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The Perfect Coffee Pot

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There are so many things I have seen already, sometimes it’s overwhelming to imagine how many I will remember by the time I’m old. I wonder if my brain is like my closet, and it has to throw away some old stuff every now and then just to make room for the preferable, nice, new things. I hope that it’s more like an empty shelf, collecting infinite amounts of dust and things as time goes by. It’s hard to believe that there are some things in my mind at this very moment that won’t be there someday. There are some things that might have never happened. [intro]
I know I’m only 16, but there are some things I just can’t remember, even now! I don’t remember the first time I talked to my best friend, my very best friend. I don’t remember all the words to the songs I loved so much that I printed out the lyrics and push-pinned them to the wall next to my bed, just so I could look at the words while I hummed myself to sleep. I don’t remember every first-day of school outfit, but I remember there were a lot, and each one was crucially important, for some reason.. I don’t remember ever being told that I was “too young” or “wouldn’t understand” or any of the things people seem to think happens to 16 year olds nowadays. There are a whole lot of things I already can’t remember, but there are a lot more I can’t imagine forgetting, like this one time, with my dad –
Well, ever since I was in fourth grade, I’ve been helping him go from grocery store to grocery store, picking up donations for this soup kitchen across the bridge. (By “helping,” I mean attempting to lift huge boxes of bagged bread and bananas and whatever they had into the minivan, failing, and being told that I was “helping” anyway.) I was always a little scared of the soup kitchen. Just the way some of the people there would look at us would make my face turn red. I was never sure what the people there thought of people like us – people who came to help. People like us. I thought they might hate people like us for having what they didn’t. And I don’t know why, but I have always felt strangely affectionate towards people who talk to themselves. There were a lot of those. There were some who couldn’t stop pacing, up and down the lines of tables, over and over again… The ones that yelled scared me.
But then there were some that made me so happy that they stuck together that it made me sad. I remember there was a couple that always sat alone at the edge of a table in the back. At some point this family from Afghanistan started coming in a lot. My dad had gotten to know the father somewhere in the lines for food, and over time we met the rest of them. They had three girls too. Nargis, Marjan, and Arezoo. They were almost parallel to me and my sisters (I was a little younger than Nargis, and Anya was a little older than Arezoo. Mikaela and Marjan were both in the middle, so it didn’t really matter how old they were). They had an older brother too, probably around 20. They just called him Q. Their mother, Aneesa, would give each of us a kiss on both cheeks every time we saw them. Aneesa. I don’t remember her talking much. Mostly she’d just smile – a conservative, maternal beam that told us quite clearly that she would say something very nice – if she could think of anything to say.

We used to go over to their place all the time, dropping off whatever practical secondhand item crossed our path we thought they could use – and that was most practical secondhand items. I remember the biggest thing we ever gave them, that we were all so excited about, was my aunt’s old computer, complete with a working keyboard and a brand new mouse pad! But that’s not the part of this time I remember most.
Every time before we climbed the three flights of chipped stairs to their room, my sisters and I would examine every item we had that we thought might be desirable to our corresponding child. Since our parents looked out for their parents, we looked out for them. We scrutinized every stuffed animal, every box of colored pencils, every My Little Pony, Polly Pocket and Beanie Baby, and wonder if we were willing to give any of it up. Turns out, we managed to find something every time.

We loved looking for things to give because we knew they would be just as excited as we had been, when they were new to us. But the best place to look for presents wasn’t our bedrooms – next to the transfer station on Spurwink Avenue, there was the source of my childhood glee – locally known as the Swap Shop, it was a place you could find almost anything, anytime, and take whatever you liked! I remember it being the high point of my week when my parents asked who wanted to drop off our bags of trash and recyclables with them. They never forgot our incentive. “The rule is,” they would always remind us, “you can’t take something unless you bring something.” I remember hours were spent deciding what precious toy or game would be sacrificed. I remember once, my sister walked out with a stuffed dragon, unaware that it was the same one she had given up at the last visit.
I remember, one day we went in there to search and scavenge for whatever we thought our friends could use. While my sisters and I looked at masking-taped boxes of Connect-4 and Candy Land, and varying sizes of trolls with varying neon-colored hair, my dad was, of course, looking out for the Abandazas. He had accumulated a growing stack of practical appliances, as well as books he couldn’t resist a third copy of. He put a perfect coffee pot on top of the stack. I kept hearing him saying “This is great! They’re going to love this! This is perfect!”

This is the part I remember most.
I went back to the bins of used toys and figures. Then, out of nowhere, I heard the shattering. I turned and saw the shards of glass and plastic from the handle spread on the floor like splattered paint. I could see what happened, I could just visualize the coffee pot sliding off the book’s hard cover. And I saw my dad, toaster and Tolstoy still in his arms. He saw what he had done, raised his eyebrows in pure surprise. It kills me every time I remember how...just how sorry he sounded, too much like a kid for my dad to sound when he finally vocalized the shock of his minuscule and heartbreaking mistake: “Oops!”





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