The elderly women of our country often say: “Having one son means having nothing; two sons equals half a son; three sons equals one son.” By this they mean that one son is likely to die in war, and a second to die young, but at least a third son will survive to support his family. The day my brother was born, I remember the elderly women saying I didn’t yet have a brother since I had only one. We regularly prayed to Allah to give us another brother, so at least we could have half a brother.
We were taught to take good care of our brother. My father was open-minded and liked his daughters as much as his son, but my grandmother told us: “Do not fight with your brother. Let him grow up and be as your arm in the future.” She also said that girls who didn’t have brothers had no one to count on after the death of their parents.
My grandmother’s biggest fears were earthquakes and bomb blasts and coups. Once when an earthquake occurred and we were living in the Microyan section of Kabul, in a tall building built by the Russians, my grandmother picked up only my brother and escaped to the street below. I joked with her: “Look, dear grandmother, you picked up my brother and left me with my sister. You don’t like us.”
She responded: “You are annoying me! Your brother is younger than you and he can’t walk, so that’s why I picked him up. You can walk by yourself. All of you are my children. I love all of you. All of you are the pieces of my heart.”
We laughed, and my sister and I said, “You saved him because he is a son and one day he is going to support you.”
She kissed us and said, “Look, I like you as much as your brother. We should just be taking care of him, because he is a son and the son is the candle of the house. If Allah is willing, when he grows up, he will be outside the house all day, and work with your father and be as your father’s arm, but you will be with me all day.” She hugged and patted us, and straightened our hair, and told us: “Wake up! I love you all, my nice daughters.”
My grandmother almost never got angry or sad, but once, when my parent were mad at my oldest brother for forgetting to study his lessons, she left our room and stayed in her own room and told us to just let her pray and sleep. By doing this, she showed us she was upset about my parents becoming angry with my brother.
One day my aunt came to our house and told us we should go play at her house with our cousins and spend the night there. We were happy, and went to their home and played hide-and-seek all day. We enjoyed ourselves a lot because my aunt was not at home, so there was no one to tell us not to make noise or shout. Then, at 3 p.m., the phone rang and my oldest cousin ran to answer it. My aunt told my cousin that my mother had become the owner of another son.
I was shocked at this news, and very happy. “Oh my God, thanks for your favor,” I shouted. All of us danced and leapt. I wanted to leave my aunt’s house immediately to go to my own house. But my cousin said I should wait until my aunt returned.
When my aunt came, I told her, “Please take us to our house. I want to see our brother!” My aunt said my mother must rest, so we should stay with her one more day, but we insisted, and kissed her hands, and told her, “Please, please, please. We promise we will never make noise.” Finally she agreed and took us to our house.
At our house, we rushed directly towards my mom’s room, already forgetting our promise not to make noise. When we entered my mom’s room, I saw my newly born brother on the bed. His eyes were closed, and he had very soft skin, very white. I tried to push his eyelashes open to see his eyes and find out what color they were.
My mother was asleep. When she woke, her face was white because she had lost a lot of blood. Her head was tightly wrapped with scarves, as women usually are while cleaning the house. Her lips were cracked, but a smile appeared on her face. My mom told me, in a friendly tone, not to touch my brother because she was afraid we might injure him.
As my aunt entered the room, we remembered our promise and left. My grandmother was very, very happy. She was in the kitchen cooking chicken soup for my mom. The kitchen was full of soup vapors, and I could see my grandmother through the vapors. I told her: “Congratulations! Your second son! Now you have two arms.”
She said, “You are a riot!” We both smiled. I remember her good memory and I miss her a lot. It was a happy day, that day my second brother was born.
This is wonderful writing; it really shows a slice of life that is so different to my own. It’s hard for me to imagine a place where boys are so worshipped. The character of the grandmother really comes to life–she sounds fabulous and I’d like to have met her. I’m glad the girls challenged her for favoritism. The story opens with a very interesting saying.
This is so amazing, I love it so much, your words are valued. :))
Your writing is getting better all the time, Freshta. I love this story of your brother’s birth. I especially like all the details about your grandmother and the words — All of you are the pieces of my heart. Beautiful!
[Ed’s note: this comment copied over from old blog]
Submitted on 2010/03/25 at 1:01am
This is such a beautiful story, and your grandmother reminds me of my own mother in so many ways. She always tells me and my sisters that we are all pieces of her heart. I really enjoyed reading your work.
It is so nice to read about happiness in your lives.
Great story. Everybody should check out Paula Lerner, she does lots of great work in the subject of women working in Afghanistan.