The Weight of Waiting
The phrase “the weight of waiting” has been playing hide-and-go seek in my mind recently. The more I toyed with the words, the more insights I received. Waiting for anything can be rather painful, annoying, and at times exasperating, depending on the circumstance.
In an age of instant gratification, waiting can be dreadful. You have just moved into the shorter line at the store, when the cashier asks for a price check! You hold on to your patience trying not to be upset, when you have to make it to an important appointment.
Then there is the long wait at doctor’s offices. Why do you have to waste endless hours for the privilege of entering the inner sanctum? Some offices actually have a sign on the counter warning the patient that the wait could be up to three hours!!!
How about waiting to get your visa to enter Canada, that whole, tedious immigration process that takes months, and in some cases, years?! Then there is the anxious waiting for test results. Will it be the big C – Cancer, or the big A – Alzheimer’s?
Waiting in anticipation of a good happening can be exciting, except if fate determines otherwise. You may agree with me that birthdays are to be celebrated, especially when one is turning twenty-one. That was an important birthday in India when I was growing up.
A twenty first birthday was a milestone, the moment when one turns into an adult. It meant that one could engage in new activities, and not be so dependent on one’s parents. It was also when you received “the key” to symbolically unlock the door to adulthood.
Talking of parents, mine were loving, and caring, and decided to mark the occasion by throwing a party with over fifty guests. Obviously our home could not hold all those people, so they hosted the party in my grandparent’s palatial home.
There were weeks of feverish planning about what to wear, whom to invite, the type of food to eat, and whatever else that goes into making a birthday party memorable, and that it was from start to finish.
My birthday is in June, during the monsoon season. We lived in a suburb, and had to drive to the party a fair distance away. The sun was shining, and the excitement was mounting. All was fine when we set out.
Then it happened. There was a cloud burst, torrential rain, and a flash flood within minutes. Our car, with six of us in it, was actually floating on the water! My father, who was driving, felt quite helpless.
There were no cell phones to let our worried family know what had happened. While waiting for the rain to lessen and the waters to subside, my father said endless Hail Mary’s for the situation to improve.
Of course, we laughed hysterically and told stories, but soon hunger pangs hit us. The wait was weighing us down, and with no cutlery, we could not eat my aunt’s famous Russian salad perched in a bowl on her lap.
One could almost echo Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” The birthday cake in the shape of a house with a marzipan roof stood erect for awhile, then the roof caved in under the stress of the moment.
The silk green dress that I had sewn and was waiting to wear, was a mess. When the floods subsided just a bit, my brave father waded through the muddy waters to the nearest gas station to phone my family, who guess what, were partying while waiting for us to arrive.
Did I make it to my twenty first birthday party? Yes, I did, eventually, close to 10 pm. Most of my extended family and friends had left by this time. My much anticipated party had happened without me.
My uncle in good humor penned this poem the next day.
You’ve heard of that girl named ‘V’
who was born in the midst of a sea.
They say t’was a broomstick at eight
that altered the line of her fate
and make people gasp “Oh dear me!”
Then now in her 21st year
with the drought on us we fear,
the heavens burst asunder
all hand submerged under,
such chaos d’you ever hear?
I laughed out loud when I read the verses. Nobody could spin a story like my twenty first birthday.
Was it worth the weight of waiting? What will always stay in my mind was the way my paternal grandmother greeted me when I arrived. She gave me a hug and said, “Viola, plenty of rain, plenty of blessings.” She then pinned her real gold flowered pearl brooch on me and smiled reassuringly. What a wait, what a birthday, what a gift, what a blessing!