It didn’t take long for the new routine to establish. Gage was working with Badr on his talking skills while Almas and I focused on potty training Brava and Biff. I noticed that Almas hardly ever spoke of her job or the children she had to work with. she was always tense when she came home, and dragged her feet when leaving for the school. It wasn’t hard to tell that she hated her job.
Early one morning, as I lay in bed trying to get the joints to move smoothly so I could get up I heard Gage whispering with Almas as they lay in their bed.
It’s so hard Gage, I don’t understand what they think I can accomplish with the boy
I’ve seen the lab reports Almas, it might get far worse as he gets older, how much longer do you have to work there with him
One, more month. The scientists really think he’ll get worse?
Yes, I’m sorry …. I …
You don’t have to be, you weren’t the one who …….
My foot bumped the easel and Brava called out ba-ba, if there was more to be learned it wasn’t going to happen that day, my sister still was keeping secrets from me. Why? I thought we were beyond that after our last deep conversation.
While the twins slept and Almas and Gage were at work I helped Badr with his talking. There wasn’t that much left to teach him since Almas and Gage had already taught him so much. I decided that since he had two of the toddler skills down perhaps Almas wouldn’t mind if I started him on walking, that is if I ever got more than 30 seconds to do anything. Keeping up with four little ones was a big challenge. He was getting so heavy like his brother. Baako had gotten so big I could barely lift him anymore perhaps he was almost old enough for school as Almas had said.
Gage talked across the room to Almas as he read a book from work, while Almas was playing with Baako. “I don’t know why I wear myself out at work, we both know I won’t make the top before my 50th birthday. I’ve already seen several younger technicians get promoted to a spot I wanted.” Almas just said mm-hm in response. She had brought a book home with her as well so I didn’t understand why she wasn’t trying for a promotion as well. So I asked her, her response was to point at Baako and say “the month I was made to promise is up, he will be able to start school in the morning.”
She looked around the small room that was our home, “Gage when you get a moment please move the highchair closer to the fridge.” “Ok” he responded from behind the book.
No sooner than Gage had moved the chair than Almas placed a leaflet bundle like mine in the spot and then lay down for a nap. I understood, Baako was going to need a place to sleep soon. None of us could build him a bed, nor were any of us … scratch that …. nor was Gage able to bring something that big or heavy home from work. The science lab would notice if a bed was missing.
I heard Baako from behind me as I ate my soup “I’m going to bed now”. That was a shock, I felt my heart speed up then slow way down …… after a few seconds it went back to its normal rhythm. One thing was sure, I decided as I looked over my shoulder and told him goodnight, he had our mothers pointed ears.
When the school bus failed to show up in the morning Almas said that they must have declared it unsafe for the buses to use the roads. She told Baako to play with the chess board and that one of us would play with him in a bit. If Baako was upset by the change in plans on what was supposed to be his first day of school he didn’t show it.
The days trundled by, what was supposed to be just one snow day blended into a weekend, and then into several months. Between the three of us adults we quickly got Brava and Biff potty trained. We noted that Baako was getting good with the chess set.
He managed to break the chamber pot it took Gage several hours to fix. Almas was determined that Badr would finish learning how to walk, which he did faster because he was watching everything Baako got to do now that he was a big kid.
Then when I was trying to clean up some soup dishes the basin broke and Gage had to fix that as well. When he was done he announced that he was glad it had broken because he understood how to use the tools a little bit better now.
We had gotten used to everything being so crowded. Almas and I agreed that we hadn’t noticed how cramped things were when we were growing up because we could play outside during the day. Something her children couldn’t do at least not for long since the snow was known to be toxic to people.
In what felt like the first moment of calm since Baako had been born, Gage sat down with Baako to play chess. Baako asked Gage all kinds of questions about the world outside of our little shelter, he was especially interested in knowing if there was anything tall for him to climb on.
One afternoon we heard Brava squealing and giggling. When we looked over we saw Baako was playing peek-a-boo with her. I nudged Almas with my toe, “you remember” I asked her. Her eyes glazed for a moment, she smiled wistfully “yes, and sometimes we would play in the garden” she wiped the hint of a tear away from her eyes and went back to teaching Biff how to talk.