My mother is 29, four years younger than I am right now.
In the precious 11.47 minutes she has before my eight-month old baby sister will need her again, Mummy has ambitiously decided she will give me a "full bath". She is shampooing my very long, very thick hair, all the while muttering dark things about how I will be the last child of hers with such a high-maintenance head. (Indeed, by the time my sister was three or four, she was given a modified bowl cut, one which my DBD Aunts exclaimed "looks like Sharadha". I still don't know who this Sharadha-character is.)
I'm humming, lost in my own four-year old's world, and I pick up the khaki-colored pitcher my mom uses when she needs to dump water on my head. Since she's futzing with tangles and an uncooperative, nearly-empty bottle of Johnson's Baby Shampoo, she doesn't care that I have commandeered her plastic vessel. I happily commence dipping it in bath water, filling it, and then holding it up as high as my arm can manage, only to let it trickle out dramatically, splashing me and Mummy as it falls. This annoys her and she snaps at me to stop it, but via the magic of the Malayalam language, two monosyllabic words mutate in to four: literally "find or look for another job".
I drop the pitcher and commence humming. Soon, I'm singing, since I have nothing better to do and the music has been stuck in my head; it needs to escape.
"Keep haaaanging up the telephooone."
I repeat this a few times, though it is always preceded by a minimum of two enthusiastic rounds of, "Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blaa-aah..."
Mom pauses, but just for a moment. She's considering her strange eldest daughter as her brow wrinkles. Then, she physically and mentally shakes it off; she has no time for such shenanigans. Any moment now, screaming will ring out from the far end of this ancient house, and she will be summoned to her other, tinier tyrant. As if that wasn't torment enough, if she leaves me for even a minute, when she returns, she will only find tepid bathwater, because I will have run off, naked and dripping suds in my wake.
"Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blaaah...keep haaanging up the telephone!"
"What are you singing? What is this?"
"You don't like it? I'll change it!"
"To what? Did you learn this in school?"
She's referring to Montessori, where I have a very strict Sri Lankan teacher who is allowed to beat me, if no one else is looking and I'm asking for it. If you ask her or my parents, I'm always asking for it.
"One way and another...I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha...one way...or another...I'm gonna getcha! I getcha!"
This is actually my favorite song, so now I'm getting excited and dancing around while she's trying to rinse that classic "No More Tears" formula from my hyper, flailing form.
"I'll getcha! I'll getcha!"
"Oh, you'll get something..."
"One way lady next week!"
I cease abruptly and she visibly relaxes. In return for my cooperation, she grabs my head and pushes it under the thundering bath faucet. She's running out of time and I have a lot of hair. This is not a moment for mere pitchers.
"I caaaaag bweeeethe!"
"You're not supposed to."
And just like that, she eases up and the second it seems possible to do so, I try and shove my head back out of the water. My mother, being gifted with that maternal, psychic ability to predict exactly such stupidity, shoves my skull downwards slightly and swings it laterally, preventing my decapitation via early 20th century plumbing fixture.
"Be care-ful, edi..."
"Is my bath over?"
"Yippee! Again I can sing. Call me! Lala you can call me, call me, call me now. Call me!"
My frustrated mother has thrown a heavy "Turkey" towel over my head, so that I resemble a resented bird cage. Now she is rubbing it about viciously, trying to dry wet tangles.
"Owww, that HURTS!"
"Tell your Father. This hair is his stupid idea, not mine. If I had my way, I'd cut it all off."
"It's too much work to take care of. It's too heavy for your head."
I shrug. As she continues her declamation, I'm already drifting off. I am wondering about tomorrow, when I will again be left with my babysitter, who is concomitantly a trusted family friend and an extra miserable teen. I have already decided that as soon as I burst through the door to their room, and that pained look of suffering crosses their face upon seeing me, I will ask them to play this record which I like.
I like these songs more than the awkward, clattering attempts at music I encounter at Montessori. I also like my babysitter more than the little kids in my class, but the feeling is not mutual. And so, the more they are put upon to watch over hyper-active, curious, loquacious little me, the more sullen they become. The more sullen they become, the more music I hear. And that is why when I was five, my parents found me posing in front of their mirror in my white petticoat, playing "Blondie", as I haughtily informed them, when they inquired what on earth I was doing.