Why I love David Sedaris

It was the year 2007. We were in Banff, Canada. I was reading this book called “Me talk pretty one day” that I had been wanting to read, and finally picked up. Cackling like a crazy old witch to myself. Which got my kids curious.

That was the beginning of my and my kids’ love affair with David Sedaris, one of the funniest people I have ever read. By the way, there is a running argument over who really got the book first. My daughter says she picked it up, but I bullied her into letting me read it first. I can see that happening, but I don’t think it did, in this case at least. I think I picked it up first.

Anyway, this week, David Sedaris was in Jacksonville, and Raj and I went to see him. The show ended around 9 pm. And we stood in line for about an hour and a half on a weeknight to get this book signed by him. It was amazing to watch this man eat his steak, chat with his fans, write something personal on each book, and sometimes even pull something out of a bag he had with him to gift – maybe a cookie? Not sure what he was giving away. All with a smile, and a niceness that was genuine.

When it was finally our turn, I turned to the chapter that made me laugh hardest: “Jesus Shaves.” And told him my version of the story of how we got hooked as a family to his writing. He listened, and said “that looks really soft. Can I feel it?” about my old, soft cashmere sweater.

What could I say? “Sure?”

He made some conversation, signed the page I opened, we said thanks, and I invited him to a home cooked Indian meal next time he was in town. And realized I hadn’t given him my name (other than Sri), my number or my address until the next day, when I was recounting it to my son. Neither had he asked.  Hmm.. wonder what to make of that.

But, the best thing, that special thing that makes this man a humble genius is what he wrote in my book:

“To Sri

I so enjoyed stroking your arm”.

I get a big old smile everytime I look at it! What a genius!

Stuff Raj Says…

Me (last night, whining): I have absolutely NOTHING to read! Running out of stuff to READ!

Raj: Have you finished reading the internet?

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Curse or Blessing?

During a spring fundraiser for the Hindu temple in Jacksonville, it poured! Poured like the world was going to end. All the stalls of India were inside a canvas tent, outdoors. The bizarre thing was, the rain water soaked pretty much every inch of the ground except for the Tamil Nadu  stall. Literally. Every other state stall–Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Bengal, Punjab, Andhra–were saturated. Except for the tiny rectangle that was the TamilNadu stall. I would say it was a tiny miracle as we stood completely dry amidst soaking people and muddy ground.

Raj: “Of course we won’t get rained on even when every inch around us is saturated. It’s the curse of TamilNadu.”

I guess we Tamils stand a survivor’s chance during the pralayam! I can just see it now– two lone Tamilians on Noah’s Ark.

I want my house back!

It’s me again. The teary-eyed, emotional mom who had sent off her youngest to college and wrote about being an empty-nester here.

A strange thing happened as I adjusted to this state. To provide some context, I have never been someone who had enjoyed or even had a chance to experience solitude. Having been born into a big family (four sisters), and lived with grandparents, aunts, cousins through adulthood, the first time I was truly alone was when I was pregnant with my daughter within 2 years of my marriage. I had quit my job, moved to Indiana and generally did nothing but be pregnant while Raj went happily off to work every day. Did not know a soul in the new town. Did not have much mobility as Raj took our only car, the old Ford LTD to work, which I couldn’t have driven anyway. It was a bench-seated monstrosity that my 5-foot tall pregnant self found best suited for sleeping in the back. 

Of course that didn’t last long. My daughter came along, and so did my son after 21 months. And then it was a race. Race to feed them, bring down the fever, get them to sleep, to school, piano and violin lessons, baseball and tennis, get myself to work when I stepped back into workforce as programmer and then software Project Manager,…and then college!

When my son, my baby, went to college, I felt justifiably empty, and lost. This time in sunny Florida. Not unlike a mom feels the first time she steps out without a diaper bag.  Doesn’t quite know what to do with her hands.

So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I made a list. I didn’t quite write the next great American novel, but I accomplished several things on my list. Made new friends, started (and stopped) music lessons, exercised fairly regularly, got very involved in the local Tamil community and did a few skits, started volunteering, traveled with Raj, cooked—a lot and, yes, missed my kids.

In addition, Raj traveled a lot these past two years and I was alone a few nights every week. Initially I freaked out—solitude has always scared me, but slowly it grew on me. I went back to my two loves: reading and music. I cooked only if I wanted to. Lunching with my girl friends, exercising regularly, watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey without any child rolling his/her eyes—this became the new norm.

Moreover, my relationship with my children took on a different dimension. For one, my daughter regularly called for advice! I thought that would never happen considering this was the child who, if she had to make a choice between a blue and a red dress, would ask me which one I liked, and then pick the opposite. (This plan went haywire when I caught on to her little scheme, and would say the opposite of what I liked so she would pick what I liked, then she caught on to what I was doing…you get the point. It all got very confusing as we stood in the stores trying to figure out what we should say…no wonder she decided to study psychology!) And then, she called to get recipes! She who was as lost in the kitchen as I am on any parking lot. And actually ended up making some of them!

 I started to have very mature conversations with my son, who works for the diversity office in his college, and pounces if he detects even a whiff of stereotyping in his desi-parents.

Overall, I was starting to enjoy this empty nest thing.

So when my son moved back home this summer (he’s only a sophomore in college), and Raj quit his job with the local company and joined a UK-based company (there goes the daily commute—thank you, Russell!), my feelings were not quite, how to put it, ecstatic! All of a sudden, my house is not my haven.

My son is parked on the family room couch when he is awake, watching reruns of The Office, Community and The Mindy Project for hours on end. Raj is in the den or in the lanai working—to be fair, he doesn’t make many demands of me, and has been tolerating my jokes about having to make breakfast, lunch and dinner, and supplying endless cups of coffee and tea. Meanwhile, my inner diva screams —I want my house back, bitches!

The real point of this story is not to complain about the milling crowd at home (although it would appear so), but to shine a light on the foreseeable future for all those moms who are getting ready to send their children off to college and dreading the empty nest phase. Stay with it, moms. This is your time. Of course you are going to miss them like crazy. Let yourself grieve for the lost sweetness of children under your roof.  Not for long though—for you need to get out those dancing shoes, or the books, or those craft ideas, or polish your resume for your second act! For it truly is your show this time!