Dad’s Home Science Lessons
By Shanika Pitigala
Innumerable and unexpected memories that taunt and haunt you are sometimes healed by the much sweeter memories that overpower our mind and soul. Someone once said, “sometimes you never know the value of the moment until it is a memory’, and it is true.
Those flashbacks and sparks of memories that bring unconditional glee to one’s heart are indeed overwhelming. These pandemic days have been one of those times where I sit back at night and rekindle those fond memories, thinking ‘what would it be like if’, and then I suddenly remembered my mother, a fulltime housewife who got her weekend, Sunday off (only if my father was around).
Now I am thinking, when is my off time? Because ever since March 2020, we have been working from home doing office work and housework with no such off days or hours for that matter. I am sure, most women, now know what it is to be a condemned ‘housewife’, you know those times when people ask, ‘oh so your wife is a housewife?’, and the husband goes, ‘yeah she has only her A/Ls and someone else would go, ‘why does she need to work, I earn’, and another would boast, ‘she has her masters’ degree but everyone wants to hire her for a meager salary,’ and the excuses only get accumulated.
There are very few women who are married and not housewives, and I wonder, what about those ‘housedaughters so to speak, the ones that stay at home, cook and clean?’ A gush of powerful yet quite disturbing as such keeps pushing towards me whenever I think of my mother and father and their little tricks. My dad, a very adamant man in his own way, would call it ‘amma’s holiday’ on Sunday, and he would say ‘ok, its your turn to own the kitchen, and my father and I would own it, ruin it but clean it, before mom steps in because it’s her holiday.
It was never my mom who taught me the abc’s of cooking or housework, it was my dad. I think of the process now and wonder, ‘did he ever do child psychology, if not how did he learn these tricks?’ I guess parenting. Present day parenting is far behind from what our parents did back in the day to teach us housework. Washing our own clothes on Sunday, cleaning the washroom and our rooms, arranging the cupboards, all these were done by us on my ‘mom’s holiday’ patriarchally declared by my dad to which I am every more grateful.
An open-minded father
If my dad’s phone would ring in heaven, every time I thank him when I dice onions, it would be quite lot of missed calls. I can proudly boast today, that I can slice, dice and chop onions quite fast, that it gives my mother-in-law the shrieks. Now, I think of it, it was my dad’s trick. He would barge into the kitchen at times, even on my ‘mom’s working’ days, and say, ‘ok putha, let’s see who can chop onions faster’, and thus the game began and there I was trying to outrun my lefthanded father with my skilled right hand, trying to chop onions faster than him.
Knowingly or unknowingly, he taught me the kitchen skills, maybe out of utter love and adoration for my mom or maybe he wanted me to learn and be independent. There is a saying, ‘behind every independent girl, there is an openminded father who trusted her and not the society’. Some women activists and advocates, especially appearing on social media always say, cooking and cleaning is not only for women, that we do not need men to survive, kitchen is not our place so on and so forth.
Yes! irrespective of gender, we must all learn these skills in case of an emergency or if you decide to remain single. For both men and women, it is important. That is when I think of the tricks that my parents played on us, to let us know how the house runs. What better time would the present-day parents have with them than now. What better ways would parents have to teach their kids to be independent than during this pandemic period.
It was and is a time for new learnings and yearnings, for both kids and for parents. I am proud today of how I multitask, dangerously sometimes, but also on how my motor skills have developed. Parents are the best teachers they say, I believe there is still a little time left till schools reopen, get your kids to play games in the kitchen, who can clean potatoes faster, who can cut the onions without tearing, who is the better cleaner, etc.
Rekindling those memories and experiences that we siblings have had, makes us proud of our upbringing. Those conversations that I had with my mother and father, are lessons worth a million dollars. Now you must be wondering, oh, this one had been in the kitchen working and not enjoying life, well. Let me correct you there. Movie with Dad I watched my first Hindi movie with my father, if I missed the movie, he would explain incident after incident to me in detail. I watched my first cricket match with him, I remember it was a Test series that Sri Lanka played with Pakistan or Australia in the mid-1990s.
My brother was so into cars, and to give my mother some air of freedom, I remember he took us to the lake round, front seats to watch ‘car races’ in Kandy. Whenever my father decided to convert our garage into a mechanical workshop, his assistant would be my brother and today, his is skilled tear apart any vehicle and still resume it to normalcy.
Proudly, I too know a little about vehicles as I would be sticking around at least handing over a spanner to them. If only parents nowadays are keener on spending quality time off their stressed lives with their kids, if individuals spent more time enjoying the little luxuries they have and reminiscing the memories, there would be less ‘social media’ heroes and ‘fake social media influencers’ promoting fake identities and morals that they themselves have no idea of. Sit on that kitchen stool while you teach your sons and daughters how to cook, watch as they try to catch a falling vase while dusting, enjoy while you sit and they work, simply because when you are not around to support them, they can look after themselves, run a house and a business and turn a over-roasted potato dish into a delicious foreign cuisine with an authentic twist.
If my dad saw me today, sitting at a computer and typing this article while in my head thinking, what is for lunch? and what is the next office deadline, he’d have his collars up and say, that is my offspring or rather, ‘I am her father’. Be that parent who is content, connected, and proud, be that son or daughter, who can manage the kitchen knife, the fire, the sword, the computer, and the paper files along with the new Microsoft teams, zoom and what not. One day, our parents would say, ‘we are her/his parents’ instead, ‘that is our child’. ‘
To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today’- Barbara Johnson.