Sunday, October 30th was an eventful day. Culturally. Experientially. Physically. Emotionally. My multicultural family celebrated Diwali – The festival of lights after having celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving earlier in the month. Diwali is a Hindu festival celebrating, more secularly, the victory of good over evil. There are religious meanings associated with the celebrations too but I’ll leave that for you to Google if you are really interested in knowing more.
Because the day was so eventful and so meaningful in so many ways, posts related to yesterday will be written in parts. In this part, Part 1, I write about rains and making memories.
The day began dry but soon turned out quite wet, pouring with some much needed rain in my drought threatened state of California. Given TJ’s recent fascination with muddy puddles, this was a perfect time to go get wet in the rain, just because, and enjoy some really muddy puddles. So, Aaron took TJ outside while I started getting busy in the kitchen needing to make some Diwali goodies.
Minutes before that, I had gone to one of our local Indian stores and bought the last remaining pack of sparklers. That is what I get for waiting till the day of Diwali to buy sparklers. Last year, a 20-month-old TJ had really enjoyed his first experience with sparklers and I couldn’t wait to see how much more he would enjoy them this time. The excitement would have to wait until the evening, however.
As I got busy in the kitchen making Besan Laddoo for the special day, father and son geared up to go outside. TJ loved standing and jumping in the puddles in our little garden.
When I joined them, I changed to my rain boots too so I could enjoy this time with TJ and jumped in a few puddles with him. I never did this as a kid because:
(a) I wasn’t allowed to go outside in the rain just to get wet (what if I catch a cold),
(b) I did not own rain boots so getting my good non-school shoes wet was not an option, and,
(c) muddy puddles did not hold any fascination for me because I was growing up in India and pot-holed streets were nothing new to me. They were inconvenient and a nuisance.
But, for some reason, I found great joy in jumping in muddy puddles with my son, in holding his hand and jumping together at the count of three.
When it was time to get back inside, he refused. Multiple times.
Just like that, even without really thinking about it, I said cheerfully and excitedly, “C’mon in honey. Mommy will make you some yummy hot chocolate with marshmallow.” (Why do we talk about ourselves in the third person once we become parents!? I annoy myself when I do that.)
First of all, he does not even know what either of those things are. He has never had them. Why did I suddenly think he could be bought by a perceived love of random words (although he does know the words separately so I guess ‘hot’ and ‘chocolate’ would make some cognitive sense)? Furthermore, I don’t even like marshmallow. What was the big fuss about?
Second, how did I even think of offering him that beverage on this rainy day?
Two words. Cultural indoctrination.
I did not grow up drinking hot chocolate. We had Cadbury’s Bournvita. Much later in childhood, there was Chocolate Complan and we did not have either of these on a regular basis. Heck, we did not even have these on special occasions or as treats. They just existed. In stores. I remember their names from television ads although I do have memories of overdosing on just the Bournvita powder mix when I visited my cousins one summer. Oh well…
Hot chocolate as a warm beverage to be had on rainy days was not on my cultural radar and yet, here I was, offering it to my son.
The bribe did not do its job but eventually after he did come back home and was warmly clothed, I did make some hot chocolate and all three of us, Aaron, TJ, and I, sat and enjoyed some of that sweet beverage with marshmallow. (In case you are wondering, Baby E was napping).
The pitter patter of rains has an amazing nostalgia inducing quality to them. While I absolutely disliked “getting as wet as a crow” (or extremely wet – a favorite phrase in my Indian co-culture) riding my bicycle to and from school and even with a raincoat, I do have good memories of what came after, especially after getting back home.
When my paternal grandmother was alive, she would quickly hand us over a towel to get dry. We’d change out of our uniforms, wear home clothes, and eat a yummy hot lunch that she would have had prepared and kept ready in anticipation of our arrival.
I have no memories of caught-in-the-rain-coming-home times after she passed away.
I associate rains with sipping chai and noshing on kanda bhajis (even called pakodas or pakoras – deep fried onion fritters) but I have no idea where that comes from. It’s not like I remember my family sitting around drinking tea and eating pakodas when it rained but somehow the thought of those things comfort me. Makes me miss home. Even if it is not for a very clear reason.
Returning to my son, to my Indian nostalgic senses, hot chocolate and marshmallow barely cut it. Perhaps I would have found greater pleasure sipping on that chai and pakodas – onion, potato, cauliflower, capsicum or green peppers deep fried and spiced just right after all – THOSE are my memorable rainy day go-tos in my head. Whether that memory is a romanticized picture of an ideal rainy day merely inhabiting my head or something that did indeed happen a long time ago in my life but of which I have no active recollection anymore, does not matter. It is a cultural sentiment. A feeling that makes me feel closer to my homeland, even if just in memory.
Hot chocolate is a sad substitution for that sense of cultural comfort, for that pang of nostalgia always tugging at immigrant life. But, it will have to do.
All the same, I am happy to create this memory for my child. In fact, I am keen on continuing to do this for both my kids so they have this little nugget of experience etched in their minds as a family ritual. I want them to be able to remember sipping on hot chocolate and enjoying the gooey goodness of marshmallow, not to mention the laughter and big smiles around the table when they are older and getting all cozy in their homes comforted by a warm blanket while watching rain showers or snowfall outside their windows.
Hopefully, they will be with someone with whom they enjoy that hot chocolate and marshmallows. Either way, they will still have the comfort of love that memories like these provide to keep them blanketed in its warmth long after we’re gone.
What are your favorite rainy day foods or drinks to enjoy?
Read Diwali Series Part II – Multicultural Kids and the Legacy of Family Rituals