We waved goodbye to her on the airport and started walking towards our car. No one was looking at each other, busy hiding tears. We were all lost in the memories of 20 plus years of togetherness. My daughter was leaving India for higher studies.
The preparations were on for more than 6 months. Each one of us must have rehearsed this event in our minds so many times, all along determined to say goodbye with broad smiles and no tears. And we did so. After all, she was going to a better world and for higher studies. We had always encouraged her to take this step, and we were all happy that she did so. So what if we will not able to meet each other for next two years.
“Papa”…. I suddenly heard her calling me from the gate.
Did she forget to carry something? But then it was too late to fetch it from home. Did she want to tell me something that she did not tell all these years? But what can it be? She was never secretive.
I quickly pulled my tears back and stretched my lips to wear a full blown smile and turned around to face my dear. She was there at the gate. She too had wide smile on her face. But her eyes were not smiling.
“Papa, will you promise me?”
“Promise me that you will not throw away my collection from the glass shelf?” “…….please”
Now I was frantically trying to recollect what “collection” she was talking about. She was a nature lover, an artist, a painter. And after every outing she would return with loads of pebbles, wooden sticks of various shapes, shells, dried leaves and what not. Some of them eventually became piece de resistance by her midas-touch and made us proud. But remaining bulk kept waiting for her attention. Those were her collections!
Almost every corner of my house sported her collections. How did she guess my wicked plans of cleaning house after she departed? I had not even whispered them to my wife. After all, I was not going to throw her collections away. Just going to keep them somewhere out of site, attic may be.
“Please take care of my collection on the glass shelf” she pleaded again.
Oh! Just one collection, that too on the glass shelf! She must have painted a piece of art on earthen jar or crafted some figurine using pebbles and shells. I felt somewhat relieved though I did not quite figure out which collection she was talking about.
I wanted to see her off smiling and so I gave her my promise. We waved goodbye again.
On reaching home I started searching for that “glass shelf” sporting her “collection”. There was only one place with glass shelves in my house. It was her bedroom. I headed straight there and looked at the shelf. Yes! There it was.
It was the collection of soft toys, the soft-toys that I brought for her from my every trip. She overcame her Barbie days pretty fast. But she always loved soft toys, even till today. So much so that even at this age she would sleep her teddy first before sleeping herself .
I always scolded her for not growing up. But I always made it a point to bring at least one soft toy to her in my every trip. I just could not see the hurt in her eyes when I returned without a toy. She would not say anything to me, but she would then pull out all her old buddies and sleep with them. That pained me more for days and days after.
There, in the shelf, was the pink piggy and two rabbits. She was just two and we were in Zurich then. My Swiss colleagues surprised us on her birthday by visiting uninvited fully prepared to celebrate her birthday in a grand manner. They carried a big cake and refreshments with them. And the toys. We had such a great fun!
And there was that yellow teddy. I had been to Chicago for just one week visit. January cold was breaking my bones and I was walking long miles on the road in search of a soft toy shop! She was just four then. And I had to buy something for her. The thought of her sweet smile gave me the warmth to keep walking in that sub-zero temperature.
And that big yellow chicken there in the corner, we purchased it while strolling in Central Park in New York on a sunny summer evening. She just would not move until we gave it to her. It burnt a small hole in my pocket, but she was bubbling with joy.
And that doggy, and that meow, and………
Oh! Every toy was reviving my memories of those bygone days. The movie, that was last 20 years of my life, was running in front of my eyes. And the movie was revolving around her, my dear daughter. She brought so much of joy in our life.
I tried, but now I could not hold my tears back. I just kept telling myself, “I promise, I will treasure this collection forever”.
I can say goodbye to my near-and-dear ones and yet smile. I can say goodbye to my own creations without a drop of tear in my eyes. But, how can I say goodbye to those softest moments of life?