Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Language of Chapatis
I went to clean for my little lady who lost her husband recently. Between her mobility issues and my impaired mobility, her minimal English and my total lack of Farsi, my hands and feet that try to do what her hands and feet can no longer do, we clean her house with much gesticulation, pointing, smiling and laughing as she tries to make herself understood, and I doltingly and slowly comprehend.
"SHACK! SHACK!" she cries, pointing to the comforters, and I SHACK, as hard as I can, the covers ballooning towards the ceiling, like startled swans.
She chortles, amused at my eagerness to please.
"I like you, Shay-la," she smiles.
I like her, too.
She sits at the table and watches me clean - for company, she is lonely. She says no visitors come now. She asks me if I have a husband. I say "Not since 1972."
"Four children?" she asks, surprised.
"Yes, I raised them all alone."
"You have a pension?" She is wondering why I am cleaning houses at my age.
"Yes. Very small," I tell her.
"This house too big, now," she shares. Her husband died just weeks ago.
"Some changes coming?" I ask but, "Too upset, too upset," she tells me, waving dismissively. She cannot talk about what will happen next. So hard, to lose her husband, her home, her entire life, all within the same year.
I tell her not to go to the trouble of making me a chapati today, she is tired, it is too much work.
"No, no, it's okay," she tells me. "You're my sister."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my true pay. Not the $37.50 I made today, polishing her house till it gleamed like it did when she was a young wife. That is what keeps me going back, tired and aching as I am. It is that smile, that shared glance, the laughter, the kinship of being women, doing what needs to be done, through the hard times and the fine. It is our sisterhood, the same the world over.
I fall in love with these little ladies. And I know I am bringing them more than cleaning, when I knock on their doors.