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A Flower Blossoms

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My mama always told me, “Yutika, never be afraid to be who you are.” I never have been until now. In our language, my name means flower. The English translation is Lily. Before my mama died, she would give me a flower to put in my hair almost every day. I wish she were here now. Tomorrow is my first day of school; tomorrow I get to meet other boys and girls the same age as me for the first time. I am very anxious.

I grew up in a hut my daddy built with my brother and two sisters. We live in a place with a few trees and a stream that flows into a pond. There are not any other houses until the village. It is almost three miles away, and I have never been there. In my family, I am the oldest. The year I turned seven, was the year my mama died. Now that I am almost eleven, I am expected to act as the woman in our house. This means that every day, I take care of all the housework: cooking, cleaning, washing, watching of my sisters and brother, and sometimes helping in the fields. My daddy heard that a school would be starting just two miles south of where we live. Every day, I will walk with Lahar, my brother; my little sisters are too young to go. Books are being sent from America. The name sounds weird on my tongue. In India, girls aren’t supposed to go to school. My daddy is sending me to take care of my brother, and he knows it is important that I meet new people. He wants me to be educated, so that I may do well in life. Not ever have I met another child other than my brother and sisters. I have seen them from afar, I just have never spoken to them. Now, as I lay awake, I wonder. Will they look like me? Are they going to like me? My brother remains awake too. He can’t sleep because of excitement, but I can’t sleep because of worry.

My daddy’s gentle shake awakens me. It is still dark, but I wake Lahar, for I know we must start walking. I have a vague idea of where we are going, for I have been there before. The grass is soft and padded beneath us. My daddy is over in the grove of trees with my siblings. My mama and I lie beside the pond filled with lilies, staring up. The scene is exhilarating. The light from the shining moon bleeds through the delicate canopy of leaves. I hear birds and the rustle of leaves as a faint wind blows. I wish I could stay here forever, surrounded by everything I love. This is where my school will be, only this time, it will be different. There will be children, and books, and someone there to teach us. Lahar skips on ahead of me. We will be there soon, I can already feel the moistness in the grass. The closer to the pond we get, the softer the ground will become.

I can see people now, and faintly hear voices, as we near the trees where I spent that night with my mama. The boys are gathered in one circle, and the girls in another. Lahar runs off, eager to find new friends. I cautiously make my way toward the girls . I notice that they do look a little like me, all with dresses, long black hair, and deep brown skin. One girl, about my age, makes her way over to me. She tells me her name is Jayan. Before I learn more about her, the woman who I think may be the teacher, summons us over. I think she may be from America. She does not look like us, but seems very amicable and smiles a lot. One by one she will call us over to talk to her; in the mean time, we can mingle.

I talk with Jayan for a little; well, mostly she talks and I listen, but I am still scared. Being around all these new people is frightening. The lady points at me and motions me over. Warily making my way over, I look back and see Lahar showing off surrounded by a group of boys, and Jayan giving me a look of encouragement. The lady sits on a rock by the pond, I sit beside her. She starts talking, but I cannot understand her. I just look on with wide eyes. I say something in my language, and she smiles, nods, and begins to speak again. Although she is not from around here, she is fluent in our language almost perfectly. She asks me my name, my age, and where I have come from. When I tell her my name is Yutika, she takes a flower from the water and places it in my hair. I smile and my nervousness fades. I think I might like school.





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