Tearing open a memory


Our household has been trying to go paperless in the kitchen for a while. To achieve this goal, we bought several different varieties of kitchen cloths – patterned, white, colorful sets. Our process is working slowly, but we have been encountering some operations issues. One of us likes to wring the cloth after use and keep it as such on the sink, the other one wants to lay it out to dry on the partition of the sink. One of us likes to hang them for use on the kitchen cabinet door handles, the other one wants to keep them neatly folded on the counter.

The biggest point of contention is this – which one to use for wiping the flour vs. which one to use to wipe the counter. We want to keep the two separate for self-imposed hygiene reasons. Given it is a household with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old there is always a mess on the floor. So we rush to it kitchen cloth in hand. But sometimes it is the white one, sometimes the orange one and sometimes the green one.  Then when it is time to wipe the rest of the flat surfaces around, we agonize over which one was the one that hit the floor first.

Like for every problem, I looked up to Google for solutions. Some suggested separate boxes, some different materials, some different places to store them. But they all involved extra steps on Amazon or an inordinate amount of discipline – the supplies of which we have long exhausted as overburdened parents.

So this morning as I stood my head preoccupied with my writing project, I was hit by a wave of urgent inspiration. I strode to my son’s room, opened a drawer and furnished out a white baby blanket adorned with orange elephants. It was probably the one that I brought my son from the hospital in. I walked back to the kitchen. I reached out to the scissors in the Knives holder and cut a tiny bit of the blanket in the middle. As I did it my brain went through a whole whirlwind of emotions.

If I were to capture it in a movie shot and then move them in slow motion, this is how it went. I saw my baby in his car seat on his first car ride looking at the world around him for the first time, I missed my baby’s soft hands and feet, I asked myself if I am going to regret destroying this precious piece of cloth that wrapped my tiny baby.

And then out of nowhere a voice washed gently over all this. It was my mothers. There she stood in front of me in our old house in India. She looked regal, magical . Long hair, beautifully draped in a Sari, standing by the Wardrobe sorting out some old clothes. Then she turned towards me where I stood – a young school girl with pig tails. “This is how you tear a cloth”, she said. “You make a tiny tear and then pull it apart in one quick movement.” “Prrrrrr”, I heard the piece of cloth magically divide into two pieces in her hands.

Back in my kitchen, I looked at the baby blanket in my hands. I realized that the best memories are made unplanned. Stray, unguarded moments creep into the recesses of our minds. They dwell within us for years – unnoticed and quiet. Layered in everyone’s unique experience, waiting patiently to be discovered. And then one day we open those oysters and hold our precious treasures.

And with that conclusion, I resolutely held the blanket in my two hands and neatly ripped it into two in one quick movement.  I put the scissor down. Orange elephants on the white cotton looked at me and urged me on. My memories were safe, but a mess was waiting to be cleaned.

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