The house did not feel like her house as the girl walked from her room to where they were sitting quietly. It felt like a different house in a whole different place. It was dark and silent and it was because of something that had happened far away in their country.
It was scary to think that something could happen all the way over there that could make everyone sad here. It felt like the house was in their country, even though she had only been there once when she was very little and she did not remember it.
It felt like they were in their country and she did not like it. It was too dark and sad. She wished she could go outside to the yard with her brother and her cousins, the way they usually did when they were together, but her cousins had lived there once and they remembered her grandmother and they had cried. Everybody remembered her grandmother except her. The only thing she knew was the pictures.
“I remember when I was a kid, how she used to sit me in front of her on a horse,” her aunt said. “We would go to the market like that. She was the only woman in our village who would ride alone like that. It was never important to her what other people thought.”
Her father looked at her aunt. He was sitting on the little stoop beside the fireplace, where he never usually sat. In the morning the girl had walked past his office as the door was a little open and she had seen him sitting at his desk with his face in his hands. It looked like he had been crying. She had never seen anything like that before.
“She was a very tough woman,” her aunt said. “I remember once when we were walking home in the evening, a man coming down the street pinched me as he walked past us. My mother hit him so hard that he spun around two times before falling to the ground, and then he got up and ran away.”
The girl watched her father. He sat quietly and did not say anything. It had been thrilling when she had seen him in the morning but she did not feel that way now.
“All the poems she knew!” her aunt said. “She could not read or write but she made hundreds of poems of her own. She had a poem about everything.”
It was a gray day and the girl wished that they could go somewhere at least. She did not like to see her father look like that. She liked it when he was happy and he joked around.
She went to her father. “Baba,” she said. “Let's go to the playground.” Her father usually took her to the playground on the weekend. It was her favorite place.
Her father looked up at her. “I cannot take you now,” he said.
“Please,” she said. “We haven't gone in a long time.”
“Tara,” her mother said. “Do not bother your father. It is not the time for the playground.”
“Please, Baba,” the girl said. “We haven't gone in a long time. And I won't be able to until next weekend.”
“I cannot take you now,” her father said. “Someone please take this child to the playground.”
“No!” the girl said. “I want you to take me.” She took her father's hand.
“Pedram,” her mother said to her brother. “Will you take her to the playground?”
“No!” the girl said. “I want Baba to take me.”
“But my mother has just died,” her father said.
The girl began to cry. She knew that everyone was looking at her but she didn't care. The room was quiet except for her crying.
Her father stood up.
“Where are you going?” her mother said.
“To get my coat.”
“You should not take her.”
“What can I do?” her father said. “She is crying.”
The girl stood in the middle of the room and began to stop crying. She knew that her mother was angry with her.
Her father came back and they got in the car. She sat in the back and they drove through the streets of their town. It was nice to ride in the car. They drove past the woods and up the hill to the school.
“Do you think the dogs will be there?” the girl said. There were two dogs they always saw at the playground that they had given names to in their own language. They would make up stories about them each time they saw them.
“They might be there,” her father said.
They turned into the parking lot and the girl saw that there were no other kids in the playground and she felt very excited. She jumped out of the car and ran to the playground. Her father stepped out and walked over and stood by the basketball court.
The girl went to the rope ladder and climbed to the top of it. That was the thing she liked the best. At the top she stood on the platform and looked around. She could see into the backyards of the houses across the street. She liked being the only kid at the playground. She looked at her father standing by the court. She waved to him and he opened his hand and waved back.
She went down the slide and went to the jungle gym. She climbed to the top and she came down the other side. There was a time when she could go up but not down but now she could do both. She felt glad that she could climb down now and so she went up and down again. She went through the bottom of it and stood inside. She imagined that it was her house. It would be a nice house, she thought. She imagined where each of the rooms would be.
She came out and went to the swing. She sat down and got herself going high. She had gotten good at it. When she was pretty high, she thought about how it would be to jump. She had seen other kids do it. It was scary to think about it. She slowed down and stopped with her feet. She got off and went to the rope ladder. She climbed to the top again and stood on the platform and looked out. Her father was still watching from the same place.
It felt good to stand up there and think about the town that they were part of. Even with nobody else at the playground, it felt like they were a big part of their town, like it was an alive place.
See, isn't this better, she thought as she looked at her father. Isn't this better than being back at our house?