Puja for Miriam
The Hindu priest sang and chanted, his voice filling the temple. I hummed along, my belly full of chana masala. A woman walked over to me and painted a red bindi on my forehead, over my third eye. I closed my eyes and swayed my hips, inhaling the spicy incense that filled the room.
Shrines covered a stage piled with oranges and bushels of bananas. A statue of Kali grinned, sticking out her tongue. Blue as night, she rules over death, time, and change. I looked at her, struck by her dominion over life and death. Next to her, Durga, beyond defeat. The divine mother waves ten arms, each one fighting, protecting, nurturing.
A bell rang, a sound so small and shrill. I closed my eyes and thought of my grandmother, Miriam, sick in the hospital. I focused on memories of her––my Easy Bake oven in her kitchen, the old Barbies she kept in a box, and her little dogs with ponytails like fountains atop their heads. Her white Cadillac in the driveway at her house in Whittier, CA. The decorative plate she had with my name and birthday on it hanging on the kitchen wall. As she got older, I was never sure she knew who I was. “It’s Carrie,” I’d remind her. “Doug’s daughter.”
When I opened my eyes, I looked up and saw my yoga teacher, Tara. We shared a meaningful glance, as if she could sense my sadness. She smiled and, although it was my first time at Ma Durga Temple, I felt at home.
The pujari took a banana off the shrine and handed it to me. I bowed my head in appreciation. He hugged me and asked me to come back soon. I ate the banana on the way out, its flesh sweet and ripe.
As my eyes adjusted to the late afternoon sun, the world came flooding back to me. I looked down at my phone and saw a message from my dad. My grandmother had passed away. Though my eyes welled with tears, a wave of peace settled over me. In my mind’s eye, I could see her in bed: her black, curly wig gone, replaced by long, white hair spread across the pillow.
Carrie Lynn Hawthorne is a writer and mother from Pasadena, CA. You can find her work in publications such as The Hennepin Review, Cultural Daily, and Sunlight Press, and more. Check her out at carrielynnhawthorne.com