One very hot summer afternoon, my mother stood at our kitchen window looking out at the house next door. Our neighbours were Portuguese immigrants - from the "old country". Their house was kept dark all the time and the children were seldom allowed to play outside. This particular day, we could see them lying listlessly on the screened in back porch. Every now and then, one of them would whine or cry, the mother would lose her temper and scold, more crying would ensue and the cycle never seemed to end.
My mother didn't know I was standing there watching her as she watched the scene from our kitchen window. She would never have said what she did if she had known I was there because Mom never criticized anyone out loud. But what she was watching seemed to her like child abuse.
"Oh WHY don't they put those children in water?"
Mom was a great believer in water. We spent our entire summers in it - the beach was the ultimate treat, but a wading pool in the back yard or a sprinkler on the lawn was always possible and water play of all sorts was a standard summer day prescription. She couldn't understand why a parent would prefer to listen to endless whinging when the solution was right there in plain sight.
I remembered this today when Vijay and Lakshi scampered into the kitchen - it was the hottest part of the afternoon. Moy Moy, Mummy and Masiji were all asleep and so was Vijay and Lakshi's mother. The perfect time to fight with each other, make a mess in our living room or . . . find something even more exciting to do.
When it got quiet suddenly, I went to investigate and found Vijay carefully cutting Lakshi's hair.
Put those children in water! I could hear Mom's voice roll down across the years.
In India, however, you can't just fill a pool with water or leave a hose pipe running. That's like a federal crime. So I did the next best thing.
I collected all our old rags - the ones I use for dusting and shove under the laundry basket to eventually wash in a separate load - filled a basin full of soapy water, gave each child a scrubbing brush and asked them to wash the rags for me. "I don't have time to do it myself," I explained. "I really need your help."
The children set to it with a will. For well over half an hour they scrubbed and rinsed and wrung out the cloths:
Their favorite part, though, seemed to be hanging them to dry on the little line I put up at their level:
When I wasn't out there taking photos, guess what I was doing? Making cookies for them in the kitchen! Just call me Grandma.