In light of the recent developments within America and because I have worked with many immigrants, taught many international students, and traveled to countries in the Middle East, I decided to write a story about a family that is caught in the midst of war and the father wants to get his family out. It also includes some Arabic vocabulary in order to expose children to a different language. The topic is a heavy one, but my thought was that it would stimulate discussion amongst parents and children which would create space for teaching children about situations in the world in which other people find themselves of no fault of their own. I have included her an excerpt from that story. I hope you enjoy.
Where is My Home?
“Good morning, Abbi!” Aziza said coming the hall.
“Good morning, Habebti!” Her father greeted her.
“Where is Ahmed?” She asked taking a bite of the breakfast her father had made.
“Still sleeping,” he answered. “It was a long night with all the noise coming from the city.”
“Are you going to work today, Abbi?” Aziza asked.
“No,” he replied taking a drink of coffee. “It’s not safe enough yet to walk the streets in that part of the city.”
“Abbi,” asked Aziza, “Why is this happening?”
“Because men are too easily lured by the greed of power and money.” He answered looking lovingly at his daughter. Fahad worried everyday about his children. Ever since Fatima was killed in a bombing coming home from the store, he had worried about their safety. What if he were killed too? How would they make it as orphans? Who would care for them?
“Hello, Abbi,” said Ahmed said interrupting his father’s thoughts.
“Good morning, Ahki,” said Aziza.
“I’m starving,” said Ahmed as their father pushed a plate full of food over to him.
“Do you think you can be on your own for an hour or two this morning?” Fahad asked his children worried about what he was going to do.
“Where are you going?” Ahmed asked. “Every morning since Ummi died you leave us alone and go somewhere. You don’t go to work. I know that because the building where you worked is gone, destroyed by the army.”
“I cannot tell you yet,” he said sadly.
“Go!” Ahmed said upset, “we will be fine like always.” Tears rolled down Aziza’s face. She never liked when her brother and father argued.
“We will be ok, Abbi,” she said hugging him tightly. “Be safe”
“I will,” he whispered to his daughter hoping this to be true.
Fahad left and Aziza hugged her brother bursting into tears.
“Why do you get so upset with Abbi?” She asked him.
“He’s so secretive,” said Ahmed softly hugging his sister. “I just don’t understand. It feels like he doesn’t trust us.”
“Oh Ahmed, Abbi loves us!” She responded lovingly, “he will tell us when he can.”
The brother and sister passed the time playing backgammon and then cards. As time passed Aziza looked at the clock on the wall. Then the door opened. Fahad had come home.
“I think we will leave this city,” Fahad said abruptly to his children. They looked at him in shock.
“Why, Abbi?” They asked together.
“It is not safe,” he answered. “We must leave.”
“But Abbi,” Aziza began trying not to cry, “this is our home. Where will we go?”
“We will go to America,” he answered. “We must go to America. It is our only way to be safe. It is the only place we can start again away from war and danger.”
“But they are the ones who killed mother!” Ahmed shouted.
“It was an accident,” Fahad said clenching his fists and pushing back his anger. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I told her,” he broke off pushing back tears in his eyes. “I told her,” he repeated as his children embraced him.
“We must go,” he continued after he gathered himself. He held up the plane tickets and visas with resolve.
“How did you?” Ahmed said in awe. “But they are so hard to get.”
“Is this where you have been going in the mornings, Abbi?” Aziza asked.
“Yes but until today I was unsuccessful,” he began.
“But there are only two tickets, only two visas,” Ahmed interrupted shocked by this fact.
“You will go to Ammik Ali’s,” Fahad said. “My brother will take care of you until.”
“No!” Aziza said defiantly. “We will not leave you!”
“You will go to your uncle’s,” said Fahad sternly. “We will discuss this no more. It’s not safe for you here. You must leave!”
“But what will you do?” Ahmed asked. “Who will take care of you?”
“I’ll be fine,” said Fahad assuredly. “I will come when I can get a visa and a ticket.”
“But when will that be?” Aziza asked through tears.
“A month or two,” said Fahad gently knowing that it was a lie. “I will make your favorite food to celebrate,” he added trying to lighten the mood, “Kibbeh.”
“I’m not hungry,” said Aziza running down the hall to her room.
“She will be ok, Abbi,” said Ahmed solemnly. “We lost Ummi less than a year ago, and now we are losing you.”
“You’re not losing me,” said Fahad. “I said I will come in a month or two when I get my ticket and visa.” He reminded his son this time almost believing it himself.
“Abbi,” said Ahmed gently, “we know that is a lie, but I didn’t want to say it in front of Aziza.” Fahad turned and embraced his son.
“You will take care of her,” he said looking into his son’s eyes, “won’t you?”
“Of course,” replied Ahmed reassuringly but softly.
The smell of the Kibbeh cooking brought the tearful Aziza back to the kitchen. They ate the celebratory meal in silence cherishing the time together.
“You leave tomorrow.” said Fahad gently after the meal had finished, “now go, pack your bags.” Aziza looked surprisingly at her father, hurt by this abrupt announcement and command.
That night in the house no one slept being kept awake by their thoughts of tomorrow and the sounds of war outside in the streets.
The joy that once filled the house was gone in the morning as Abbi prepared to take his children on the dangerous trek out of the town and to the airport. The journey was made in silence. No one knowing what words to speak. Each knew it could be the last words they said to one another.
When they reached the airport, Aziza embraced her father stronger than ever with tears streaming down her face.
“I love you, Abbi!” She said. “You are my home.”
“I love you, Habebti!” Fahad said. “You are my home.”
After Ahmed and Fahad had hugged each other, Ahmed put his arm around his sister, and they walked the most difficult path they had ever walked away from their father not knowing if they would ever see him again alive or dead.