May 10: How I came to appreciate my mother even more after she and my little sister were quarantined in India because of COVID-19 pandemic

Art illustrated by Accolade graphics editor Erin Lee.

LIVING UNDER THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

This is part of a series of columns about students’ various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at theaccoladeshhs@gmail.com.

“Stay safe, make smart decisions and make sure to help out around the house, OK? Love you, and see you soon.” 

That’s the last thing my mom said to me before she and my 5-year-old sister left for the airport to go to India to attend a family wedding more than five months ago in early January. 

They planned to stay there for 40 days, but my family has a running gag that my mom always extends her trips to India. In fact, she has done this on her last three trips, so it was expected that she would do it again. 

Despite this, I could never have imagined that I would not see my mom or sister again until Mother’s Day, late in the evening when both arrived at LAX.

Two months ago, my dad told my grandma and me that my mom and sister’s return trip was delayed. 

When I heard this, I immediately thought that either my dad was joking or trying to prank me. Perhaps my mom and sister were hiding behind the sofa, and they were about to surprise me (yes that has happened before), or my mom and sister actually did extend their stay but only for a few days or a week. 

However, the right answer was that my mom and sister were stuck in India for the next few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world. The Indian prime minister had declared a quarantine, trapping 1.3 billion people in their homes while the army patrols the streets. 

Clearly, this situation was very scary for me and my family. We wanted them to come back home as soon as possible but also worried about them traveling.

Thankfully, India only had roughly 25,000 cases and only 779 fatalities at the time, which eased my nerves about my mother and sibling having been so far away from us since I knew they were safer given the fewer number of people testing positive for the coronavirus and dying from it there.

We were still able to keep in touch with my mom and sis through Facetime and Whatsapp, but it was definitely not the same as seeing them every day.

I would often ask her, “How is everything over there? Are conditions getting easier or less scary?” 

She would reply: “I hope so, but we have no way of knowing. We stay inside all day and don’t really know what is going on outside.” 

The absence of two of my family members has caused many inconveniences for me at home, where I, too, was stuck inside most of the time because of California’s stay-at-home order. 

I had so many new responsibilities such as doing all the dishes, chopping vegetables, making my own meals and making my dad’s breakfast — all household tasks that my mom usually took care of. 

To be completely honest, I never realized how much my mom did for the family until she was no longer there to do it. 

I was always so busy with school and never learned how to cook actual meals — unless Kraft Mac N Cheese counts. My grandmother ended up teaching me different family recipes, such as how to make roti, a traditional Indian bread. 

My dad and I tried our best to restore normalcy to the household, and our family friends had also helped us, but we still struggled with day-to-day tasks like making a grocery list before going to the store and remembering to clean the restrooms. 

Fortunately for me and my dad (and my grandma), my mom and sister got tickets for a flight from Mumbai to Atlanta on a last-minute flight. 

They were able to leave their house to get to the airport since they had their boarding passes and passports with them, but my mom told me that they were not even stopped on the way. 

Even though we did not know that they would be back in time for Mother’s Day, my dad and I had my mom’s gift ready. 

Since early March, before all of this craziness, we were planning to plant my mom a small herb garden in our front yard, but the quarantine delayed our plans a little bit.  

However, when we found out that they were coming home in three days, we rushed to Lowes and finished the project. 

Even though the garden is pretty small, about 16 square feet, my mom really appreciated the gesture. 

Besides the Mother’s Day gift of the garden, my mom’s words thanking my father and me for the gift said it all: “This is so great guys, I really love it!”

And I really love having my family united once again.

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