Grandparents in Town for the Month
My grandparents never came in town to visit just for the weekend. A visit from Ethiopia is not just a weekend thing. It lasts atleast a month. My grandparents used to visit for about 2-3 months at a time, pretty much until my grandfather said he was sick of being in this country. He used to always say he was afraid of dying here, so he didn’t want to stay here too long.
Then there was the day when my parents both went to work, and my little sister and I were left home alone with my grandparents. They were fasting that day. It was a Wednesday, and most Wednesdays and Fridays Ethiopian Christian Orthodox elders fast on those days. Fasting means they don’t eat before noon on those days, and they eat a completely vegan diet. (Tsom). So , at 12PM my grandmother summoned me into the living room, where her and my grandfather were hanging out, and asked me to make some tea and bring some snack so they could break their fast until my parents got home for lunch. “eske shi afee ena tsom yem ene feta bet boscoot amchee”. So I went into the kitchen made some tea , got the tea cups, got some strawberry filled cookie type things(that I believe were vegan, who really knows), and took it to the living room, and walked away. In my 11 year old eyes, my job was done. I had done what I was told and I was ready to move on to more important things, (probably watch some stupid show on tV). Then about 10 minutes later, I hear my grandmother summon me again. She says, Actually go ahead and make us some lunch. I remember my thought was “make you lunch?” “ WHAT?” I don’t know how to do that? Of course I didn’t say this out loud. I ask what they want to eat. She says I don’t know think of something. Now I was annoyed. See my young adolescent self had never been required to cook for another person. At 11 the only thing I could do was microwave something, let alone cook for two grown people who had high standards. The challenge was on. I proceed to the kitchen with an attitude that I know my grandmother could sense. She followed me into the kitchen and started to lecture me about how we’re spoiled in this country and that at my age she was cooking for the whole family. (all of this is true, she was really holding a family down at that age). But in my world, the only thing I was required to do was watch my little sister, give her a snack, and clean up after myself and help do chores around the house. COOK, definitely not!. So here I was being scolded by my Ethiopian grandmother, in Amharic. And because , as a young Ethiopian American girl, I knew that I can’t yell back at my grandmother, I was just becoming increasingly frustrated. As I was reaching for a glass bowl in the kitchen, I pulled the bowl , and it got caught on something else, and shattered in my hand. One large piece got lodged in the side of my right hand right next to my thumb and left a huge cut. Blood was everywhere. I started crying, and then my Grandmother was even more angry because I was being clumsy and had made a mess. I ran out of the kitchen, and my grandfather came rushing towards me, grabbed my hand saw the blood, and started to yell: “Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol”. Nothing else. That’s all he said. No are you ok? He just knew my bloody hand needed some rubbing alcohol, and I needed it ASAP. I got myself cleaned up, and called my parents to ask what to do. Soon enough my mom came home, my grandmother also threw some lunch together, and my dad came home to laugh at the fact that I was so shocked that someone my age would be expected to engage in such a serious activity such as cooking lunch. The bleeding in my hand eventually stopped, but to this day I have a scar on my right hand, as a reminder of my cultural misunderstanding I faced with my grandparents that day.
-RIP grandma and grandpa I love you and miss you.