Gonna turn the tables on you, mater! Third place, Quotation Inspiration.
All Words: 1570
You know something?
I went to a counselor on Tuesday and she said maybe in some ways I'm turning into you. She also said I should write a letter to you which is no-holds- barred. She said I should write three things every day that I'm grateful to you for.
Well, I wrote those three things, yesterday and today. In fact, I did one extra thing and it's now seven things I'm grateful to you for. You know, encouraging me to swim, when I was never much of a sportsperson, sending me for those guitar classes ... and that doll, Mom! That doll you gifted me on my eighth birthday! You'd actually had the tailor make little clothes for her. That's the kind of stuff I'm grateful to you for.
This is the no-holds-barred letter, this one right here.
There's a lot I want to write no-holds-barred.
About your control-freakiness. Remember the lazy-boy fancy chair you said you would get when I wanted a music system? That was to be my money to spend on what I wanted but you didn't come for lunch because I wanted to get something different from what your control-freak mind dictated. Why not just say it's money for a fancy chair, then? Why say it's my money to spend on what I chose?
About buying me sleeveless dresses when you knew my feelings about looking plump around the underarms. That was horrible, Mom. How could you not notice how the other kids teased me about that? Anyway, I told you I hated wearing sleeveless clothes.
About forcing me to study commerce, when I wanted to enroll for arts and my aptitude tests showed 'arts' way up on top there. Yeah, you barged in when there were no parents allowed and made the career adviser write 'commerce'.
About not letting me do my own packing for Mumbai and then yelling at me for not doing my own packing. Sheesh.
About yelling at Subhadra (my Nanny, and yours before that) on her last day here after forty-seven years with our family. You yelled at her about toast, for goodness' sake. I think you'd stopped taking your thyroid pills for a while before that and were quite literally insane at the time.
About so many, many things that continue to haunt and hurt me more than a decade after your death.
But you know what, Mom?
I know you hated your own Mom.
So ... I'm not going to turn into you by hating you.
I'm going to make this effort to let the gratitude win. (Gosh, it's going to be hard. Even as I write, I want to erase that last line.)
But yeah, that's the best way to get back at you. By not turning into you and hating you the way you hated your Mom.
So -- joke's on you, Mom.
I'm going to be grateful to you.
Trishna folded the letter into quarters and ran her finger over the pointed corner. She sighed. Writing it had left her quite exhausted. The counselor had said to bring it at their next meeting, they would take things forward from there.
The counselor had actually given her a choice. Bring it at the next meeting or tear it up and burn it, whichever she wanted. Trishna looked at the folded piece of paper in her hand, unfolded it and read it again, stepping automatically through her Dad's carefully-tended rose bushes. This garden was her favourite place, especially in the early morning.
"I'm not going to read it, if you choose to bring it along," the counselor had clarified. "We'll get you to do art therapy based on whatever you've written."
Art therapy based on this letter seemed good. It was quite a clever letter, anyway. Trishna didn't feel like simply tearing it up and burning it. She shoved it in to the back pocket of her jeans and went in to breakfast.
"Omelette's getting cold," her Dad informed her, as she entered the kitchen. "I've kept it covered, with the toast. You should tell me if you're going to be late for breakfast. Your tea must be cold, too."
Fifty years of interacting with her Dad had taught Trishna not to argue. It didn't do to remind him that she hadn't asked him to make breakfast for her every day, or that she was rarely late to eat it. When you live at home, even if you're five decades old, you get used to being treated like a little girl. And you go in for counseling to help you cope. You don't argue with your eighty-two year old hard-of-hearing Dad who is proud of his omelettes (they are the fluffiest) and gets touchy if he feels they're being disrespected.
"It's delicious," she said.
"Don't talk with your mouth full. Hallo, you've dropped something."
It took Trishna a second to understand what the 'something' was. "Dad, no, no," she yelled, but too late. He had unfolded the letter and was reading it.
Trishna's hand stopped midway to her mouth, a piece of omelette dangling between forefinger and thumb. She watched as her Dad's eyes contracted, then widened. He stood frozen for a while.
"What do you mean?" he whispered, finally.
"It's a joke, Dad," she babbled, noticing the piece of omelette and tossing it back in to the plate. "Just for laughs, you know. I'm not going to be you, I'm going to be thankful to you. I mean, that's funny, right?"
"No, it's not. It's not funny at all. What do you mean, she hated her mother? I knew her and her mother longer than you did and they loved each other, you get it, loved each other."
"Yes, Dad. Dad, that was written to cope with my feelings ..."
"Your counselor doesn't need to know about our money. We never did get lazy-boy chairs or a music system, did we?"
"No, Dad, that money hasn't come through yet. That property dispute is still in court, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah, they're still fighting it out, who gets a share of which property. So why does the counselor need to know?"
"She won't know, Dad, she isn't going to read this letter."
"You bet she isn't."
"Dad! I am fifty years old! You can't tear up my personal letters!"
"As long as you're living here, you're my little girl. And you can't insult your mother's memory like this. It was a joke, indeed. Yes, hilarious, hilarious, Trishna. We didn't bring you up to behave this way."
"Behave what way, precisely?"
"Talking about your Mom and her Mom. Talking about our finances and whether Mom got annoyed at Subhadra or not. How could you?"
"How could Mom yell at Subhadra like that for twenty minutes because she made toast with whole-wheat bread instead of the country-loaf? She went on and on ranting!"
"So she ranted. Subhadra was used to her ranting, she had been ranting at her since she was in school or college or whatever. Subhadra had been ranted at by your Mom for forty-seven years."
"And that's okay, but if I try to express my feelings in a letter, it isn't?"
"Trishna, she yelled at Subhadra inside the house. And Subhadra knew her well. You're going to take this to a stranger, somewhere outside. I can't allow it." He went a bit falsetto, in his emotion. He paused to cough.
"Dad, listen," Trishna interjected quickly. "You've got to trust me on this. The counselor will not see anything I write and take to the session. It's for me, to cope with my feelings."
"Feelings, feelings. All this nonsense about feelings. When your mother and I were young, nobody worried about our feelings."
"Maybe they should have. Maybe then Mom wouldn't have been such a control freak."
"Don't call her a -- a -- what was that you said?"
"She was a control freak. And now you're being one. Dad! Hey, Dad! Dad?"
Her father sat down and wiped his eyes.
"No, Dad." Trishna tried to sound firm. "No, no. No emotional blackmail. I've had enough of it. Emotional blackmail was my mother's specialty."
Her father's face was hidden in his palms. She watched his shoulders shaking. It was a few seconds before he looked up at her ... and then ...
Trishna watched, frightened, as he sat at the table and guffawed. "Your mother's specialty?" he boomed. "Her specialty? You mean like Vegetable Jalfrezi was her specialty?"
"Vegetable Jalfrezi," Trishna sputtered. "She always made Vegetable Jalfrezi, didn't she, Dad? For grandma's annual party, the club's annual picnic ..."
"And her annual visit to this humble kitchen. She did not like to cook, your mother."
Trishna smiled. "But when she did, Vegetable Jalfrezi was her specialty."
"Just like, as you so rightly pointed out, emotional blackmail. Tell me about your Mom and emotional blackmail, Trishna. Now that's hilarious, calling it her specialty."
He gestured her closer. They hugged. A big, bear hug, like she had known and taken comfort in for fifty years. She planted a kiss on his bald head and giggled, just like she had as a toddler sitting high on his shoulders.
"Now," he asked, "you really need that letter for your counselor? I'll help you re-draft it. I'll add my two-bits' worth, too, if you'll let me!"
"You could say something about Vegetable Jalfrezi, if you must, Dad! Thank her for all the Vegetable Jalfrezi!"
FOR: "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest"
"Quotation Inspiration - November 2017 Winners!"
Third Place - "Fooled You, Mom!"
"Relationships are mostly you apologizing for saying something hilarious."
-- Brian Gaar