I coaxed myself out of bed this morning and as our daughter dressed for school, I said, “Happy New Year!” She said it back to me, but I could see a glint of confusion on her face.
Yesterday we celebrated Diwali, our Festival Of Lights, and today marks the Indian New Year. As a little girl, Diwali was a momentous celebration in my house. We dressed in new clothes, ate homemade sweets, and went to our Temple. There were phone calls from relatives that lived in India and London and I still remember the giddy laugh that bellowed from my mom when she talked with her parents, sisters, and brothers. We participated in various rituals to ensure good luck followed us during the year. My parents pieced the best Diwali they could in the middle of our living room in Garland, Texas. I am not certain they really knew how much I would remember or reflect on those memories, but they made a distinct impression.
I repeated some of the same traditions as my parents practiced. I cooked an authentic Indian meal with samosas, puris, lentils, and other savories. I made an offering on a stainless steel plate and the three of us, my daughter, husband and I prayed in front of our mini-temple at home. In the evening, we went to our local temple and walked into a bevy of people we mostly did not know. Toward the middle of the evening, we ran into some friends and exchanged Diwali and New Year greetings. I learned that my daughter bends toward ritual and spirituality and insisted on completing her prayers before we moved on to the next deity.
In the middle of things is where something always strikes in my world. As in most of our worlds. As I listened to families exchange hearty conversations, I felt a deep pang of sadness. I missed the traditonal Diwali that I celebrated with my parents and sister. In the temple, everywhere, it seemed like every older man looked like my father. Many were dressed as my father with a long-sleeved striped shirt, pants that were a little short and the token belt around their waists. As I slipped on my shoes and we left the temple, I felt a deep pang of homesickness. It is rare that I go in that place because it is painful to keep recalling memories of the past. The point is to move forward. I get that, but somehow, there are times when I struggle to move out of that hole.
When we returned home, we threw ourselves into our routine. Our daughter brushed her teeth and got ready for bed and I shed my Indian clothes and slipped into my pajamas. As we turned out the lights, an abbreviated film of all my past Diwalis’ played in my mind. The house felt still and I whispered, “Happy Diwali.” I wonder if he was listening.
Happy New Year From Our Families To Yours. May the steps of your lives be covered with light.