Off of my parents’ kitchen there is a small informal dining area - a space Dad calls “the sun room”. It sounds fancy, but it’s a little nook, in their pretty simple suburban house. My parents are pretty simple folks, too. Dad’s had a business for over 20 years and we do alright. We’re definitely not loaded like other Indians in Minnesota or America for that matter. So I do find it irritating when Bangalore Cousin tells me Dad is rich, because he’s not. I don’t know where she got that impression. And if Dad is rich and I am the only who doesn’t know, then I am stark raving angry! I want to live in an Upper East Side apartment! Get me out of the Heights already!
Mom, Desi Sister-in-Law and I have pushed a heavy coffee table to block the entrance of the kitchen to the sun room. Why would we do this? Desi Niece is a little over one and a pint-sized crawling machine. She moves about the floor in her yellow pajamas and she looks like a fast moving banana. When she reaches the coffee table she pulls herself up and pushes everything on the table onto the floor. She then has the audacity to look at us and smile - quite the defiant little monkey. My mother is HUGELY notorious for Law and Order. We used to get yelled for leaving the closet doors open. So our little house ruining banana terror is really pushing an envelope I would never have dared and I am constantly picking fights I can't win - ones with the government, Hinduism and myself!
Mom gets up from the dinner table picks up the things, sets them on the counters, far out of Desi Niece’s reach and says, “No, don’t do that.” Then Mom returns to eating. Desi Niece seems a little bored by Mom's scolding. And she crawls over to the table. I pick her up and turn a chair around backwards. Her hands grab onto the seat back and she sways to Desi Sister-in-Law singing “jula-juli” in Hindi. We go back to eating and suddenly Desi Niece goes flying off her chair, hits the wall, slides down and lands on the carpet. Crying would be an understatement. She is howling there is no tomorrow. Big, giant tears roll down her cheeks in the manner of a faucet.
My sister-in-law scoops her up and soothes her. I feel a little bad that the rug-rat jula-juli-ed herself off the chair and onto the floor. Now that I know Desi Niece is resilient and definitely very Punjabi, I giggle. Not because momentarily airborne toddlers are funny in a ha-ha manner, but that it was stunning in an “Oh-My-God” way. After dinner the three of us clear the table and take dishes to the kitchen, which requires us to move the table. Desi Niece on all fours is another flash of yellow that scurries into the kitchen where she becomes fascinated with the hand towels on the door handles and pulls them onto the floor.
Mom begins rinsing the plates and my sister-in-law begins loading the dishwasher. Desi Niece comes over to inspect the work being done, pauses, literally like she is accessing the situation and then crawls towards the sun room, comes back and uses the open dishwasher door to pull herself up. Then one little leg at a time she crawls onto the flat dishwasher door and peer over the top rack. She puts her hands in there but the wet glasses and plates are too heavy for her. So she sits down on the door and pulls the silverware from the caddy and one fork at a time, the metal utensils hit the floor. For the first spoon or two, it was amusing and captured on video by me.
But then we worried that the State of Minnesota would find out and arrest us for child endangerment (I am my brother and father would love to come back from India tomorrow and find us in jail) and so we remove a screaming, angry little Desi Niece out of the appliances and sequester her to the sun room until we are done.