This past month leading up to Halloween 2020 today, has been a gift of love to me from my beautiful granddaughter Nylah “Bano” Thompson and from me, her “Nano”to her.
Each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday morning for this past month (these being my non-teaching days this semester)— I have picked her up from her parents’ home in nearby Yorktown Heights between 8 and 8:30 am, and driven her in tomato red car 🚘 which is my link to my mom, her great grandmother who died a few days ago this time last year in her home in Lahore— to the town of Croton on Hudson. That is the town where her mother was brought to her first home after I gave birth to her almost 35 years ago.
Our destination each of these mornings has been the Black Cow Coffee shop, where we stop for “Nano” to get her Java fix, and Nylah (who I call Nynah for some inexplicable reason 😂 much to the chagrin of her mommy!)— to get a sugary treat such as a pumpkin muffin or an almond croissant, which we both end up sharing (no more sugar after this month, I promise—at least, not until thanksgiving 😛 😉). We also read her favorite Babar book, “Babar Goes to America”— and it is apt that she enjoys her “Baba” book since she calls her grandpa by that moniker and he also happens to spell his name in the same way as the little elephant! We are all truly connected! And lil Nynah of course has made friends with all of the coffee shop regulars even as we sit at our socially distanced tables, bemoaning the fate of our country under the present regime that seeks to keep the Babars of the world out of its borders.
While we end up on our morning outings at the Black Cow, the real treat is the route we take there.
My first stop is on the country road that brings us into town, where I pull up next to the humongous front yard of a house jam packed with Halloween paraphernalia: there are skeletons reclining on pool chairs, paddling boats and playing a spooky piano, next to a black coach driven by a skeleton, next to 5 horse skeletons one of which has a headless rider holding a pumpkin, and various ghostly figures hanging on trees including a late addition of a werewolf.
Nylah exclaims each time with delight and awe at these macabre displays, the “keletins” and “hossies” and headless horseman fetching squeals of pleasure from the 18 month old bundle of joy in my arms.
Our next stop is the side street in downtown Croton where I park, and there Nylah and I hold hands as we walk on the sidewalk past the houses with front porches decorated with Halloween witches and carved pumpkins and spider webs and “ghosties” and “ ‘carecrows” and gnomes— and even a life size chimpanzee sitting on a chair! One of the houses has a box of colored chalk on its steps so we stop and pick a few pieces, pink and purple, orange and red, and draw on the pavement, thanking the owners for their thoughtful invitation to a wee bit of coloring fun this grandma and granddaughter can share in, giggling and cuddling and exclaiming in excitement as we perambulate up the street. It’s been a monthlong ritual neither of us has tired of, each walk we take bringing us into ever more intimate touch with the sap that rejuvenates the spirit long after the leaves have fallen to the ground.
I look forward to seeing my daughter and granddaughter dress up as Avocado and Toast today as we try to enjoy a scaled-back version of Halloween; but I am truly grateful for this month’s gift of exchange that I hope will turn the physical route Nylah and I have traveled each morning into the deeper roots of memory, blossoming into a tree of many branches. These branches of leaves changing colors with the seasons, are our futures interwoven with travels in which the skin of the past breathes through the pores of the epidermis we call the present. Nothing stays, everything remains. I see my loving Nani and my Ammi in my Nylah who I hope will remember me with the love that binds us together in an unbroken chain of human connection.