Dear Ezra and Lian,
This is a story about why you have never received a Christmas or Birthday present from your Grandma and Grandpa. This is a story about you, Ezra and about you, Lian. This isn’t a story about Mommy or you grandma in India. Don’t get distracted by Mommy or Grandma. Look in the mirror and think about yourselves.
I can never consider you adults until you have at least read all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Watching the movies, like you have done already, Ezra, is not enough. It’s a great tale intertwining many stories into one. Yet, the books are always about The One Ring. Watch “Keep it secret, keep it safe.”
Do you see how Gandalf almost picks up The One Ring? Yet, he stops and leaves it on the floor. It sits there for hours till Frodo comes to the house. Gandalf quickly gets him to put it in an envelope. Gandalf dare not touch it himself. For The One Ring looks like a piece of jewelry, something to treasure. Yet it isn’t something to hold in your hand, for it will hold you instead. The thing that Bilbo gifted to Frodo eventually will possess him. All through the movies and more explicitly in the books, we see how The One Ring transforms Smeagol into Gollum. Gollum is obsessed with it. The Ring controls ALL those who wear it, eventually. Only a special kind of person can carry it long enough to cast it into the lava of Mount Doom. Frodo is such a person, but even he must be careful with it. By the end of the last book, The One Ring is such a burden, he can barely carry it. I’m writing you this letter, so you don’t carry any rings like that.
I could never understand Mommy. She did things that didn’t make any logical sense. Her mother had been saving gold for her, for years. In India, this would get turned into bangles, necklaces, rings, or earrings at a woman’s wedding. The bride also could just keep the gold bars as a source of wealth, safe from inflation. However, when Mommy was about to marry me, she wouldn’t take the gold from your grandmother. We needed the money. I argued with Mommy to accept the gift. Instead, she was more worried about Grandma using it to control her. She didn’t want that influence in her life. I said fine, let’s convert it into money. Still she would no more touch that gold, than Gandalf would touch The Ring. She was literally afraid of the gold. Mommy spoke vaguely about it like it was cursed or had some kind of supernatural power. Mommy forbid me to take it. There’s no way she would have married me if I had done so. I thought this was just another of Mommy’s eccentricities, so I let it go.
For our wedding, Mommy’s father gifted us 3 lakh rupees. It was worth about $10,000 CDN at the time. We were to use it pay for a very nice wedding. It was way more than what we really needed. Mommy paid less than a $100 for her traditional Mizo puan. Roses and carnations cost pennies in India. We had hundreds of them at the wedding. Even 400 wedding guests were fed for only a few dollars each. We only needed about 1 lakh rupees.
The funny thing is, ahh , we never, um never actually saw that money. It’s kind of an Indian thing. Even though Mommy was almost 24 years old, the money was instead given to her mother to safeguard. Ruth wasn’t allowed to spend it. After the wedding, your grandma bought a new car, a new computer and 2 mobile phones. I’m sure she bought that with her own money and has been saving the 2 lakh rupees for Ruth until now. I do know, that for our 13 and a half years of marriage, we never got it.
I couldn’t believe it. Mommy wouldn’t tell your grandfather. “She’s stealing from us and from your Dad, who is a Deputy-General of Police! You are going to let her get away with this?” Yes. Yes, she did. Once again, I was forbidden to tell Grandpa. I was not to press charges. Mommy told me, it was for the best to let the money go. I threw up my hands. Mommy was a very strange woman to live with.
After the wedding, we had been in India for months waiting to get Mommy’s immigration to Canada approved. We spent 10 months in different parts of India. Then we went back to Pune, Maharashtra where your grandfather and grandmother lived at that time. It was time for me to come back to Canada, so we went to look at all our wedding presents. They were almost completely gone. Grandma had given most of it away. Anything that she thought was poor quality was sent out the door. She kept a couple things for herself. We were left with less than half a dozen gifts. Fortunately, most of our presents were gifts of cash, which we used to live on. By this time, I had learned. Don’t fight it. Don’t say anything. Let it go.
For your entire lives, kids, you never once, that I can recall, have ever received a present from Mommy’s parents in India. Not for your birthdays, not for Christmas, at no time have you ever got one. Now, Ezra is one of the least materialistic kids on Planet Earth. He has never mentioned this to me. I have never talked to him about it either. Giving and receiving gifts are not that big of a deal to him. (He’s like his Dad.) On the other hand, this is one of Lian’s love languages. She gives me pictures and crafts every day. She wants to give her teacher cupcakes and stuffed toys. If I don’t buy her presents often, she is deeply hurt. Really soon, she’s going to really understand that she has a grandma and a grandpa that live far away, but they have never given her anything.
Why not? I suspect something happened when Ruth turned down the gold. Maybe it’s just that “out of sight, out of mind” and they forget you. Maybe Mizos don’t give presents to grandkids who live in another country. I don’t know for sure.
I do know that a few months ago, for the first time in over 15 years, Mommy asked Grandma for a lot of money to pay for her school. Grandma gave it to her. So maybe, you will start to get presents from India soon. Here’s the tough thing. We won’t take them. We will donate them to charity. I will burn them, if I have to get rid of it somehow.
Mommy was right all along. Those gifts are dangerous. It’s been a blessing to never get them. Its malignant presence would spread like a cancer in this family. It would infect and affect every thing we do. As long as you live in my home, you are never to open the doors to that plague. When you become adults, you will receive “wonderful opportunities” from Mizoram. It could make you very rich and very comfortable. I beg you, for the sake of your souls, to say no. Don’t rationalize it. “Look at all the great things we can do with this money!!!” If you travel with a Fellowship and have a friend like Sam, you may reach Mount Doom in time to throw it all inside. Yet, I’m no Gandalf. I have no special powers to protect you from the Ringwraiths that will hunt you down the minute that gold touches your hand.
There are powers too dangerous. There is wealth too corrosive. There is knowledge too horrible to understand. Our duty is not to reason why this is so. It is only for us to accept that it is this way. We must choose wisely and act accordingly.