Thursday, November 29, 2007
"A Miracle in My House
By Amira Abdul-Wahhab
It was November 25, 2006, Thanksgiving Day, one of the coldest winter days I have ever faced in my 19 years on the earth. Man it was so bitter cold that those tiny hairs on my arms and back were sticking straight up toward the heavens. All the houses on my block had little ice sticks hanging from the gutter and the roof and snow flakes were falling so gently on the icy side walks.
Sounds like a little fairytale story right?
Well it was nothing like that at all. A few months before, my mother had lost her job. She felt let down and so ashamed. She knew that Thanksgiving was not going to be as delightful as in years past.
Just the year before we had celebrated the most magnificent Thanksgiving dinner that I had ever seen. We had macaroni and cheese, candied yams, turkey, and stuffing. You know, the works, anything you can think of, we had it, and lots of it.
But now it was 2006. A year of relative famine. We didn't even have heat, let alone a plump turkey to fill our stomachs. It was so cold in my house that you were able to see your breath in the air, you know the way those little fluffy white clouds come steaming up?
Many times I asked my mother "Why do we have to live like this? It’s not fair, none of my other friends have to go through this." I would stomp out of the house crying with nothing but rage in my eyes and fear in my heart. We had no idea where our next meal or rent payment was going to come from, and I tell you, that is one of the scariest things to think about, for my mother had three children including myself to care for.
I spent a lot of time in my room crying and hating my life.
That Thanksgiving Day I lay there on the bed sobbing when something rather miraculous happened.
I actually heard a strange voice coming out of my closet. It was the voice of an unfamiliar old woman. A voice like you might hear from a grandmother. Crazy? Oh yeah. The voice asked, “Why are you crying, dear?”
Scared to my toes, but trying to be brave, I asked, "Who…who's there?" and out of the closet came the funny reply: “What do you mean who, you know darn well who this is. It is your closet, girl, you see me, don’t you? Every single day I am here for you. You throw your shoes at me, don’t you? And don’t you remember all those days you would climb into my arms and cry almost every night. I never asked why, did I? Well not until now.”
Shaking, I nodded my head and said “I don’t know what in the world is going on, am I dying or something?”
The closet didn’t answer. Not at first.
Finally, she said, “Tell me, honey, what is wrong?” And she said it in such a nice peaceful voice that, as scared and confused as I was, I found myself answering her.
“I'm sad because of my mother. She lost her job and we don’t have a cent to our names. So we fight all the time. It’s gotten to the point where, when she hits me, I can feel and taste the warm salty blood in my mouth.” I paused.
“Go on, honey.”
“She hits me sometimes as if I am some strange man off a lonely street, a man trying to steal from her. It feels like she hates me and now it’s Thanksgiving and we haven’t got any food. What did I do to deserve this?”
I started bawling. “HELP ME, please, what can I do to stop her?"
With the sound of sorrow in her voice, the voice began to speak. “Here here dear, first, why don’t you wipe your eyes.”
I reached for a tissue and blew my nose.
“OK, so there you go. Now close your eyes.”
I did. She continued in that wonderful grandmotherly voice. “All you have to do is let all of your pain go. And breathe. Can you do that?”
I took in a long breath. I breathed out. I did feel a tiny bit better.
“Whenever you need to, come to me. Sit here in my arms, and close your eyes and breathe. And I will sing to you.” And she did. She began to hum.
Imagine, some kind of a closet that holds you close AND sings to you?
“And one more thing, honey.”
“Yes?” I whispered. Her words of wisdom came singing out:
“Next year, you will go away to college. You will find friends there. You will find yourself growing in ways you never imagined. You will be happy. You will no longer have to cry out for help. Make school your sanctuary. Learn everything you can. You will be free of all this. And you will have your dignity with you at all times.”
And here, a year later, I am in Albany. I am a student. I am doing well.
Sometimes I think about that closet. And how what she said to me was, so true.
Amira Abdul-Wahhab, who grew up in Binghamton, New York, is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. This is her first published piece of writing. It appears this month in LATINO NEW YORK.