Family Stories

Why We Are Here

February 7, 2015

Many small reasons, actually – but sibling bonding perhaps one of the greatest —

“Let’s theme our bedroom, Layla. Blue and light blue? Since we both like those colors?” We are sitting al fresco at a table in the center of the shopping center that houses “the best grocery store in Arusha” and the only cinema. Though it is shaded, the air is hot, dusty and dry. I chuckle at the film posters — The Barbie Movie, Dolly and Dolly (a Bollywood film) and American Sniper. Today is not the day but I am determined to get back here to see a film. In all my travels I have found movie-going an eye-opening cultural experience. (“Anaconda” in Mysore, India was one of those times.)

Our driver, Gaudence, has brought us here to eat and buy groceries. We have also heard from a new friend, Carolyn, that a place where we might find a bookshelf and/or desk is just a short bit down the road from here. It’s called “Furniturustic” and is where local craftsmen create furniture from reclaimed wood.

Layla had taken keen note of the floral nook next to the hallway to the w.c. when we walked in. “Mom, can I buy flowers for our room?”

“Of course,” I respond. I am desperate to see her smile and rejoice in our new living space after her first twenty-four hours filled with homesickness and tears. Layla jumps up from her seat and walks directly to Anna. She is delighted, “What colors?”


“Flowers.” Layla and I say in unison. “Yellow, pink, white?” I suggest.

“All of those,”Anna smiles. Layla flits off behind me to the girl in the nook.


Out of nowhere Anna gasps and clasps her hands to her mouth, her eyes wide open and glinting with delight. “Oh Layla, they’re beautiful!” Layla sets a small, round glass vase on the table. It has three short roses in it – yellow, pink and white. Her smile is wide and confident.

I relax more comfortably in my seat. Her prideful energy refills me.

“I bargained Mom. Would Pop Ben have been proud of me?”

“He is beaming,” I say.

“I even did the walk-away,” and she demonstrates with a wiggle in her walk.

Before we leave, I buy a large bouquet with yellow and red roses, baby’s breath and exotic greenery.


Our once colorless apartment begins to brighten — the large bouquet on the coffee table and the small vase on Layla’s side of the bed in the room she shares with her sister.



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  • Annie Paulsen February 7, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Gail, I am loving your writing … Your stories are beautiful.

    • Shoshanna Starzynski February 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm