23 March 2012

Short Story : When Mom Wanted to Sell the House

By : MAMAT SASMITA                                                                  Sundanese Version 
Translated from Sundanese into English by Josephine Natania.

Going home after school was not the activity I looked forward to anymore. I was reluctant to go home. It was very different with my friends who were very excited, like my classmate, Revi. She almost jumped out of the class when the bell rang. She got a seat with small space in the public transportation, but it did not matter for her as long as she arrived at home. She mentioned that there were two new kittens in her house.
            In these two months, there was no longer homely atmosphere in my house. The yard did not look cheerful. No, it was not the rubbish. The yard was still clean and swept well, but the flowers in pots were gloomy.
            It had been 2 weeks since my mom stuck a sign made from a piece of plywood on the ground in front of our house. “House for Sale. No agent. Call 08xxx” was written on it.
            I was startled by the sign. House for sale?
            A few days later, Mom finally told us that the house would be sold and we would move from here. That was the only explanation. I was confused. Why the house had to be sold and why we had to move?

I dared not to ask, either to Mom or Dad. I was afraid of being punished. I noticed that they snarled at one another and it was almost two months that they never ask each other again. They only asked for important things. However, I did not see them fighting. All this time, I never saw Mom and Dad being angry of each other, even more fighting. I did not know whether they were ashamed of fighting in front of the 10-year-old child or it was only about the matter of ethics.
It seemed that Mom and Dad spoke words as many as what could burst out of their mouths. What was strange was that they became silent all of a sudden when I appeared in front of their eyes. Dad then would go out to the yard to sweep the garbage while Mom would move into the kitchen. The next thing I heard was the sound of plates washed. It always happened on Sundays, since they worked on weekdays. I stayed at home only with Bi[1] Saroh, a middle-aged woman whom my parents helped.  

When Ua[2] Uyuh visited us, he talked seriously with Mom. I was there among them actually. Ua Uyuh had different action towards me. He stroked my hair and hugged me.
“Just play outside. It’s an adult talk,” Mom spoke. I went out and met the other children who were playing at the yard. However, I overheard Ua say, “Don’t be reckless. It’s the child who will be hurt. Think it again.” I did not know what he meant.   
It happened again when we visited Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Once more I heard, “Don’t be reckless. It’s the child who will be hurt.” It was Grandpa and Grandma who said that this time.

Well, the fact could not be denied. Here I am, a girl of 10, a 5th grader. There were adult talks that I could understand now, but still there were other things that bewildered me.
Everything that parents did was surely connected with their children, in this case, it was me. So, I think they should have told me.
I was the only child my parents had. I should have had a brother, but Mom had a miscarriage at several months of her pregnancy. After having a USG test, it was found out that the baby was a boy. She cried sobbingly as we carried her off to a hospital. I was 5 at that time, still a kindergarten student.       

            I found the “House for Sale” sign was very disturbing. Many questions from the neighbors, many strangers to come. My friends asked me too about that, especially my boy friend, Heri, whose house was just 4 doors from mine. He truly often asked about the house.
            Even when he came to play at my house, he would stand in front of the sign and said, “I hope each day pass and this sign is still be here.” I asked him what he meant by saying that. “If this sign is still be here, it means that your house hasn’t been sold, and it means Rere hasn’t moved.”
            Rere was my nickname. My full name was Rainy Ramadhani. Dad explained to me that I was born on the month of Ramadhan and it rained at that time, so that was the history of my name. At home, I was called Rere. It came from my name’s abbreviation, R R (/r/ as in the word ‘rain’) and then read that abbreviation from the back.
            Dad took off the sign but Mom stuck it again. She hit it the nail with the street-side stone since she could not find the hammer. Maybe Dad hid it.
            Sometimes she brought two or three big used card boards when she came back from her office. “For packing stuff,” she answered shortly. The board were stacked up and bound with a rope in the kitchen.

            The thought of having to do a house moving was not a nice thought. I felt so lazy to do that. I surely had to move from my school too.
            The thought of having to leave Ade[3] Ira made me even harder to move. She was a child’s neighbor, yet she was really close to me. Whenever I was back from school, she liked to rummage my bag to search for a book. She liked me to read the story for her. Her house was a very next door to mine. So when I was walking home, she had been ready to block my way or she had played at my house along with her mom.
            Ade Ira was a cute little child. She still spoke with a lisp but she had often asked many things. Because of her lisp, she called me Tet Lele. I knew what she meant was Teh[4] Rere. When I was doing homework, this little girl joined with me, but she was not a disturbance. She even frowned as if she had thought deeply too. When she saw me finished doing the homework, she looked so happy as if knowing that I would read a story for her.
            I could imagine that if I had moved from here, I would have parted with her. There would have been no one waiting for me at the doorway. Ade Ira would have asked about me too. When school was on holiday, I usually stayed in Grandma’s house in Cicalengka. I coud not imagine that Ade Ira’s mom would have made a phone call just to ask me to tell a story for her daughter.
            The story I told her was only about a mouse deer and a tortoise. I only remembered three stories of them and which were in the book. The stories were certainly remained the same. However, Ade Ira was so fond of being told a story by me although her mom also did the same for her.
            We had been living here for 8 years. That is what Mom said. We lived here since I was 2, the same age as Ade Ira now. There were many memories in this house that I remembered. One of them happened when I was in the 1st grade. It was a rainy season. One day, I watched TV and without my notice, a small bull frog came into the house. The frog jumped merrily and the next thing I knew it was near me. I shouted loudly and wham!! My forehead knocked a chair. I shouted again.
            Mom and Dad hurriedly came with anxiety drawn in their faces. I showed them the frog while my other hand rubbed the hurtful forehead.
            Dad sent the frog out with the broom made of bamboo mid rib. Because I had not stopped crying, Mom took a look at my forehead and rubbed it softly. Then she gave a traditional medicine - a mixture of rice pound, Kaempferia galanga L., and water - to the area where it was swollen. I finally slept in her lap.
            There is another funny moment. It was early in the morning and I still slept in my bedroom, when suddenly I heard Mom shouting. My dad, who practiced the dawn prayer, also lost his concentration. I got out of the room, decided to take a look what made she was so noisily banged the door. I thought that there was something bad happened. It was just ….. a worm actually. When the door was opened, Mom quickly burst out of the bathroom with her body was still covered with foams.
            I always laughed when I remembered that silly moment. Mom also laughed at herself,       
moreover Dad who really enjoyed teasing Mom about that. She explained that she was afraid of worms because of having worm disease when she was little.

            There was one more thing that made me so hard to move. Every Sunday evening, I liked to go to the mosque to follow Qur’an recitation. Every time I went there and then went back home again, Heri always gave me a ride with his bicycle. Our friends teased us about that. They said we were a perfect couple. I was really annoyed when I was teased like that. Yet, I felt something missing if I went to the mosque and came back home without Heri. So we were still on the same ride together.

            Heri was at the 1st grade of junior high school. He was a tall boy with curly hair and dark skin. He used to be my schoolmate in elementary school. We took the same school bus too. I felt lucky to have a friend like him. He was patient and good in teaching, so I often asked him about my school lessons. In elementary, he always got a rank and was one of the brightest students. Mom also had a good opinion about Heri, “It’s good to have a smart and good friend like him.”  One day, in the celebration of Indonesia Independence Day, I got a role in children folk theater, so did Heri. In that play, we were husband and wife. Our friends, for sure, yelled and whistled at us.
            There were so many moments, so many sweet memories in this house that I would not ever forget. The memories of the jumping bull frog, Dad with the broom, the spot where my forehead bumped at.
            That stairs… the stairs heading to the place to dry the wet clothes… I remembered I liked to sit at its step to daydream.
            That footstool… He liked sit there while taking a look at the books. It was a habit of him to look at the encyclopedias of Indonesia or science book series when he came here. It was Dad who bought those books in order for me to read when I was older.
            Here, in this spot, I used to play trading game when I was a kindergarten student. I remembered Mom warned me about my bad habit of doodling the wall near the bathroom with marker pen.   
            Now, the fact said that this house would be sold and we had to move somewhere else. I thought maybe Bi Saroh knew the reason, so I tried to ask her. Nevertheless, she did not know why. Instead she ordered me to ask Mom or Dad by myself. The answer that I got from Mom was, “If you’re getting older later on, you will understand.” and from Dad, “Just ask your Mom.”  

            Their absurd answers did not give a clear explanation to me. I could not insist Mom to tell the truth. Why they could not give an answer that a girl of 10, almost 11 would understand? It was not that I wanted to know all adult’s problems, they were confusing. But, it was a house moving! I should have known the reason.
            I also had a pity on myself. The final exam would start soon. If I moved to a new school, I would be confused and I knew nobody there. How if there were lessons I did not understand? Who would I ask to? Heri was no longer near me. Dad did not explain the lessons clearly because of considering me a college student who knew everything. It was useless to ask Mom, because she was so fussy and I would only be annoyed as a result.

            This morning, I saw Mom having washed her hair. She dried it with a towel while waiting for me to take a bath. Just before she went to work, she grabbed the “House for Sale” sign and threw it into the garbage can.
            I could not believe what I had just seen for seconds. Then I ran into her and embraced her. We would not move! I cried for happiness. Dad, seeing me crying, said nothing and stroked my hair.     
            So when I went to school this morning, I felt so excited.  The reluctance was suddenly gone. I wanted to meet Heri as soon as possible to tell this good news. No, I did not need the reason why the sign was thrown away. Happiness was all I knew.

[1] Aunty (often used to address a maid in the house)
[2] A term of address to older brother of father or mother 
[3] A term of address to someone’s younger than the speaker, especially to a little boy or girl
[4] A term of address to an older girl

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