Where is My Home?
This piece of writing reflects my point of view on the current situation in Afghanistan and my own memories of Kabul in the early 80s, when it was relatively safe and sound as I was growing up, compared to the chaos today. I also share the yearning of an Afghan mother to give her child a similar childhood with safety and community based rearing.
Walking down the dirt streets in Kabul early in the morning to second grade, I remember playing with the pebbles and dirtying my polished black shoes and socks, oblivious to the war that was being fought in my country. I still remember the smell of the trees that had blossomed, and the different food markets that sold fresh veggies and fruit. I stopped to buy myself a cucumber for a snack every day before I walked about a mile to school. My routine was the same each day, and I was not aware of a term that would be introduced to me soon--change--which transformed my little world.
Now I'm a mother. I wake up every day at 6 a.m. to get my children ready for school, and I cannot help but recollect my own early school days back home. My parents never dressed and fed me and my siblings; we got ready and ate breakfast ourselves. Then, I hurry and drive my son to school--a 20 min drive from my house each way. Since I cannot trust the streets in Berkeley, California, where I live, I have to walk him to the other side of the street from where I scarcely can find parking, to the school, while dragging my toddler in the rain. I think about this daily routine as my son asks me on our drive to school why he cannot bike or take the bus to school alone. He continues to ask me, “Mom, please can I go to school alone”?
The children are always with me. Since I don’t have a babysitter, they are with me –all the time- and it is tiring. I grew up in a house with 22 bedrooms and 14 people in our household. I have three siblings who were raised with love and care under the guidance of the whole family. It was not merely my parents who raised us; on the contrary, it was the whole family.
As I do my house chores throughout the day, I cannot help but reminisce my childhood, where my grandmother helped with cooking, my aunts playing with us to keep us company in our huge back yard, and uncles who helped with the grocery shopping as both my parents went to work. In the beginning when my son was born, the first year I was not knowledgeable with the American way of life, so I spent the first few months exhausted and miserable. I thought it was my life that was unusual until I spent time with other moms in mother groups. Berkeley being as diverse as it is, I had the pleasure of meeting moms from every corner of the world, where I found other moms who felt nostalgic for the same thing as I did. We shared our peculiar stories and laughed, at times cried, and in this unnatural new environment for many of us we created a sub-family, like the one we were accustomed to back home, whereever that was.
The end of the day is the most hectic part of my motherly life in the US. When I compare my life to my mom's, the evenings were the best part of the day. She got home in the afternoon, had enough time to prepare herself for my father and look over the dinner preparation (which was a feast almost every night). In the background the children played in the green field in the middle of the yard being watched by the elders in the veranda. The sound of the laughter of the children is still in my memory, the Indian Bollywood movies playing loud in the background, and I can still taste the spiced mutton rice pallow being baked on the fire in our corner kitchen by the yard. My mom, like a queen, prepared herself for the dinner meal as my father sat next to her on top of the Veranda while the rest of the family prepared the extensive meal. Although I was a child and may have not been aware of other elements of the delight, I only sensed cheerfulness and joy. My days by the evenings are tiresome and arduous. I run from one after school class to the next with my toddler like a taxi driver and rush home to cook a speedy meal while doing home work, dishes, giving the toddler a bath, and a quick reading to my son before bedtime and finally take my shoes off and if I am lucky use the rest room and take a shower–if the baby is sleep. At times I wait for my husband to come from work.
By 8 p.m., I long for the life my mother lead. Though it is hard for many to understand, I personally would not mind if an uncle or aunt would love, play and sing for my kids when I have to use the ladies room. I share these thoughts with my mother now that I am a mother of two. She identifies with my sentiments but in the end always says, “But you have so much freedom that I did not!” I have reflected on this “freedom” and come to the conclusion that it is true; I have the freedom. But there is so much that I have had to sacrifice in the “American way of life”. I do not have the communal life that I had when I was a child, I do not have a large kin to rely on, I do not have the daily love and devotion of family members and neither do my children, and I do not have a choice in this matter because I was forced as a child to leave a torn war country to refuge to the US and have been here since then. I am a woman who is the result of the cold war, a woman who has no place here or there.