I’ve been thinking a lot about 2010, and the hurricane we’d survived. I don’t know if you can pick it out between your memories of the many storms before and the worser ones that came. I hope you can. It was our first storm together as a family, right after Malik was born. (He’s your only son and youngest child. It feels like you never really stopped nursing him.) We sat on the floor in the room with no windows, just a small skylight above us. The grey, muted light casted everything in eeriness, and the thunderous sounds of Hurricane Earl outside sent my heart beating to match. (What an uncle’s name for such a terrifying thing, Mamie.) I held onto you tightly when the wind whistled too loudly, or when the walls creaked as if to crumble. I remember the windows and doors of the house billowing, on the brink of blowing out, and you glaring at the outside as if daring them to try. I’ll never forget that look. Mamie, small and frightful, winning and railing against a hurricane. You smiled when the wind died down and I wondered whether it was in relief, or smugness.
Now that I’m a mother I think I can see it for what it really was. You, on the green carpet in the windowless room, sitting in solidarity with the storm. Because she was a mother too. I’m sitting with your grandchildren in the same spot, listening to the sounds of wailing wind, much like the cries of labour. The beating on the windows is you in the kitchen, your pestle grinding down spices in the mortar as I sit by your legs. The tributaries of rain sliding down the glass doors look so much like your stretch-marked skin, now mine. (Why did you hide them?)
Mamie, you’ll probably get this letter long after the storm is over. Nurse Janet tells me the bad weather is keeping you up– that thunder makes you jump, and the rain makes your joints ache. (Motherhood can be painful, and frightening. That’s okay too.) When she reads this to you, remember 2010. In the likely case you can’t, I hope you’re able to lose yourself, not to fear nor forgetfulness, but in my memory of you as Mamie, the indelible hurricane.
Khadija (your eldest daughter).