My mother had the big bed in her room. She put my baby sister on that bed when it was time to change her diapers. “Watch she doesn’t roll!” she almost sang to me, saying it with the same lilt as if it were a nursery rhyme every time. I knew I was to watch my baby sister and make sure she didn’t roll off the bed for the few moments that my mother left the room.
This was also the room where I stood in my party dress with the stiff petticoat beneath its skirts. My mother’s room was for special things. The narrow closet held her dress-up clothes, the narrow sleeveless dress, a cream colored background, a burgundy pattern, a line-like texture.
This was the room my father was in one morning, in the bed by himself, my mother up long before. My father lies in the messed up sheets. He smells a little sour so I don’t want to get too close. He is happy. He is singing Hungarian songs and wants me to sit on the bed and listen. I don’t like this song he sings. It is sad and slow, but he likes it. The song lasts a long time. I wait and wait for it to be done so I can go.
When my grandmother comes she stays in this room. I walk in one morning and catch her only half-dressed. I laugh at this old lady in her strange bloomers. It is fun to see my grandmother like this. My mother comes in and shushes me and scoots me out of the room as if she were embarrassed.
The stairs that lead downstairs are narrow and steep. They have a brown rubber mat down the middle, covering the middle part of each wooden stair. My sister squeezed the hamster on one of the stairs while I was taking a nap. It was an accident. She didn’t mean to.
My sister has blonde hair and round red cheeks. She is my mother’s child the way I am my father’s. She falls off the tricycle that is mine. It has blue and white long plastic streamers attached to the handlebars and she falls off it and my mother spends the whole night with her because she has cut herself and it hurts a lot. My sister hurts herself often.
We re stuck in this house. My father brings gifts from his trips away. He brings presents that are like magic, sweet perfume from inside his suitcases.
My father teaches me to tie my shoes. He takes me to the bank on Saturday with a silver dollar that we give to the man there. I sit on the counter. He takes me to a house and we buy a blue bicycle form a man there and bring it home, my first one with two wheels that you have to balance on. My father reaches down to the ground and picks up a pale green leaf. He separates the nub in the middle and shows me how now it will stick to my nose. He says that’s what they did when he was little.
My father is home on weekends, outside, in sunshine. Sometimes he pushes a red wheelbarrow that only adults can pick up and push. It looks easy, but I have tried and I can’t do it. Just like I can’t put my foot on the shovel the way my mother does and get it to go into the ground. I show my father my somersaults as he goes by with the red wheelbarrow.
My sister stays near my mother. There is something a little bit wrong with them. I can tell it is my father that people like. I don’t ever want to be like my mother, the way my sister is: shy, they call it, quiet. My mother likes plants. She looks at leaves and birds closely and says their names. There must be something wrong with that. My father simply marches through the outdoors, taking it in with spirit and pleasure, enjoying the scent of the air.