D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

day 3

My daughter brings home sheets full of hard words for her to practice reading and writing. Some of her classmates are just hearing English for the first time in their lives, and they practice the ABCs. My daughter does not notice these differences, but I do. Yesterday, going to the classroom to pick up my daughter, I feel a hand clasp my shoulder. It is an older Somali woman, a grandmother, an ayeyo, there to pick up her two grandchildren. She doesn't speak any English. Her daughter has two little boys at home and just had another baby, so it is the grandmother who walks the two little Somali girls to school and back. She smiles so big at me, her face both ancient and young, she is so excited to recognize my bleached blonde hair amidst the masses. I say hello, I have been helping her learn the ABCs on Tuesday mornings. In the loud and chaotic hallways, children streaming every which way, we pick up our children. The teachers nod at my friend. They do not speak her language and she does not speak theirs, she is swimming in a world that is all new to her, that she is constantly shut out of. She corrals the little girls and they start the 3/4 mile walk back to the small apartment they all share, in the complex where we used to live. She walks slowly and steadfastly home, two small pink backpacks thrown over her shoulder, one of the bravest people I know.

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