Licton Springs Review

Childhood Dilemma By Genanew Wolde

“How was school today, Abraham?” asked his father, Yosef. Yosef used to get home earlier than Abraham. It was already 6:00pm. Abraham’s school was walking distance from home. Abraham, like most students had school bus transportation to and from his home. However, for many reasons, he chose to walk rather than take the school bus home. It, therefore, took him longer than expected to get home.

Yosef and his family lived in a two-bedroom apartment in one of the poorer sections of Seattle. Most of the residents were immigrants. There were children milling about in the courtyard of their apartment complex and young women, some of them recent immigrants from all parts of the world, strolling with their little toddlers in tow.

Older men and women would be found sitting at one corner or on their patios observing the comings and goings of others and the busy scene and noise on the major road that passed close to the complex. Yosef worked two shifts as a cashier at one of the 7-11 groceries in downtown Seattle, and Elsa, his wife, was a stay-at-home mom helping keep the home and take care of the children.

When Abraham saw his father’s car parked by their house, he sensed the freedom he had all day disappear from his soul at the speed of light. A troubling, scary feeling took control of his mind. At that moment he was trying to come up with an excuse for his being late, guessing what questions he would be asked. He could not explain being this late. He reached the apartment’s door and impulsively rang the doorbell. It was his father that he didn’t want to see the most at that time at home.

Yosef was concerned about his son’s discipline or lack there of. He wanted Abraham to study hard and waste no time playing with friends or taking long walks from school at the end of which he would be too tired to do his homework. When Yosef appeared at the door with a disappointed expression on his face, Abraham knew he should have been home earlier. His father appeared to him like a huge creature he had never seen before. Lacking courage to see his father eye to eye, he murmured, “Hi Daddy!” in a broken, thin and scared voice and squeezed himself to get passage to his bedroom as if he had amnesty in his room. But his effort didn’t last long. It was interrupted by his father’s louder-than–a-thunderstorm voice. His legs became weak, lacking support to carry even his skinny body.

“How was school today Abraham?”

“I missed my school bus,” replied Abraham, not sure what he said. He leaned his body to his door the way short distance runners do at the finish line.

“Hmmm,” said Mr. Yosef helplessly, walking back to his couch. His hand reached for the remote, and he was already half-way flipping through all the available channels: click, Ch. 22, click, Ch. 23, click, Ch. 24, click, click, click, then power off. Quiet.

Abraham’s mom and his sister, Aster, came back after a quick shopping in the neighborhood farmers’ produce store. “Is Abraham home yet?” asked his mother in a quest to get some answers from her husband. Yosef was still in full anger because of his son’s persistent lack of adherence to his father’s desire for him to spend his afternoons at home with his school books. He was staring at the blank TV screen and avoiding his wife’s question. But Abraham was still locked in his bedroom, alertly listening for the possible break out of a quarrel between his parents because of him. When she knew that no one was answering her, Elsa headed to Abraham’s room. She knocked and opened the door. “Hi Abraham!”

“Hi Mamma,” he said and gave her a hug.

“Did you eat something?” Elsa was more concerned about her son’s not having eaten, than his not having studied. She sometimes felt that Yosef pushed his children too much and was unfair for being angry when Abraham came late from school.

“No, but I am not hungry,” replied Abraham trying to avoid anything that might entail any eye contact with his father in the dining area. He did not want his father to start lecturing him on their family’s travails and what his father has to go through to make ends meet and why it will all be lost unless the children do well at school and go on to college.

“Come on my baby. I will fix a special dinner for you tonight.” Elsa said.

His father was boiling with anger because of the mother’s stance regarding disciplining Abraham. “You woman, I told you so many times to stop cradling this boy for the mistakes he makes. Instead of disciplining him, you reward him for his bad behavior. You know I have to work two jobs to put food on the table. This is all so that they can go to school and get a better life than the one we have now. He spends all his time playing with friends and comes home tired and late. When is he supposed to do his homework and study? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. I can’t tolerate this anymore.”

Elsa, Abraham’s mother, always defended her kids. Whatever they did, she would protect them from their dad’s wrath. Such confrontations in the past had led to a full-scale fight in the family, and Abraham ended up expelled from the house at the age of ten.

On the earlier occasion when Yosef expelled his son from his home, he declared, “I can’t live with such a mess, with a disobedient son,” in a blaring voice. “Get out of my home,” he screamed, destroying everything around. Elsa, on that occasion, calmed down and became conscious of the direction her husband’s anger would take them. Instead of fueling the confrontation she decided to manage the problem. She did not want to push argument with Yosef to the end. She let Abraham sneak out the back door so that Yosef felt like he won the battle.

“Let him enjoy the thing he likes the most, not to be at home,” Yosef yelled. “You too! If you are trying to do any thing that defies my word and disrupts this family, that means you and me are at odds,” he told Elsa. Elsa took care not to do anything that worsened the situation. So she let Abraham spend the night in the garage alone in the bitter cold.

Abraham was still in his bedroom listening to the entire ramblings of his dad and his mom and sister going about their business. Totally drawn in endless thoughts, he revisited all the events that had taken place in his family. He remembered being locked outside in a cold and scary garage. He thought about being away from his cruel father forever. But he didn’t know how and where to go. He wished to have the power to silence his father, to avoid him, deny his existence. But it didn’t seem possible.

Intending only to walk over to the dining table, Abraham stood up straight, checking his legs and finalizing his thoughts. He walked out of his room, not towards the dining room but toward the front door. In that dark night Abraham ran away from home leaving his mother’s call behind. Abraham! Abraham…Abraham…Abraham…until her calls disappeared from his ears.