When I was a little girl there was always one festival that I loved and looked forward to above all. The day I would be revered like a deity. The day I was supreme. It was the Ashtami (the 8th day) that fell during the Navaratri (Festival of nine nights). My mom would fast during the Navaratri and it was on the Ashtami that she would break her fast but only after she'd done THE puja in the morning. Every morning I would start my day with, "When are you going to do my puja?". She would always respond smilingly, "It will come, don't worry. Ashtami is till a few days away".
I'd wait impatiently for the week to pass, constantly lamenting the requirement for the puja to be held on the 8th day. Patience has never been my virtue :). Finally after what always seemed like months (in fact exactly 7 days), the morning sun would herald the much awaited day.
The preparations for the day would start early. The prasad had to be prepared. Traditional stuff - kale chane (black chickpeas), sooji halwa and hot puris. Once she was ready she would sit me down in front of the mandir (temple) and bend down in front of me. Very carefully she would pick up my feet and lovingly wash them with water. Then she would wipe them gently with a soft towel and place my feet back on the floor. Reverently she would touch my feet seeking my blessing. A little red tikka would find it's way on my tiny forehead. A little bit of the sweet milk that she prepared specially for me as Charnambrat. A beautiful thali filled with all the yummy treats that she'd prepared earlier would rest by her side. She'd break off a bit of the puri, take some of the halwa and chana and feed it to me. And keep doing so till I'd had my fill. She'd then hand me a token sum of money which was free for me to spend as I chose.
Last night when I realised that today was Ashtami, all the wonderful feelings associated with the day came rushing back to me. I was smiling as I thought about how excited I would get about the day, how special and superior I'd feel because my mom would wash my feet. And how such a simple gesture made me feel so cherished. I thought how lovely it would be for Squiggles to have such memories too.
So, even though there were a number of things lined up for the day, I decided to do the simple ceremony for her. My own tradition for her, handed down to me from my mom and now for her to enjoy and hopefully one day to hand down to her daughter.
Here she is with her dainty little feet bathed in milk.
"Ooh I want one". She truly understands that the whole purpose of the day is to enjoy the food!
"What's this Ma?" She won't be saying that for long!
"Something else that can go in my mouth. Good."