Duty Called; Memorial Day is Every Day

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On the street lives a man, a cardboard box his shroud, amidst the musty smells, a lonesome moan in a passing crowd.
 Ties, white shirts, most briefcase clad, hot dogs on the go,
fifty cents for a drink is very cheap you know.
Wrapped in plastic, his form emerges
and satirizes the bunch.
Some give him five or ten cents then hurry off to lunch.
He stuffs his profits in his coat and straightens up his boxes.
He crawls back inside, covers up like a wolf among the foxes.
Night falls once again, his belly cries and intensifies his urges.
The flag blows haphazardly in the midnight breeze, the US Capital
illuminated casts shadows on the trees. 
Lover's laugh, walk briskly through the winding streets; the man watches carefully everyone he meets. 
Five cents, ten cents it adds up in the end, tomorrow is Memorial Day, he'll have a buck by then. 
A soldier once in Vietnam, his friends and faith were killed, he returned to his country another being, his hopes unfulfilled. 
No hometown parade or pretty blonde waited, his fantasies were abated. 
His mind full of gun shots fired, men bleeding in the trenches, his heart felt numb his soul was seized, abandoned in death's clenches. 
Lonely, dehumanized, questioning his life, ne'r was he ever graced from his fear or strife. 
Old, now sick, he slithers down beside a fancy car, college kids laugh as they leave a Georgetown bar. 
 Shameless now, bloodshot tears he stumbles to his haven, rolls up in bubble wrap, a treasure he's been saving. 
Underneath this cardboard hut lies a wounded heart indeed, a US soldier who fought in 'Nam whose soul was left to bleed.

Guitars, Mars and Moonpies

Sitting with my Grandma, “Shhhh! Now listen”. Her smile is remembered. Loretta Lynn singing on the small television, being interviewed and my admiring her long dark hair. My cousins were restless and sent outside with sweet tea, moon pies and I stayed beside her. The Grand Ole Opry! Being poor and working one’s way to the top is an achievement many country music fans, or mindful humans can appreciate. I didn’t feel poor or that life was a struggle; Grandma came from a very well-mannered family and kept us close, often saying,”not our people”, when I asked questions about others I was all in a quandary with. “Mind your business; we have enough with each other.” I always wondered how Loretta Lynn knew anything about coalminers; all dolled up with ribbons in her hair, long braids and frilly, detailed dresses she did not seem to me to be simple or wanting in anyway. It’s dark tonight on Sweden’s west coast and my days in Nashville seem light years away; I want to believe that Loretta is soaring above us, having a look at Mars, smiling and humming in peace. Women become strong through experience, fighting for their words to be heard and sung. I feel a warmth, a sense of peace knowing she had such a good life by just being herself. What if we all could just be humble, gracious, kind and appreciate of our lives? Wouldn’t that be something? I can’t play a guitar. If I could I would take my hidden wings, stuff banana and chocolate moon pies, RC cola and warm grits with butter and salt into my backpack, strap my Fender over my shoulder and rise amongst the stars. There I’d see Mrs. Loretta waiting and she’d pat the ground beside her, invite me to sit down and we’d sing with her long dark hair flowing in sync with eternity. Actually, I think she wouldn’t care whether I could play guitar. I can carry a tune. She may be our best example of “the salt of the earth”, now an iconic memory that changed music and hearts forever. Maybe Grandma would be there, too and I’d surprise her with all my southern goodies. We wouldn’t be tired, or sick or old. Just three strong women, free from adversity and strife sipping our cola, eating warm grits and unwrapping moon pies on Mars.

Solstice’s Longing

Look up above into the sky, look to the Sun close your eyes, turn, feel the warmth of glorious time. Beauty we breathe, hear and smell, embrace Autumn, and take time to dwell. Forest Firs, Aspen’s golden, apples red for harvest’s showdown. Behold the brilliant colors pure! Gaze upon Nature’s finest grandeur. Each year we split from our inner season greeting with hope, our chest of reasons; to embody life we let go of hillsides green to white winter’s scheme. Nature is our steady guide, see the moonbeams by our side? If we should live one more day, please hold close to Nature’s way. Without the Earth, the moon or sky, how doeth heaven’s angels fly? Hold out your hand and give much more, our planet knows how to score. If humans step without good meaning Mother knows as her vessel’s are bleeding. It’s not too late to welcome change, stand up and shout we must refrain. No more garbage in our seas, clear the sky and save the trees. Humans are given the brain to think, resolve our quandaries before we sink. Come now and join the tide, Nature needs us by her side.

Night Mirrors; Sleepless Reflections

Four a.m. rain, nine celsius; usually perfect sleeping time for this weathered woman. Sipping ginger tea, disturbed by my relentless coughing, I avoid my bed and waking my husband who needs to work in two hours. From my soft sofa, a burgundy wine red, drowsiness sets in. Plumped up with pillows under an old cosy quilt I stare out a window into the black where the opposite panes behind me are lit with led lights and reflect before me. I want to be small, a Christmas Eve long ago and my mother to be sneaking around, making my morning perfect. She eats the cookies and downs the eggnog, maybe wonders if she’s got it right. Is she enough? Would this have been her little girl dream? Her’s weren’t doused in decor, perfection and excitement leading up to morning fun. My dog with her red bow, the pancake batter, fruit before stockings, albums pre-stacked, ready to drop one after the other, Bing Crosby always first. She has pretty cards on my bonus Dad’s plate and mine. She knows I will wake early and probably puts the coffee maker’s little paper bag in and pours the water, only needing to wake, push the button and join me under the tree. I too, tried to get it right year after year. People pleasing I learned from Mom. It never felt right except when I finally became a mother. I had a doggie too, a red bow, pancakes and coffee. The first year, so perfect. A four month old, the first husband smiling while opening his new sweater as our baby made sweet sounds on a soft blanket in front of the crackling fire. No hoopla. Just a new bone for our dog, the gift of motherhood and dreams were full, all good, with smiles; it would be perfect. That first Christmas as a mother I held my cherub and we watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Each sleepless night was a dream come true then with the long awaited child. Life in the world could be imperfect yet I would forge on, recreating reasons to be joyful, to see good and not look at the late night reflections. It was another morning, at forty years old, a Christmas of struggles and loss; my five year old watching “The Snowman” and cuddling with our doggie, sippy cup with apple juice in hand and already asking for peppermint sticks. I was a woman, staring at the deep Vermont snow with more coming down. This had been all I wanted. Why was I feeling it was impossible to make my husband learn to love through adversity, not resent the world for turning us upside down. Couldn’t we right it again? He’d lost his job the previous autumn and being post 9/11, despite his impeccable skills as an electrical engineer finding work was a dead end; he was Arabic. We’d met in a university town, he a foreign student working on his master’s and a brilliant graduate teaching fellow. He also was in charge of the cartography library and was a quiet, gentle soul. Being from north Africa he was working toward success, his culture beautiful in so many ways we learned to incorporate it easily into our life via cuisine. To this day my young adult’s comfort food is cous-cous with cinnamon and butter. That Christmas it all changed. He sat angry, not hiding his feelings as our child opened presents he resented my buying. I had worked as a writer for two local papers, taken care of those in palative care in their homes and even cleaned someone’s house each week. The bills became monster’s and no matter the music, or the lights on the tree softly lighting each evening he fell into a place that had no room for my dreams or his own. I had pleased and pleaded to keep hope alive and soon I no longer knew how to set the table just right, smile in the wake of tears, cheer up anyone at all. I had failed. Did my mother feel she had failed, too? Did she wish she knew all the answers? I had left home at sixteen and broke her heart. How could I ever fix that? I knew I had to change my own approach. My husband found a job in another state and I stayed behind, afraid to follow I took a small apartment in an old Victorian house in a new town. On weekends he would drive to see us and for awhile I thought maybe it could work. I looked for work and nothing was available with a child and no one reliable to help me out. The story is one of those that many know, you are somewhere, uncertain and just taking baby steps and holding out for an epiphany. Mine came about in a very long and loaded journey, a new country, messy Christmases that I couldn’t fix, clashes of cultures, always bending, trying, pleasing and believing in miracles. Now I feel much older than I am, often in poor health, I dread everything, every holiday as I know it can’t be like it was when I ran from my room, hugged my mother and bonus dad and let my doggie open her present first. I look at the sky now, it’s beginning to show a deep yet slowly lighting blue. The led lights on a timer will click off and I will make coffee. My second husband of fifteen years will wake and ask how I am feeling and then he will work. I will worry about my NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow. I hope for nothing much but for my young adult to find their path, to be okay and content like that very first Christmas cooing with baby toes high in the air. I want this family, despite the buried knowing of what this “wonderful life” can do to each and everyone of us, to recognize our love is NOW. I stopped wanting it all, however I do keep believing that pancakes and coffee can turn things around. Good morning! Lm and Rock are cheering all of you on. May you stumble into something good, just right and feel the way you need.

My first novel – Tea with Nanny

My grandmother Juanita “Nanny” encouraged me to publish my first creative writing project which I began in college in Vermont, USA. She passed away before I had the courage to finish it. It’s a far cry from my more primally driven, soul crushing TRUTH blog yet, here it is. Thank you Nanny for believing in me and sharing with me the True stories and laughter. The book may have character’s that remind Lm and Rock of people in her past however it is compiled from bits and pieces of memories and fictional. Here is the link.


MABON; Harvesting our Souls

I am right with you, aligned as Ursa major and minor as the whole universe continues pulling us towards Love. Keep sharing, keep the voices of women before us alive. Feel unheard? Say it louder. Shout from your guts, CRY. Stay vigilent, mindful of your own inner work. No one can take your powers away unless you hand them over. SHINE. MOURN. Support other women in their struggles, be a woman’s woman, a teacher, a student, carry TRUTH as your flame. Stand up for your beliefs, run from insipid gossip, protect our tribe. Contribute loyalty, sing and play. We are the givers of life, the arches that span like rainbows, we are the gem other’s seek, we dig our hands in the Earth’s soil from every land. When weariness takes us down, rest upon the lap of love, honor your emotions, they need not be sacrificed for anyone. Bleed, bleed , bleed. Breathe deep, call out to the silver stars, the full moon light. Kneel with gratitude as we harvest what we’ve sowed. Mabon is upon us, the cyclical switch is eternal. Place your hope on the table, feel the change within your seasoned soul. Give. Live. Sunbeams, dawn, redgold leafs lie upon your mantal, for tis nature that earns the highest of all awards for her sacred healing, her mysterious essence, her endless ability to keep the house in order, the home in our hearts beating. Blessed Be.

Unraveling my soul

Listen….hold your loved ones tighter. Okay. Those who love tf out of you and stick around through the good, the bad, the ugly. Hold them close to your heart. Let them know you appreciate them. Reciprocate that love and support. There are a lot of people who cannot and will not be able to handle the baggage you carry but there are those that will. Even if it’s one person…that’s your fuxking person, man. Love them. Cherish them. Hold them tighter. Those connections are RARE. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t let them slip away.

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Underneath; Friendship and Truth

Underneath my colorful quilt, a friendship lost, a friendship built
Stolen youth, years gone fast, I found someone though time has passed
Once running, laughing we did not share, our hurts or pains that brought us ner
Your big brown eyes, subtle composure, two hidden hearts with no disclosure
We both were hurting yet never shared what life we'd led nor truth or dare
We grew up, struggled through, found our way and lost it, too
Strong women now, we rebuild our bond, between us lies a salty pond
One day before my body breaks, I beg to see you; it's our fate
One more time to laugh with you, soon I'm sixty and so are you
In a foreign land I reach across to hold your hand
Life's been harsh with some good times too, May we meet again for I love you.

Grace, Continuance and Loss

Photo By Magnus Polla
A Room With A Pew photo by Magnus Polla

Lm has been down this road many times before; finding hope, losing hope, finding love, losing love, believing, not believing, passionate, passive, TRUSTING….Huge ENORMOUS SNAG! Truth has always been closeted, boxed up, stored away or tossed out. What is there to believe in when so many people hurt, hide their fears and keep running on ego, pretention and illusions? Rock has been placed near the old church door keeping an eye out for anyone who might see Lm in this vulnerable place. She is trying with all her might to pray, to feel truly heard, to heal; yet her leary, cynical self says, “Fuck you, how the hell am I to believe life gets better or people are capable of serious growth when those who squeezed my heart until it barely had a beat never called or wrote to say they were wrong or sorry?” This old church is barren of worshippers; cold and musty it remains a historical treasure embraced by uncertainty. Centuries old, desperate pleas from villagers long gone can still be heard. Savage Saviour, where art thou NOW? Lm screams her prayer pleading to be seen, her little girl voice echos, bouncing like a slobber covered tennis ball that belongs to a beloved family labrador that was left alone too long. From wall to an arched planked ceiling and back to the pulpit it lands with fury, causing the thin paned windows to rattle. Rock is ready. He knows this will be a bad experience; Lm will likely try to run, leaving him nebulously behind. There are no quick answers, advise or even faint clues as to how she can exorcise her miniature demons which usually leave her mute, squatting in the black, dank, drowning corners of her past. She is angry that her half-siblings are put on pedestals while she and the others are shunned. Nature has gouged into humankind to believe in more since the Neanderthals rubbed two sticks together. Or did they? Shamans, organised religions, cults, even Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneras, Queen Elizabeth II, Elvis and Jane Goodall have a strong following! Do Chimpanzees pray? Do elephants mourn or black crows truly attach? From Eve’s naked temptation to Eris the Goddess of all femme fatales, the feminine figure is the cause of all temptuous forces. Lm refuses to accept this. “Dear Goddess, Dear Female Lord, Dear Universe, Dear Whatever, hear my prayer. Please? Amen. Thank you. Ummm, I don’t even know what to say, and of course if you could save me from further self loathing I’d appreciate it.” Lm was ousted from BaDDaD’s life for she knew too much. (Period. New paragraph. She still has humor!) New Life. Forced unwillingly into a complex Witness Protection Program devised by elders she loved Lm has continued to feel threatened until recently; with one swift move using her handmade sharpened scythe she could exploit the Truth anytime. Escaping for her is simple. Whoever came up with the following and frequently misquoted advise was straight and as strong as well casked Kentucky bourbon. Southern wine. “Always tell the Truth then you don’t need to REMEMBER your lies”. BaDDaD once had eyes on her, little pipsqueak narks he puffed up like Vietnamese blowfish so they could feel higher, more significant to him than Lm; she was tortured with threats of going no contact if she spoke “poorly” of him. BOO, fucking HOO! Not anymore; Lm is very intelligent and knows he is the epitomy of fraudulence, the one who could gnaw through the twines of his Upper Up’s and unlike Martha Stewart, he never was nailed for his sins or intentional manipulation. From the womb of a good woman, he landed on both feet running; Crossville to Nashville, from here to there, D.C., Cannes, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Virgina and more he has always been fifty leaps ahead of the feds; sadly he remains on the run within himself, he wouldn’t know HONESTY if it hit him in the face with a piping hot iron skillet. Narcissistic parents brag because they want the kudos for being the world’s most perfect parents; “Look what we have created!” Lm’s achievements are never seen or known; she has jumped over thorns, with her alt persona she continues bravely through the tangled ivy, a jungle of lies to find peace. That’s gotta be worth a penny. Her brutal realness is feared by those who should sparkle and delight in TRUTH. Lm stands, looks back at Rock for reassurance, wipes her tears on her old jean jacket then together they return to safety in the hidden stairwell. Lm closes her eyes. Rock is vigilent, always alert, and steadfast. He double locks the door that leads to her heart. AMEN.

Let’s Catch Up!

As many older readers know this blog is mainly a reflection of LittleMe’s aka “Lm’s” real past where she identifies truthful occuranses which have caused her much anguish from childhood. She has a professional diagnosis of cptsd, a severe anxiety disorder which can be triggered easily (including panic attacks, nightmares, and low self esteem); she bounces back and forth with her better self and iconic protector, ROCK. Rock is ever present and takes care of her when she is having setbacks. He also pushes her to do the work to heal. Lm is also a writer who posts fairly regular short stories, poetry, prose and other forms of artistic expression. She also lives in a state of severe chronic pain and was diagnosed with CPS, or chronic pain syndrome. She loves life, animals, nature and especially forests; she is extremely protective of her family and the few very close real friends she clings to. She sets the bar very high to develop trust in others, even questioning her deepest sense of self frequently. Lm dodges people who she finds detrimental to her continual quest to clean up her mental and emotional health. I appreciate all of her readers who keep giving her support and encourage her healing process. Be Well. Be You.

GARBAGE; Uncluttering Lm’s Mind

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ROCK wants to help Lm clean out her mind, release her memories into the sea like ashes of another self. He wants to help her create a beautiful new sense of self. It’s a job that no one can truly help her with as she is full of fire. He is not phased by her pissy shouting, her spit fire retorts nor when she knocks him over if he tries to lend advice. Truth has only one meaning, “cut the crap” and say what you mean. She has been foul lately. She has begun to speak to new people, coming out of hiding about her childhood, her shame, her sense of failing brought on by two gnarly parents, abusers she kept in her life because she was desperate for love. She wants to hear the words spoken outloud to her; she wants her mother to say, “I was physically abusive; I crossed a line and you didn’t deserve it”. She wants her mother to say, “I regret not allowing you to develop your sense of autonomy in a healthy way; I prevented you from following your dreams”. Lm wants her to say it, not think it. She knows her mother is fully aware of her behaviour that drove Lm to live with her beautiful other mother, Elle, her baby sister D and BaDDaD. Even though BaDDaD was risky to be around she knew Elle would not hurt her and she would have her precious D to hold onto, care for and love. When she initially got to her new town she was given freedom she’d never felt; she could walk out the door and go to get a slice of pizza and sit at the city docks watching sailboats out in the Chesapeake Bay; this alone was all she wanted. The sun sprinkling down and bouncing off the soft waves made her calm. She would get ice cream with D and watch as she licked the wooden spoon, careful that her baby sister would not get her first “brain freeze”. She started a new school and then she began to lose her way inside. In psychiatric terms it’s called “transferance”. Despite choosing to leave her mother, she also needed her; the cookie making, funny stories and playing scrabble and their shared love of beauty. Lm began to unconsciously try to become more like Elle. She wore Elle’s clothes without permission, she tried to behave like Elle in the mirror and no one understood her perserverance to create a bond that was like the one that she would truly hold onto throughout her life with her own mother. Her mother was not a horrible human being, in fact she was quite self sacrificing and had been through a very rough childhood. Often Lm would see in her mother’s enchanting brown eyes a hint of sorrow and try and cheer her up. The mother and child bond is complex, never perfect yet nevertheless necessary to evaluate and often, despite the obstacles, worth the effort to understand. Then she hit a big snag, one that she has to expunge from her own self-loathing NOW. She met her first big love who would later leave her with a sense of dirtyness, worthlessness and scarred. She would grow to hate all men, never sure how to please anyone and her family never intervened. BaDDaD didn’t care enough to stop it. Her mother had no idea what she was living through when she fell into the hands of this nice Catholic boy with bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD behaviours. He was in some ways, a replica of her father’s hidden side, full of lies and deceit; she continued to go back to him for she had no true persona, no guidance, just a broken sense of identity. Her only interests were finding love, being loved and clinging to the wrong people for it. His name was Tom. Since there are thousands and billions of Tom’s she doesn’t care to give him a break and a hidden name. He deserves to be outed for what he was, likely still is and how he used and abused her. Tom treated her like a doll and knew he was treating her poorly; he often would sleep with all her friends and other girls when she was at home with D and family; he introduced her to drugs and alcohol and soon, nothing mattered but him. She would pursue him, often waiting in his shared living quarters with his best friend K while he was having sex with another girl in his room. K would hold her while she cried and say, “I don’t know why he is like this”, drying her tears with empathy. This would go on for several years until Tom’s father sent him away to study. They met when he was twenty-one and she sixteen. Throughout her twenties she would suffer inner crisis struggling to know who she was, why she wasn’t happy or good enough. She did not know how to be herself and was lost in her own garbage of memories. Rock has led her to the point where she is tossing memories into boxes and trash bags, loading her past up and readying her for the dump. Lm is not garbage, in fact far from it. She is stronger and stronger each and every day and her slip-ups still arise now and then, yet she is prepared to let go, to savor her life and with her sword in hand, she is determined to battle her inner warriors. No one, no woman, no girl, no person should feel weighed down by their TRUTH. The car is ready, the engine started and all the rubbish that has held her back for so many years is being tossed memory by memory into a gargantuan hole. Lm is learning to save herself, not wait for someone else to save her. Rock is proud and will always be on stand-by; they are merging, if a stone could weep Rock’s tears would break the dam that has held back Lm’s growth. Thank you Rock for believing in Lm’s goodness.

Denied; Kalthoom’s Tears

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As soon as she could walk on her two tiny feet Kalthoom had been obedient; she listened well, always attentive, mindful to cause no strife as her older brothers had. She rubbed her father’s feet and served him sweet tea when he came home to their small two room apartment in their displaced country. She ran to him each night with bright warm eyes and a smile that reminded him of his wife; he would lift her high into the air and say, “my gift”. Muhamad was the father of four sons, Abdelkarim, Hussein, Salim and Omar; three were married to good women who stayed home cooking, cleaning and focusing on their husband’s needs while his sons were studying the new language in this culturally perplexing new homeland, at least for him. Muhamad for as long as he could recall was Baba, the provider and strong one who lived the life of a faithful Muslim. He wanted nothing more than his family to be happy, secure and feel loved. His youngest son and fourth child Omar was following in his father’s footsteps, this gave Muhamad much pride. His trade took expertise, patience and time; he would become an excellent mason with much to look forward to. He was not bright in the book knowledge sort of way, yet he was a master with his hands, his craft flawless. He longed for grandchildren and would often lean in with an unassuming manner trying to overhear his wife Amina speaking in low tones over tea with his son’s wives. Kalthoom was his little miracle as he was fifty-eight years old when his wife surprised him with the news that she was carrying his child once more. She had been a perfect companion, younger than he by eighteen years; she was angelic, never hurried or too tired of the children’s scattering about and noisy play, never once had she been ill. She did not deny him of pleasure nor raise her voice or undermine his decisions. It was an agreeable union meant to be. He was pleased that he could still create life with the grace of Allah and prayed for a healthy pregnancy. Honestly, he fully expected another son. Amina was his best friend, much more than she would ever know; he needed her easy way, her scent of life itself and her smooth skin touching his. Amina’s understanding gaze into his eyes at night by candlelight when he spoke of their earliest days together illuminated their faces, setting a melancholy atmosphere for his nostalgic recollections. He spoke of the chill in his skin when sitting nervously waiting to meet his soon to be wife, an arranged bride with their parent’s blessings. They laughed, remembering his shaking hands causing an obvious rattling clank of his teacup on its saucer. Her father asked him to stand when she came into the family room where they received visitors. He had spilled his tea on the carpet beneath his feet and his eyes widened and looked away quickly after his first glance. She had been escorted by her eldest brother and eventual first son’s namesake, Abdelkarim and seated with her mother on a burnt ochre settee. She never spoke directly; her mother and father spoke for her. Next, they welcomed Muhamad’s father and Aunt. His mother had died when he was sixteen from a stroke. The elders spoke while they had smiled, sneaking glances eye to eye. Her dress was like the desert sky, a perfect shade of blue. It had handsewn golden sequins around the high neck, her hair although mostly covered by her matching hijab, was a rich auburn, carefully dyed with henna. He would recall their first meeting often and Amina never grew bored with his repetitive memories. She knew that memories were important to savour for they both knew they could not return to where they had met. Kalthoom began to cook when her mother was ill with a sickness that no one talked about openly; her father was once a comforting man, reassuring her that everything will be fine if you believe in Allah’s plan. This was long before the dark shadows of sadness caused the family to simply appease their elders. The Imam came to pray with Muhamad by his wife’s bed some mornings when Amina was alert. She would thank him for his grace, then ask in her small voice for Kalthoom to serve tea, and whispered, “please serve the best of our sweet cookies, the one’s with dates carefully pressed into the middle.” Kalthoom obliged. She bowed to the Imam, careful not to catch his eyes and placed the silver serving tray on the low round table where his father sat on decorative cushions across from the Imam. Her father excused her, sending her off to sit by her mother and read poetry in Arabic, the only language her mother would ever know. Some nights and days passed quickly when Kalthoom would be awakened by painful moans and Baba crying in gasps, echoing was his broken heart throughout their otherwise silent surroundings. Kalthoom was frozen, unable to express her sorrow. The brothers and wives came with trays of food which filled the long table, yet no one dared to eat other than Hussein’s wife who was due soon with their first baby. Omar stayed over on the floor next to Baba ready to clasp his father’s hands into his own should he begin to quiver. A year passed and Baba relied heavily on Kalthoom. She learned from Omar how to take the bus to the pharmacy for Baba’s new medicines prescribed to calm his agitation, to walk without an escort into the enormous supermarket and her list of things to do grew longer and more stressful. One evening as Baba sat squatting on his haunches smoking his pipe on the balcony Omar called and said he needed her to listen to his guidance. “My dear sister, I cherish you for all that you do for Baba without complaint however, he is nearing the end of this life and you must learn the language spoken here. How will you survive when Baba should pass?” Kalthoom had never thought about her own future, not even once in a late-night dream state had she known what she longed for. Omar had finally bought a van for his business which was growing and said he would speak to Baba about her learning the new language. Surprisingly to Kalthoom Baba gave her permission to study. Class after class she attended regularly and the stares at her from all the blue eyes was unnerving. One morning a young woman replaced her usual teacher, her eyes were dark as Kalthoom’s. After each class they smiled at one another in a way Kalthoom did not understand; she only knew that the teacher’s smile made her heart thump faster and her palms to sweat. Weeks turned to months when one day the teacher asked her to have tea after class; Kalthoom jumped for joy for the very first time. A friend! She had a friend. For the first time she sat without one of her brothers supervision in a cafe sipping her tea and enjoying what the new land called, “fika”. Her teacher’s parents came from Iran, yet she had been born in Sweden; she shared each time they met a little bit more about the Swedish culture. Kalthoom silently studied how other women dressed as if flipping through a foreign fashion magazine. “Have you learned how to speak yet?” Baba asked the same question everyday. Kalthoom explained the new letters which made unique sounds, Ä, Ö, Å. She had a goal now. She continued to cook, clean and sit with Baba when he stared blankly at the television, not understanding anything he watched; it no longer mattered. His mind was tired, his appetite less and other than Omar picking him up to go to mosque he lay on a mattress near balcony window, drifting in and out of sleep. Her other brother’s wives were all expecting babies now and she looked forward to being an aunt again. When the first baby was born to Hussein’s wife, it was a girl and although it was a delight for the entire family, there was an unspoken knowing a son was longed for. Hussein and his wife Bouchera gave their daughter her grandmother’s name, Amina. Baba was joyful when they visited with the baby. A grandchild finally; he carefully cradled the swaddled bundle and held her close to his heart. Baba would die before the next grandchild was born. For weeks Kalthoom missed her classes and sat crying in the now empty apartment; her sisters-in-law took turns staying with her and they cooked for her, she was grateful yet hopeless now. The teacher rang her, understood her mourning and said she could return when she was ready. She told her in order to continue to the next level she needed to submit her identification number. What was that? Kalthoom wondered. One night the entire family gathered and spoke about necessary things, how to pay bills, how to avoid Swedes who asked too many questions and the brothers agreed that they would all pay a bit toward the rent. Omar would move in to supervise her, and she would need to stay home more. Kalthoom slipped into a depression when she was told she had been brought here with her parents illegally. Her oldest brother Abdelkarim had come with special papers and was able to study and work, but she and the rest of the family had come when she was small through channels worked carefully by other refugees. How could this be? Baba worked, Omar worked, and they had a happy life before. How could this number be so necessary? The wives suggested they meet a nice Muslim man at the mosque who was here legally and perhaps they could arrange a marriage to avoid any complications. Everyone agreed except Kalthoom. This is how it would unfold; she would be placed like a dog in a kennel with some man she never met. She was given handsewn dresses, typical formals to greet her unknown suitors. She was primped and stuffed into a yellow and white satin dress, her hair was dyed by Abdelkarim’s wife for the first time with henna and she had her eyebrows plucked and had eyeliner carefully applied. The teacher rang again and asked to meet Kalthoom, hesitantly she said she could no longer continue to meet or study the language. The language that gave her freedom was the entrance into a gated inner world of silenced women who could not be left to sip tea and sit in cafes with new friends from other places. The dreaded day came when a gentleman twice her age came to meet her. He looked directly at her and chatted and laughed with her brothers. She felt encroached upon, an item up for sale like the plums in the market where she shopped. Baba had left some money and a letter to give to the husband to be which Kalthoom never had known of. Unlike her obedient, attentive and congenial persona she stood up and ran into the bathroom slamming the door and locking it. Everyone could hear her sobbing. The gentleman agreed to leave and was given apologies on her behalf. Once he was gone Omar beat hard on the door, “Kalthoom! What on earth are you doing? We are trying to help you, please, I beg you to come out.” She refused and sat sobbing in a haze of desolation. The rest of the family left, and Omar let her be, easily drifting off to sleep on the sofa after an exhausting day. When all was quiet, Kalthoom opened the door and ripped off the sticky dress and put on one of her mother’s old tunics, a big coat with a hood and took cash from the safe inside the closet which once was her parent’s bedroom. She took a large bag of her mother’s and stuffed it with photos of her family, her bus card and a notebook of memoirs her mother had kept. She took a long look at her most loved brother and snuck out the door, unsure of her intentions. She walked to the bus stop and boarded with no plan. She arbitrarily pressed the button somewhere in the city and stepped out and saw light’s on in windowsills, snowflakes under streetlamps and heard laughter and passers-by enjoying each other’s company. It was not late, perhaps seven at night, but it was black outside, and she felt freedom in absence of her family. She saw a pizzeria open, and she went inside to warm up. She used the new language to order coffee and sat reading her mother’s journal.”Yesterday was the happiest day of my life, I gave birth to a baby girl. I finally am not alone in my femininity. I look forward to teaching her to sew, to cook, and share funny stories of our family’s past. Her eyes, like mine, are rich and warm, her tiny lips are pink as my cheeks. My daughter, my dream.”Kalthoom’s throat thickened, the sorrow she had locked inside when her mother died was rising to the surface and soon without control, she began to cry while seated in a corner table of a busy pizzeria. She knew she had no where to run, nowhere to hide and had to face her future willingly as her mother had accepted her own. She went into a small store about to close and bought a hand carved cedar box. Inside it was lined with red velvet; she bought bright kitchen towels with a floral print, an apron to match and a scented candle ina glass jar. When she arrived home Omar was beside himself with worry. “Kalthoom, where have you been?”. She took off the heavy coat and put her large bag and purchases down, her fingers numb from the biting icy weather. “I have been shopping dear brother; I am so sorry to frighten you.” He asked what she had bought. She pulled out the scented candle that smelled like cinnamon and he took the lid off and took a sniff. She pulled out new kitchen towels and he smiled, she tried on the new apron, and he smiled even more, finally she pulled out the cedar box with red velvet inside. “What is this for?” She walked to the kitchen, Omar right behind her and began to make dinner. She waited to answer and asked him to sit down and to stop talking so much so that she could concentrate on her mother’s lamb stew recipe she read in her journal. The aroma was familiar, one she recalled from a childhood somewhere else. The essence of Amina engulfed her, she felt safe and warm inside. She served the stew with cous-cous on the low table and watched Omar eat as if he had never eaten in his life. “How do you know how to recreate Mother’s secrets?”, Kalthoom simply smiled. She put the wooden box on the table after she had cleared the table and washed up for evening prayers. “Kalthoom, what is this beautiful box for”? Omar pushed for an answer before they went to sleep. “It’s nothing special”. Omar continued to ask her annoying questions and she felt the thickness in her throat again, the rise of her emotions and her mother’s love. “It’s for my unopened dreams that have been denied”. Omar had a blank look on his face. He shrugged his shoulders and went back to the sofa., happy she had filled his belly with such wonderful food. Kalthoom lay in her parent’s bed and read more of her mother’s thick journal. “I never admitted to anyone that I felt nothing for Muhamad in the early years, it has always been a seal between me and Allah. When Kalthoom was born I felt a reawakening and was full of love for everyone. Her devotion to us has opened the door to dreams I never saw come true.”She then placed the book and money back in the safe and lit the candle that smelled of cinnamon. She let some more tear’s flow and drip into the cedar box. She kissed it and put it inside the safe also. There she would share her dreams along with her mothers and perhaps, if she were lucky a suitable gentleman would call on her again soon and her brothers would be happy, and they all could laugh and live in the light of all that remained unspoken.