I miss everything about school, even the two-hour walk to get there. I spend my days helping my mother while my sisters play. Staying busy keeps my mind off my hunger. I listen to school lessons on the radio when my dad is not home.
Today, I overheard my father, saying that he might not let me go back to school. My older sister was married at twelve. I'm just 11; I have dreams of becoming a teacher. I need to go back to school.
I'm worried about my younger sisters. I'm scared for myself.
My teacher, Amina, comes to my house with two men I have never seen. They bring with them a box of food for our family.
My mom takes me and my sisters outside to get water.She says, "Let's stay out here for a little while; they need to speak with your dad."
The three spend a long time talking to my father. I wonder what they are talking about.
Dad pulls me aside to tell me, "I have excited that you will be returning to school." He continues, "can I see you teach some math to your sisters?"
I'm quite excited as I explain the wonders of numbers to my sisters. Even my mom and dad decide to participate.
I believe I will become a teacher. Finding that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, I eat my piece of chapati and dream about my future.
We are home all the time. It is not easy. I try to keep up with "distance learning," as my teacher calls our lessons on the computer, but sometimes I get distracted.
Nico and Felipe, my little twin brothers, cry a lot. It drives papi nuts. He gets angry and yells at mama. I hate it when this happen.
Mama says that papi is worries about his business. She tries to comfort me with "Everything will go back to normal, and we will be fine once this is over." I hope she is right. My family is not itself anymore.
The next day I'm distracted when my grandfather calls. I'm fearful he will hear Nico and Felipe crying, and Papi's loud voice in the background. Grandpa asks, "What's wrong, Gaby?".
I can't stop myself; I tell him that my parents are stressed and fighting a lot. The twins cry constantly. I don't bake with my dad anymore. I miss the smell. I miss walking under the Jacaranda trees with him while I share my school stories and eat our freshly baked cookies.
Grandfather says, "Gaby, I have an idea for your class project. Why don't you write the story of how these days have been for you? I'll help with your writing, and you can do the drawings."
"Your Grandfather called," Mama says. She hugs me and whispers, "Your Dad and I would love to see your story."
I finish reading it to them, and they sit in silence. Papi leans over to Mama and says, "I'm sorry" and gives her a big hug. He turns to me with a large smile on his face, "Gaby, why don't we bake cookies?"
Singing and baking, I feel like myself again. Finding that warm and fuzzy feeling, I decide to share my story with my teacher and classmates in my next lesson.
It's been a couple of weeks since we started learning from home. My teacher made sure I brought my books and things home, including my violin, before the school closed. It's been hard. Grandma has been very sick.
I can see my parents are worried. I'm worried as well. We can't talk or visit grandma. I'm very sad. I'm struggling to express my feelings and don't want to bother my parents.
We live in a small apartment, but I still feel very alone. I'm not myself.
We get the phone call that Grandma is gone. Just like that. I didn't get to say goodbye.
Mrs. Rossi, our next-door neighbor, calls: "I heard the news, Alessandro. I'm so sorry." I stay quiet, note sure what to say.
Mrs. Rossi continues, "Don't forget your violin, Alessandro. In these times, you can express yourself through your music." I mumble a thank you for the call and hang up.
I look at my violin for a long time and finally pick it up. Playing, I start to feel relief as tears roll down my cheeks. My parents are watching me, smiling.
My parents tell me that grandma always loved to hear my music and that I should go out on our balcony to play for the sky.
I step out early evening and start playing. To my surprise, other neighbors come out and play their instruments, and people begin to sing.
I feel like myself again. Finding that warm and fuzzy feeling, I hope grandma can hear my music.