A Children's Story
Entry by: CalleToledo
7th August 2015
We sleep under the same moon.
Kemi kneeled on her bed, peering outside and pondering. When she felt particularly sad or happy – particularly anything, really – she used to position herself in that spot and watch her neighbour's birds. The cage looked like the block of flats near her house, tall and grey. Kemi counted the colours: two yellow, three green, four silver and one red and orange. Ten birds; one for every finger or every toe. Every bird sang a slightly different tune, but they all flew together. Oh, how she wished they were free.
It was the last day of the summer holidays. She'd enjoyed playing with friends and cooking with Mum, but the most wonderful part was something else: for the first time ever, she had spoken to her grandparents on the telephone! Kemi's grandparents live in Nigeria, in Africa, far away from Kemi's house in London. Before, they sent letters, and Kemi had seen photographs and heard stories. But now she could hear Grandma's giggles and Grandad's kind words every time she looked at the frayed photographs. That night, Kemi went to sleep with the telephone, listening to their voices.
The next morning at school, Miss Khan said that there was a very special day coming up. “Next Monday, you can all bring a grandparent or an important older person into school!” The children nattered away excitedly.
That evening, Mum tried to reassure Kemi as she cried into her soup. “Kemi, don't worry, you won't be the only one without grandparents coming along. Plus, you can take all your photos and letters to school!” But Kemi felt sure that she'd feel terribly lonely on Monday. She longed for her friends and teacher to meet her grandparents.
Monday arrived. Kemi felt like running out of the classroom when she saw everyone sat in a circle on the carpet, their grandparents grinning on chairs behind. She nervously joined them.
Kitty was first to speak. “Here's my grandpa! I love listening to his stories and drawing pictures with him.” Kitty's grandpa reached into his pocket, chuckling to himself, and pulled out a pink plastic ball. “This is from the ballpark where me and my friends, Nigel and Umar, used to take our grandkids when they were little tots.” He scruffed up Kitty's hair, lovingly.
Roshi was next: “This is my grandma. We like feeding the ducks together.” Roshi's grandma held up a torn brown book. “Grandma can't speak English yet. She says that this is the first book she ever read. It's very precious.” The children were fascinated by the writing, which looked so beautiful and so different from English.
After that came Raul. “My grandma and grandad live far away. This is Mike – he reads with me at the library.” Smiling sweetly at Raul, Mike said: “I brought along this pen because I like writing stories.”
The last child before Kemi was Tania. “This is my friend Noor from my mosque. Sometimes she gives me sweets even though Mummy doesn't usually let me!” Noor laughed lightly and nudged Tania. Then, she held up a plant: “My garden is where I go to think.” Kemi's eyes lit up. That's like me! she thought, when I kneel on my bed and watch the birds.
Now it was Kemi's turn. “Hello everybody... my grandparents live in Nigeria. I have some things to show you so that you can imagine them.” She held up a photo and then she reached for an old letter, only to find she couldn't read her grandad's curly writing. Her wet eyes looked like crystal.
All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. In walked Kemi's mum! “Why don't they introduce themselves?” she said, revealing a laptop. On the screen, waving, were Kemi's grandparents! “Hello there,” they said. “We live too far away to come, but we'd like to send all our love from Africa.” Kemi felt her eyes sparkle with joy.
Miss Khan had organised two different activities for the afternoon. First, everyone sat in the school kitchen and shared their favourite foods. The older people taught the group how to make their special dishes. Everyone listened carefully to Kemi's grandparents' secret family recipe. Finally came the best part – the tasting! Kemi tried Roshi's grandma's pakoras, Mike's apple crumble and her grandparents' special dish, coconut rice.
Afterwards, with bellies full of food and love, everyone huddled in the library and told stories. Chen's grandma told a traditional tale about an ancient hero. When the people were struggling under the heat of ten suns, the hero shot down nine – leaving us with the one we have today.
“What a wonderful story!” said Kemi's grandad. “It reminds me of a saying from my country: if you don't agree with the phases of the moon, climb a ladder and change something.” Kemi's grandma added, “Thank you all for sharing, we've learnt so many new things this afternoon. We may be far away, but tonight we'll all sleep under the same moon.” Kemi looked at her grandparents with pride, and imagined a blanket made of moon, covering them all.
That evening, feeling particularly happy, Kemi kneeled in her favourite spot to watch the birds in their cage – but they weren't there! She looked up at the moon. Flapping in front of it, brighter than ever, flew ten coloured birds.