To Satya From Satya
February 15, 2017
Before I left home for the last day of the writers’ conference, I placed the blank cards, the heart stickers, the 18 envelopes and the list of first grade kids’ names on the dining table. We made a sample card early in the morning, even before my daughter ate her cereal. We went through each step: fold the paper in half, place the large felt heart sticker on the cover, write “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Love, Satya” on the inside, and then write the classmate’s name on the envelope. I passed along these instructions to the babysitter, and trusted that she would pass the assignment supervision baton on to my spouse who would arrive in a couple hours after a week away for work. One way or another, between all of us, these 18 cards would be completed by the end of the weekend.
This was our fifth valentine’s day together since our daughter joined the family through adoption at age two. Making cards was always fun at first, or for the first five even, but once a four or five-year-old is writing her name for the sixth time, with 20 more looming ahead, it starts to feel overwhelming. A better mom would have purchased supplies weeks in advance so that the work could be spread among several weekends but after becoming a parent I was finding it harder and harder to meet any deadlines with time to spare. This year I assigned the task to all of us for the weekend before Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t until I was seven did I experience my first Valentine’s Day. I was born in the U.S. and we moved to Port Antonio, Jamaica when I was three and returned when I was in the second grade. One day, in the cold of February, we each made decorated paper bags and I wasn’t sure what the bags were for until that afternoon. At some point, the students all distributed small cards into these bags and I must have sat there looking confused or trying to play along. The thing I do remember is that the teacher asked us each to pick a favorite card and then we went around the room and read that card aloud. The most memorable part was that the teacher said that all the cards she received were her favorite and she read every single one aloud. I remember thinking that the teacher was a good teacher because she wanted all of us to feel special. I also remember going home and putting one of these cards (I must have erased the name on it) in my parents’ mailbox outside our apartment that evening. My immigrant parents must have though it so strange to see a small envelope, the size of their palm, with a card inside containing red and pink hearts.
When I arrived home that night after the conference, full up with Rita Dove’s witty piece on prose poetry, Terrance Haynes and all his poems with the same stunning title, Ocean Vuong’s poems of his mother, poems from Ross Gay about his fig plants, and Aracelis Girmay’s accountings of a black boy looking at the stars, I saw one lone card sitting on the table. From the other room I tried to read it — I expected it would be, for me, perhaps or for the visiting aunties, or for my spouse. Upon closer inspection, this card was from Satya, to Satya. I thought aloud, she must have gone through the names, and then wrote her own without thinking that she didn’t need to do this arduous task for herself. However, I learned from my spouse that our child purposefully made herself this card. She declared that she did not want to feel left out. After all, she asked, why shouldn’t she also have a card that’s folded in half, with a felt heart sticker, and with a message inside.
And in this way, I was reminded about self-care from my child. I learn that sometimes, although it takes extra effort, it can result in beautiful things to be treasured. I was reminded that, yes, I did have to text three babysitters and then text three friends and then put the request out on social media in order to find childcare to attend poetry readings the week my spouse was away, but there are reasons I did so. These events allowed me time among my tribe to hear beloved poets who feed my heart. In this way, once all the cards are written, I will keep ahold of one card where my name appears too. –Sunu P. Chandy
Sunu P. Chandy has written poems and led writing workshops for the past twenty years. She completed her MFA in creative writing in 2013 and currently serves on the board of Split this Rock. Sunu’s creative work is published in: Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Asian American Literary Review, Poets on Adoption, Split this Rock’s on-line social justice database, The Quarry and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. Sunu also serves as the Deputy Director for the Civil Rights Division with a federal government agency. Sunu lives in DC with her spouse, their seven-year-old daughter and her spouse’s 92-year-old grandmother.