat would be let out of the bag only by the maid 🙂 As you say, absence does make the hearts grow fonder. Mother hens need me-time most certainly!

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  9. My daughter loves it when I leave her behind. I can almost picture her doing the silent jig behind my back. And she doesn’t call me even once!

    Thankfully the husband still misses his wife 🙂

    And shouldn’t you be glad that the L&M doesn’t make you feel guilty at all?

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    1. I don’t know about earlier, but now he does a jig in full view of me when I go away 😀 So the question of guilt doesn’t arise at all 🙂

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  10. moms always think that the house will be in shambles sans them- its both funny and kind of true too.But both mom and kids need to be out of each others hairs from time to time- they come back together with renewed admiration for one another !

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly and despite my misgivings, I used to go out pretty frequently since we could not let them miss school and my trips were always unscheduled and necessary.

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  11. You know its funny , when I was young we use ot pray that parents went for a week or so t osome place, And there use to be a time when everytime they wanted to go anywhere I would sya no .. I bet the same things went on and on in therir heads tooo ..

    BUT what fun ti was to be all alone at home, late nights .. Eating outside roaming around .. although by the end of the 4th or 5th day it was enough and wanted parents to be back.. offcourse home food is the best thing..

    and also the dirty clothes yeah i knw I was a spoilt brat tooo in those days ..

    and offcourse grand parents when they come to know parents have left me alone, it ws fun get pampered they telling me to come ot them all the time ..

    Bikram’s

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    1. Freedom is fine as long it comes with no responsibilities, right? No wonder you wanted them back in a few days! And it is the privilege of grandparents to pamper their grandchildren and the privilege of kids to enjoy it 🙂

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  12. Eating out is fun when it was rarely done – now that we can eat out whenever we want to, it is not so much fun any more. I would rather eat at home, only wish someone else can take over my cooking duty 🙂

    But I totally relate to what you wrote, having waved many a happy good bye to amma knowng that appa/chithappa will pamper to us the hilt…

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    1. you did that too, didn’t you? Bah, kids!

      We tend to lose interest in anything that becomes easily available. We only hanker after things hard to get 🙂

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  13. Loved this post and could find striking resemblance of those days in my life too! Wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! So happy to come across your blog!

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    1. I am happy that you could identify with the post and its incidents. Wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too 🙂

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  14. I am now seriously hooked to the Zephyr household! The Nag, the L&M and the brats…..

    I absolutely loved the installment, complete with emotions and intrigue. The pangs of anxiety, jealousy, insecurity and guilt that you went through make you so human. The secret little sins of the brats and the L&M and their pride in keeping the house ‘spick and span everyday’ are so endearing! Yes, the cat should be away occasionally!

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    1. Unfortunately for him, his claim of ‘the house was so clean everyday,’ was further busted by the maid who heaved a huge sigh of relief at my return 🙂 I guess the cat should be away occasionally for her own sanity 😀

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  15. I learnt to appreciate my mothers cooking only after I went to Japan 🙂
    Lovely read …. My elder brother looked after me when mom was away at work and believe me I was so bossed ard 🙂

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    1. You are in the same club as Sudha then. Wishing for mother to be back, right? Mothers are such a maligned but also loved species aren’t they?

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  16. I can speak for the other side, Zephyr 🙂 On the rare occassions that my mother left us, there was always someone to take care of us–usually my paternal grandparents who were very strict. And well we wanted our mother back. My mother stays with me now, and my neice (who is in Pune) always comes with some of the most original and creative reasons to get my mother (her grandmother) to stay with her. 🙂

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    1. That certainly is the other side 🙂 In my house it was a strict mother and a stricter grandmother (maternal) though she didn’t stay with us. But when we visited, it was so tense a time that we would want to escape back to the familiar strictness of mother 😀 So I guess this is hereditary!

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      1. Oh ! We loved our maternal grandmother. She was good fun and would drop everything to play with us, chat with us, etc. etc. My mother is strict but as the niece says, she is fun to be with. In any case she prefers my mother to having her parents around 🙂

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        1. A classic case of being indulgent with the third generation. It happened with my mother too 🙂

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  17. The cat should feel happy .. after all!!

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    1. She does, she does!! 😀

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  18. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    This shows that you share a special bond with your husband and family…
    So while the cat was away, the mice were having a field day? Ha, ha.

    Hope the cat is having fun in Mumbai….away from Delhi fog.

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    1. Bond as in that which ties and gags? 😀 the cat is certainly having a ball in Mumbai and for once is being the brat 😀

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  19. And when you don’t get butter chicken and other delicacies at home you have to step out to get a fill of the ‘soul food’, right Vinni ?? 😉

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    1. He still does when he comes home or when we do 🙂

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  20. This is a post after my heart. Every summer when I leave for India, there will be a list of instructions which has to be followed. And in the end when we are at the airport finally HE will say ‘I know’ 😀

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    1. And does he ever follow them? That is the million dollar question. 🙂

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      1. He does, in his own way 🙂

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  21. Eating out can never replace Maa…….

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    1. Wah wah! Hope Pratibha is reading it 🙂 (or is it meant for her? 😀 )

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      1. No I tell her this all the time 🙂 she already knows it!

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      2. You’ll be surprised. When my children come home, me & my hubby want to take them out & they insist on eating at home. Even when they were younger, it was the same story.
        Interestingly, eating out is still restricted to birthdays or other celebrations in our family.
        You see, FOOD is a passion in our home – eating as well as cooking.

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        1. Long ago I had written something about wandering family members coming home and asking for home food, while I am desperately looking forward to a day off cooking good for you, you are different. 😀

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    2. Its not about replacement Siddharth.. its about a change from the ‘nutritious meals mothers insist on feeding us’ ! don’t tell me you never tried to escape the boring veggies??

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      1. I used to try and escape as a kid I guess but in general I am not a fussy eater. And now whenever I go home, I prefer to eat at home rather than out.

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        1. Well, staying away from home infuses the craving for the flavours which are familiar to our taste buds! And I know, mommies like to feed the favorites when the children our visiting… Mine does! She never makes those veggies which me not likes. And moreover we do enuf eating out otherwise that it’s no more a novelty like it used to be back then

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      2. I protest! No boring veggies. I used to make so many varieties of them! The point that I am making here is that I was treated like a cat 😛

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  22. Lovely! Usually kids start appreciating mom’s cooking after they leave home!

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    1. No such luck here 😦 Did you read my ‘Winging home’ in the L&M series? You will understand what i mean. 😀

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  23. lol!! superb narration as always!!
    life does throw up such lovely moments!!

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    1. Now that I can put a face to your triangular gravatar, I feel you are talking to me 🙂

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      1. Yes, the image does make them sound real and better 🙂

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  24. Enjoyed reading it…your posts are always a breath of fresh air…a new perspective and a tickling analysis. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Sangeeta. We all are in the same boat, which makes it more identifiable, right?

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  25. I can probably talk about the “other” side, where my parents would go to work everyday, and my grandparents would spoil me silly!!

    I was the little princess. I still remember lunchtime. I was generally a bad eater, till Grandpa started feeding me lunch. I used to read a book, while he used to scoop food down my mouth without much trouble. I owe all my reading habits to him! 😀

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    1. I updated the post — the last part because I was no different from the younger one. Do read it now.

      The older one like you enjoyed his prince status when I was not around too! But for the younger one, it only meant eating out, so he was understandably upset 😀

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  26. Loved your post.

    Eating out can never replace a mother but it sure is exciting. I remember my papa taking me out for lunches and dinners when mom had to work late. They were the best of times, bonding times, father daughter moments. Nowadays going out for lunches and dinners is pretty common and quite frequent but when I was a kid it was rare and on special occasions and one of the parents being out unexpectedly would definitely mean eating out!!

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    1. you are right about eating out these days. It has become one of convenience, but you being about the age of the brats (I presume) can understand the excitement. I agree about bonding times 🙂

      Like

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