I drove to my Dad’s 90th birthday party with my nanad Nutan. It was a three hour car ride and in the back seat, we had my daughter, Nutan’s daughter and our niece – all roughly the same age; all (sayeth the objective mother/aunt) stunningly beautiful and shockingly brilliant. It was quite a trip.
Neha is doing a PhD at Mt Sinai School of Medicine and her research is to try to find patterns in the brains of children with Autism which differ from those of typical children. Nisha is about to embark on a PhD in Psychology at Duquesne University and her special interest is in the role of faith in people’s lives. Cathleen is doing a Masters at Yale Divinity School and she’s working on Biblical Studies and Archaeology.
Three remarkable girls. They grew up together (though on two separate continents) and they have shared concerns and deep, long-time connections. They know the same stories; their parents are all some version of each other; they glide effortlessly between worlds.
That car ride from Easton to Boston was like being at Wimbledon, watching masters at play. They leaped like quicksilver, like minnows or goldfish or glistening trout, tossing ideas back and forth and back and forth again, for the sheer pleasure of the sport. Everything was interesting; everything sparkled. “Look at us,” one of them laughed. “We’re about the Brain (Neha), the Spirit (Nisha) and the Memory (Cathleen).”
What more does anyone really need?
Nutan and I, sitting in the front seat, listened and basked. From time to time we nodded at each other, beaming. “We’re blessed,” she whispered to me.
Nutan never used to believe in being blessed. When her American friends would say such things in reference to their children, she would roar at them: “I am NOT blessed. I worked hard to bring my children up. They are the way they are because I made them that way.”
Somewhere along the line, she saw the light. So much of bringing up children is luck and chance and sheer coincidence. You do the best you can given the cards you are played and you hope and pray that they will grow up safe and protected, that no evil will befall them, that they will be good citizens and good people, that their lives will add something valuable to the world. You watch their brains and their spirits develop and you hope that the memories they create and leave behind will match the love you pour into them.
And, perhaps above all, you know as parents that you must move over and make room for the next generation, that you must let go one day and leave the world in their safe-keeping.
That morning, driving up the Massachusetts Turnpike, it was clear that the three girls in the back seat were more than ready to take the wheel.