My mother used to chant in Sanskrit in her study before sunrise every morning. Though she died when I was 16 — 22 years ago — I always hear her voice that way. Off-key, but strangely hypnotic, the language both complicated and pure, reverberating around our house.
For a kid growing up in Southern Ohio — Bible belt country — the sound was both alluring and repellent.
“What’s your mother doing?” my friends would ask.
“Being a weirdo,” I told them.
My mother stood on her head and practiced alternate nostril breathing for fun. She let her hair go gray by the age of 38 and wore white linen almost every day. She gave up her contact lenses and wore glasses as large as Sally Jesse Raphael’s, with peach-colored rims. Her jewelry was all made of sandalwood and crystals with “meaning.”
Now I am a weirdo, too. I stand on my head. I practice yoga daily. I lead rooms full of sweaty bodies in asana and chanting. But back then, when I was a bonfire-attending, Gap-clothing wearing, track-running middle schooler with a lot to prove, my mother — the yogi — was humiliating.