Bayda

A Short Story

By Shameelah Khan

I age and I forget the details of memory but not the ones that are stored in the box-like kitchen that seems to age just as my gracious grandmother does. The kitchen is the same. There are a collection of antique pots and pans above us hanging from the corrugated roof that makes the soothing sound of musical patterns when it rains. There is the floor that is still covered in plastic tiles with flower shapes on them. There is also the yellow-stained wall that never seems to chip but always seems to remind me of the sun. Then there is the stove where I have always remembered seeing my granny when she had prepared a meal for us. Every Sunday, we got dressed and made no plans because this was the day for family.  This has changed over the past few years and my cousins and I no longer feel a need to play in the backroom where our dreams had often become moments of love. My grandmother’s house was the place I lived in for a while when my parents were newly married. I remember my grandfather being very upset with me when he found me sneakily watching the film Nine Months at the age of six. My granny never liked being called “ma” or “gran” but we have always known her by her nickname “Bayda”. It is in my grandmother’s yard that we drew chalk-blocks on the cement and jumped into song, singing “England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales.” It was in my grandmother’s house that I remember the same set of couches travelling through the years only to be recovered in various shades of maroon or brown material. My grandfather had the same section of the couch and none of us were allowed to sit there. Sometimes I would sit there to feel what it was like but when he stepped into the lounge, I shifted up and handed him the remote so that he could change the cartoons to soccer or the news. My grandfather loves watching the news.  My grandmother’s house is where we visit on Saturday nights during Ramadhaan, the fasting month, and we wait in silence for the athaan, call to prayer, to go off and then we say “bismillah” and we break our fast with dates and boeber and samosas. My grandfather and I walk to the mosque together and along the way we meet his friends and Eldorado Park feels safe to me. It has always felt safe to me. The homes feel familiar, the sounds of the few dogs I hear feel familiar to me and the closeness of my Papa feels familiar to me when we walk and he tells me stories about his travels to Mekkah for the Hajj pilgrimage. He loves to speak about Hajj and the time he walked through the bustling streets and found a Palestinian man who sold freshly-baked bread for a living. He always says that Mekkah is not what it was then. Things are changing. My grandmother always makes my grandfather’s tea for him. The same way he likes it and in the same mug that he likes to have it in. As we got older, my cousins began to have kids of their own and they were filling the home with laughter and new memories in the same way we did. I was seated in the dining room table one day and my younger cousin was seated on my grandfather’s spot on the couch- so brave. I looked at my grandmother as she gently said “Papa is coming baby, shift up.” And my cousin moved with such ease. My grandfather sat down, took the remote and changed the channel to sports. My grandmother stood up and said, “I’ll go and make your tea.”  I follow her to the kitchen. The kitchen that is the same.