I can hear their laughter.
My two oldest sisters are far out in the park, climbing the monkey bars. My other sister is just over there, spinning herself on the merry-go-round. She calls me over to join her, but I’m too scared. I’m sure I’m going to fall, since she goes too fast for my small body.
I decide to ride the swings instead. These are my favorite swings in the world, shaped like horses, with bars in the front that you pull back and forth, making yourself go higher and higher. I’m still little and I haven’t learned how to pump myself on regular swings, and with these I don’t need anybody’s help.
I love these swings. I feel like I’m flying when I ride them. I go higher, and higher, until I’m almost touching the big, fluffy, white clouds.
There are other kids around me, playing on the swings, too, but I don’t talk to them. I’m lost in my world, busy tasting my freedom while flying. There’s a sweet old lady sitting on the bench, smiling at me. Nothing new. Lots of sweet little old ladies smile at me. It’s something they do when they see little girls.
I hear the crunch of gravel and turn my head towards the parking lot. I see my mother, in her black coat and scarf, walking with Granny, all white-haired, and my father is behind them, back straight, with hair of salt and pepper. They’re walking over to the benches so they can sit and watch me and my sisters. I don’t pay them much attention, and don’t mind that I’m missing what they’re talking about. It’s probably just boring grown-up talk, anyway.
I steer my attention back to my horse. It’s a lovely yellow, with a brown mane, and as I ride it I imagine it has wings and we can fly around the world together. As I go higher, I forget the world around me, and cannot see the real world anymore, just my own, pretend world.
There’s a little girl swinging next to me. And then suddenly I’m snapped back into reality.
The little girl gets off her swing and turns to me and says, “I’m going to go play on the monkey bars.”
And then she shocked me. “Mama.”
What? You mean I’m not four anymore? I look down at my horse, and for the first time notice how my knees are sticking way out in front of it. I look again at the smiling old lady, and this time I see she’s smiling because she is amused. I look over to Granny, and now I see her hunched back, and the difficulty she is having walking. And I don’t see my parents, since they are now over-seas. I don’t see my sisters either, because they’re all married with families of their own, each living in a different state.
In that instance, I could see the human life cycle hurtling forward, right before my eyes. Kids grow up. They get married, have kids of their own. Parents age.
Grandparents die. And the cycle repeats itself.
And life goes on.
A prayer flows through me, without my tongue even moving, like a silent stream over quiet rocks, “Ya Allah, give me the wisdom to treat those older than me with the compassion and respect I would want if I ever reach their age.”
Asiya lives in Virginia with her husband and twin daughters. She is an active MAS member, and enjoys homeschooling herself and her daughters.