Longing for Songs


So instead of writing something of observation, I’ve decided to include an assignment I recently received. The objective was to find a picture in the US National Archive and write a 500 word fictional story about it. Here is a link to the picture I chose (takes a few seconds to load):


Here is my story.

Longing for Songs by Jessica Mardis

(Copyright May 2013)

I cannot sleep. Nervousness and excitement dance like the meadow grass in my dreams. My little sister and I will be visiting home tomorrow. Many sunsets have passed since we have seen our mother, our Shi ma, and Ate, our father.

I close my eyes trying to picture Shi ma. It gets harder and harder to picture the little wrinkles around her eyes when she smiles. Her hair is long and dark and sways as she sweeps the floor of our home. Will she remember me? Will she recognize my eyes, my smile? My little sister, Liluye, Hawk Singing in our language, has trouble remembering. She cannot remember the sky where the hawk sang her name on her birth morning. I sing her the songs that Shi ma sang to us while happily cooking our daily supper. Singing helps her remember our Shi ma’s voice and the gentle way her hair moved in the evening breeze.

The white teachers reprimand us for using our language, so we speak it in secret. We cannot talk about our Shi ma or Ate. Ate is a strong, proud man. He did not laugh much, but when he did it sounded as if the sun was laughing. He cried when the white men took us. That is the only time tears have dripped from his eyes. We screamed for Ate and Shi ma as the white men carried us away. They promised our parents they would educate us in the white man way; that we would be better for it.

The white man way has only made us miss our home. We are forced to wear gray, stiff clothing. The clothes restrict us from dancing. They do not like it when we dance in the way of our people. The beautiful beads that we had made with Shi ma were taken and burned. Our clothing, made by many hands in our tribe, full of color like the sun waterfall, were also burned. I can no longer remember the word for sun waterfall in our language. I have learned that sun waterfall is a rainbow. I remember our word being more beautiful.

Besides clothes, they also took our identities. We are no longer allowed to use our given names. I am now called Samantha. Liluye is called Judith. I like our given names better. Mine is Bina, musical instrument. They say Ate played the flute as I was birthed into the world. As my mother cried in joy, I sprung forth singing the flute melody my Ate played.

I long for the songs of our people. Will they remember us or will they treat us as strangers who wear the white man’s clothes? Will they understand us with our language tainted by the white man’s words? I will sing them the songs our Shi ma taught us. They will remember us, Bina and Liluye, their daughters. They will remember us. At last, sleep claims me into tomorrow.

No Helicopter Landing Permitted

An alarming trend is becoming more prevalent: helicopter parents. As an college academic advisor, I am seeing more helicopter parents landing in my office. To my dismay, the prospective student sits there wide eyes as the parents ask ALL of the questions about why they should go to school here and what the program is all about. As the parents start activating their helicopter blades, I turn to the student, stare right into their doe eyes and ask why they want to go to school there. Some look at me like I am speaking another language, others look to their parents to answer.

This is very perplexing and worrisome. Many contribute this to parents wanting the best for their child’s success. But the key phrase is “their child’s success”. It’s not the parents’ success, but perhaps many do base their success on their children. Since it’s the child’s success, shouldn’t the child be the one in control of the steps to get there? Shouldn’t the child define their own success?

I have had countless conversations with students who say they would rather be studying music or art, but their parents are forcing them to be a business major. Who is really ending up successful in this situation? The child who longs for a different path, but follows the one dictated by a parent? Or the child who follows their passion, but may struggle financially? What’s your definition of success? Is if fair to apply your definition to others?