Yet I Was So Happy to See Him

Winters are cold in Latvia. The middle of December is the coldest time of the year. Weather gets colder with each day and riddles of icy snowflakes stretch out along the windows. Especially evenings and nights, they are a lot darker and frightening than they are in the summer. Children are dressed warm, layers of warmth. The jackets, hats, two gloves for a hand, and boots make them look as if they are covered in mountains of colorful snow.

A young girl, Jane Hawn, is ten years old. She lives with her mother’s parents. She has long dark black hair pinned together on top of her head, deep brown eyes, and kind innocent expression.

The house where Jane lives is right opposite of Daugavpils city council building and all the rest of the city. Jane’s house is a four level high building in an only apartment on the landing[1] of the first floor. On the outside the building is made out of large stone bricks and has a few almost unnoticeable broken lines which blend into the structure as if they are meant to be there. Inside of the building is dark, painted gray walls and old fading white ceiling.

The apartment has three rooms, one smaller than the other. Jane’s room is the largest of all. It is a rectangular symmetrically shaped box. However, it is not really her room it is just a room she lives in. And anyone could walk in this room to do something pleasing to their own needs.

In the room she has two vast bookshelves stretching along one side of the room that often made her wonder if she can ever read all of them and completely understand their creators. There is one European tilt and turn styled[2] window in the middle of a wall across the entrance into the room. Right in front of the window stands a brown wooden desk with three shelves on the right, they often get jammed in it. It was given to Jane by her father who once was also studying behind that aged rubbish table. Next side of the room has a bed alongside it and a small square shaped lamp is hanging as a suspension[3]; it is old although still beautiful, made out of crystal white glass that shines every time light is turned on. The last wall has a light switch that is too high for Jane to reach and every time she tries a chair has to be pulled up, and on the far left side a tall painted over and over in white coat door with hand crafted glass on the top half of it. Lastly, combination of white ceiling with three flower shapes bulbs of colorless chandelier in the center and light brown wooden floor with a long bewildered weave carpet complete soft, worm, and calm impression of the room.

On a winter evening, around six o’clock, Jane is home from school and soon founds herself in her room, behind her father’s desk doing her fourth grade math homework. Math is not hard for her at all and she loves solving problems and correcting mistakes. Nonetheless, she often daydreams, even when doing math homework, about being a teacher. She loves when her cousin visits; they play “school” together; student and a teacher. Jane pretends to be a math teacher.

 

“Miss Hawn, do we have any homework?” her cousin, Nicolas, asked.

 

“Yes, we do.” Jane says and writes it on the board. “You need to memorize all tables of multiplication and do numbers one to fifteen in your workbook”

 

Jane doesn’t need to be pulled out of daydreaming as her grandmother out of talking. Jane snaps out of it by herself and begins doing another homework problem that her math teacher has given to her.

Jane’s grandmother is very peaceful and quite woman. Her hair is light in weight and color with a few gray roots growing as fast as days are passing by. Sometimes she says too much, a lot more than needs to be said and has to be pulled out of talking by someone else. Also, often she asks the same questions again and again, and easily gets nervous. To Jane it seems strange that her grandmother is so nervous at home, but so calm and brave at her job. She works in the hospital as a nurse. People with deadly sickness, young and old are there. And the hospital is not for everyone, it is not a regular hospital, it is only for those who were really sick.

Jane is taken to the hospital, on one warm spring day, not because she is sick, just because it is close to a cemetery where her grandfather occasionally takes her to help him clean the graves of their ancestors. In the hospital Jane is only on the first floor where there is the least amount of sickness. Jane isn’t there long, though she hears a scream of a man that terrified her.

 

“NO! No! Ahh!” that man is yelling so crazy and it sounds so horrible and scary. As if he is a child and saw a syringe in hands of the doctor.

 

Grandmother tells Jane that this man’s brain isn’t working properly anymore and he has to be given a sleeping pill. She says that he took drugs before and now it is influencing him because he is an addict. After that day Jane never goes to that hospital again it is like a visit to the zoo.

While doing her math homework Jane hears a slight call out of the kitchen where her grandmother spends most of her time when she is not at work.

 

“Jane, honey, go on open the door your…” almost too politely with her gentle voice grandmother called out.

 

Jane without trying to listen to the rest of what her grandmother has to say runs into the corridor and right away hears a slight beeps of the car being closed Jane knows right then whoever is coming comes from somewhere not in the area because of the car.  All people in Daugavpils mainly walk to places and don’t use cars too often.  Soon she notices a sound of steps on the staircase that are moving closer to the apartment’s door.

 

“I know!” Jane yells out in the kitchens direction and as fast as she can she opens the two metal doors that are blocking her from her dad.

 

He lives in the building from the same courtyard; he is just twenty steps away from Jane. If he wants he can be with Jane all the time. He has his own business and doesn’t have to go to work as most of the people do early in the morning.

When doors are open and Jane is able to see her father she happily says: “Hi, daddy!” as if she sees something as wonderful as a huge thoughtful long-wanted gift which is impossible to get from this father. Soon Jane’s grandmother can be seen coming out into the hall and unpleasantly she says hello to her granddaughter’s dad. Jane’s father says hello too, but in a more excited way.

When observing this scene between two people she loves, Jane thought to her self as any child would “Why is grandma being so harsh with my dad, he didn’t do something bad, if he did I would know.”  In a few seconds Jane comes out of her thoughts and is sitting in her chair behind her father’s desk and listening to her dad.

 

“Jenny, do you want to go to the pool with me?” asks dad, “I will film you and then we can send it to your mom, would you like that?”

 

To Jane this idea seems so fantastic, so incredible that she forgets about her undone homework, about math, and loses her clear thinking in this dreamy event. Jane is so happy that she runs into the kitchen and with a great excitement yells out

 

“Grandma, grandma, can I go? I want to go! Can I? Can I?”

 

“Where do you want go? It’s already dark out!” asks grandmother with sarcastic and at the same time almost shocked look on her face.

 

“With daddy, to the pool! He said I’m going to swim and he will film me, and then we can send the tape to mom!” Jane screams with even bigger excitement almost on top of her lungs.

 

Before grandmother said another word grandpa shows up in the doorway. He always needs to be in control of situation and has interest in anything that happens in that apartment. He is very different from grandmother. He is loud and violent. He is tall and athletic, bold and proud, even with little hair left on the sides and the back of his head. He is standing in front of them in his gray shorts and they can see gray hair on his wide manly chest, like they always do. He is very demanding; everything needs to be perfect and done on time. He has some rules that everyone has to follow and Jane can always remember them as her grandfather says them in his insisting and angry voice.

“Take off your shoes! Go to bed, it is ten at night! Time to eat dinner! It is six in the morning wake up! Change your close you’ll mess it up!” he says that because he knows something is wrong and will not be right until he fixes it.

 

“What’s going on here? Where do you want to go?” he asks Jane very seriously.

 

“I want to go to the pool with dad; we are going to make a movie of me swimming and send it to mom.” She says calmly trying to hide her excitement emotions.

 

“No, I do not agree that she should go!” he is already talking to Jane’s grandmother and is not paying any attention to Jane. And he is on his way to see Jane’s father.

 

“Stepa, what are you thinking? It’s a school night, she has to do homework! She is not going anywhere with you!” says Jane’s grandfather aggressively.

 

“What do you mean she’s not going anywhere? She wants to go.” says Jane’s dad.

 

“I said no.”

 

“It’s already late to go anywhere. You can take her to the pool this weekend. She is going to school tomorrow.” Jane’s grandmother broke in trying to cool them down with her tender voice.

 

“Don’t tell me what to do with my daughter. She wants to go, she is going!” he made a ironic emphasis on “she is going” and smiled mockingly.

 

Jane’s father sounded lighthearted to her. As if it is a problem she can’t solve and when finds the answer laughs at herself and says “It is that easy!”

While listening to this fight between her relatives, Jane’s mind is empty and yet it is full of thoughts, scarce, and all kinds of emotions storming through her head.

 

“It’s not fair why can’t I go to the pool? What’s the big deal? I can finish homework after I get home from the pool!” Jane thinks to herself, she will never say this out loud though. “They are being so hard on me. I hate it. I don’t want to live here anymore.” Tears start rolling of her eyes and down on her father’s desk. Jane is shocked, lost and confused about these circumstances all she has left to do is cry and let her dad defend her.

 

Jane thinks that they will just scream at each other and then leave everything as it is. She is wrong, suddenly, she hears loud sound of the doors slamming, and then being locked she understands her grandparents will not let her go anywhere that night.

Jane, almost stopped crying when her dad starts “Jane, let’s go, get your stuff, your jacket, we are going!” dad said becoming more and more determined with each word.

 

“What? They closed the door. How are we going to go? Sniffing and whipping off tears from her face Jane asks.

Jane’s father looks around the room and shortly after looks as if a light bulb just lit up on top of his head.

 

“We will go through the window.”

Jane does not respond, she just collects all the things she needs for swimming. Jane is not frightened by the thought that she is going to have to go out through the window in order to get out.

 

“Your father is a grown man! He should have known better then to take you out that day and to jump out the window. God, what was going on in his head? He had to get his way; he wanted to do what he wants. Unbelievable! And why did you go? What, you needed that pool so much?” Jane imagines herself standing in front of her grandmother and listening to what she has to say.

“It’s time to go, it is time” Jane told herself. Fortunately or not the door in that room was shot and no one could stop what was about to happen. She took a full breath and let her dad put her on a wide windowsill and opened the window more broadly.

 

“Are you ready? Go ahead, jump.”

 

Jane looked down as if she did not know that looking down was going to make her more shaky and anxious. She looked fro a minute and stepped back doubting if what she was doing was right. She knew that it’s wrong to go, that she will not finish her homework after she gets back home, she will not get enough sleep, she still will have to go to school tomorrow. She was going to make another step back, but it was too late her dad said “Come on, let’s go.” She could not refuse to her dad, so she decided to say:

 

“No, daddy, I can not go, I am scared to jump!!!”

 

“Excuse me, can you catch her?!” he sees someone passing by the window and that person agrees so she jumps. It is not scary at all, but she can not say no to her father. It looks nearly as if he has taken advantage of Jane. Nonetheless, she can say no, she has a choice; she chooses not to use it.

 

Jane and her father both jumped and started walking on the long street from which a flowing river Daugava[4] could be seen and the other end opened a view mostly on the whole town.

Soon they got to the pool and it was not as exiting as it sounded at home. An hour of swimming lasted so long it felt like an entire day. Jane did not feel so happy anymore. She was realizing that she should have stayed at home. After it was over she went to changing room and was trying to change as fast as it was possible, she wanted to get home.

Jane came out into the main room right away after changing and rushed to get her jacket and find her father. While Jane was at that Stepa got a phone call. It was important Jane knew that by the look on his face. Stepa quickly walked up to Jane said he will call grandmother so she can come pick her up. And then he left, he was gone so fast Jane had a feeling he wasn’t even there.

Jane was left standing there speechless. She even went to sit down on the chair. Jane was sitting and thinking

 

 “How could he leave? What is so important? I do not believe it.”

 

It was so disappointing for Jane to see her father walk out the door and leave her. He dragged her out there, and now he is gone. Jane knew that the speech grandmother would give her is so truthful, so right. Only this time it was real Jane was not just imagining, she knew she is going to hear it. She cried this time not because grandparents were unfair, but because she was wrong and she should have used the choice she had.



[1] The level part of a staircase at the end of each flight of stairs.

[2] A window that can be placed in two open positions: swings in on two hinges like an entry door or tilts inward from top.

[3] Act of attaching something so that it hangs down.

[4] A river rising in the Valdai Hills, Russia, flowing through Russia, Belarus, and Latvia, draining into the Gulf of Riga in Latvia, an arm of the Baltic Sea


Comments:
 
frederic   frederic wrote
on 2/2/2010 7:59:18 PM
Jane Hawn is ten years-old, so she is inclined to be easily led by her father's strange idea and insistence to go to the pool. She is not likely to decide against it. As your title suggests, she is even glad to see him. We do not know the motive for filming her in the pool--if other than pleasing his wife. The grandparents are the caretakers, so Stepa should have heeded their wishes to leave Jane alone until a better time for the filming. This complex of details makes Stepa a very suspicious character, as though he is troubling his parents. I see this as on a line with Sherwood Anderson's "I Want to Know Why." So, it is a good story to the extent that you emphasize Jane's puzzlement.

MarijaT
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Synopsis
A child's memories of her father and their relationship. A small event from her life which opens her eyes to her father's nature.
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