My daughter’s birthday always marks the beginning of the festive period. But now it is a different kind of celebration.
Today is our daughter’s 22nd birthday. A time to reflect on the year gone by. Except that we will never know what she would have done in that year or how she would have coped with Covid lockdowns and her last year of university because she died in February 2020, mowed down by someone who went through two red lights at over 60mph and drove on both sides of the road and didn’t stop. He will be on day release from January.
I don’t want to go over all of the struggles we have had with the justice system because they have occupied far too much of my time this year. Today is a day to celebrate our daughter – except, just as last year, we cannot go to any of her favourite places.
So we have to be creative and that is fitting in a way because she was an ideas person, a thinker with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the arts, from pop culture to cult films, creative to the very core of her being, even if she thought she was ‘not the arty one’. Just as she would ironically refer to herself as ‘the side chick’ or the bland member of the family. Nothing was further from the truth. There was nothing remotely bland about her. Any time spent with her was precious time. I remember an argument over an agreement that I could work from home two days a week so I could pick Anisha up from school. My boss wanted me to give up one of those days. I am a conscientious person, I work too hard, but I do not regret, for all that followed, that I did not give in.
I wish I was a better writer to be able to capture the sheer joy of being with Anisha. She worked in a cafe to supplement her studies and the cafe owner wrote of the first time she came to the cafe with her cv, looking for a job. She sat reading her book for a couple of hours before the cafe owner approached her. Why had she not come up and introduced herself earlier? She said she didn’t want to interrupt as the cafe owner looked so busy. The cafe owner described her as “effortlessly adorable” and she was, never wanting to impose, always having time for people [and so always being late], always giving people the benefit of the doubt until they showed that her expectations were misplaced, always being the most enthusiastic person in the room.
And yet she was also prone to depression. Because no person is all one thing or another. I’ve spoken to her friends about this side of her and she kept it quite hidden; she didn’t want to burden anyone. I sometimes think that they think that’s all I see of her, but that is not the case. It’s the part I worried about most because I am her mum. I cannot even begin to describe all the different parts of her; it is like trying to catch refracted light from a diamond. There was so much going on in her head. If I write about her for ever – and I will – I will never capture it all.
She is irreplacable, unrepeatable. She deserved so much more. I remember looking at her when she was born and, even then, it was impossible to put into words the way she looked at me. I know babies can’t really see and she was short-sighted her whole life, but there was something in that look that was so Anisha, so impenetrably wise. She had made it into the world and everything was so much better because of that. So she cannot be gone. We will celebrate her birthday today in her glittering presence.