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CHAPTER 6 (page 48 & 49)
Here is what I do on the first day of snowfall every year: I step out of the
house early in the morning, still in my pajamas, hugging my arms against the
chill. I find the driveway, my father’s car, the walls, the trees, the rooftops,
and the hills buried under a foot of snow. I smile. The sky is seamless and
blue, the snow so white my eyes burn. I shovel a handful of the fresh snow into
my mouth, listen to the muffled stillness broken only by the cawing of crows. I
walk down the front steps, barefoot, and call for Hassan to come out and see.
Winter was every kid’s favorite season in Kabul, at least those whose fathers
could afford to buy a good iron stove. The reason was simple: They shut down
school for the icy season. Winter to me was the end of long division and naming
the capital of Bulgaria, and the start of three months of playing cards by the
stove with Hassan, free Russian movies on Tuesday mornings at Cinema Park, sweet
turnip _qurma_ over rice for lunch after a morning of building snowmen.
And kites, of course. Flying kites. And running them.
For a few unfortunate kids, winter did not spell the end of the school year.
There were the so-called voluntary winter courses. No kid I knew ever
volunteered to go to these classes; parents, of course, did the volunteering for
them. Fortunately for me, Baba was not one of them. I remember one kid, Ahmad,
who lived across the street from us. His father was some kind of doctor, I
think. Ahmad had epilepsy and always wore a wool vest and thick blackrimmed
glasses--he was one of Assef’s regular victims. Every morning, I watched from my
bedroom window as their Hazara servant shoveled snow from the driveway, cleared
the way for the black Opel. I made a point of watching Ahmad and his father get
into the car, Ahmad in his wool vest and winter coat, his school bag filled with
books and pencils. I waited until they pulled away, turned the corner, then I
slipped back into bed in my flannel pajamas. I pulled the blanket to my chin and
watched the snow capped hills in the north through the window. Watched them until
I drifted back to sleep.
I loved wintertime in Kabul. I loved it for the soft pattering of snow against
my window at night, for the way fresh snow crunched under my black rubber boots,
for the warmth of the cast-iron stove as the wind screeched through the yards,
the streets. But mostly because, as the trees froze and ice sheathed the roads,
the chill between Baba and me thawed a little. And the reason for that was the
kites. Baba and I lived in the same house, but in different spheres of
existence. Kites were the one paper thin slice of intersection between those
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