This I Believe

Ajla - Wylie, Texas
Entered on April 23, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Many find the meaning of life so far down the road that they run out of time to act upon it. I’m one of the lucky ones. The catalyst to my epiphany occurred when I was three years old. I believe in the power of smiling.

It was dusk, a thin sheet of dust crunched between my toes as I tried to wiggle them around and help the small clumps of dirt escape the jaws of my white, plastic sandals. The ends of my toes where crusted with hardened drops of dark red blood. As a child I had this tendency to push my toes out farther than my sandals; always reaching for more; always stretching. I tugged gently at the corners of my crumpled white t- shirt, another bad habit I’d acquired from God knows where. My fingertips brushed gently against the cool, jagged brick wall, as I peered into the dark concaves of our garage. Seated on a plastic crate was my father. My eyes darted to the vivid red of the tomatoes that were portrayed on a yellowing and peeling advertisement that lay glued upon the crate. A tomato so full and ripe I’d never beheld! Surely this tomato was meant to be trapped within the compartments of my dreams, that’s just the way life was, that’s the way the war was; lacking in ripe tomatoes. Nevertheless a deep rumbling still issued from the depths of my stomach as my eyes continued to wander back to that pathetic, little, peeling scrap of paper.

The quiet whisperings of my father averted my attention back to him. Sitting across from him was the recipient of his words; my brooding uncle. Another “talk”, coming directly from so-and-so general or so-and-so mayor, was taking place in our dingy garage. These “talks” weren’t meant to be heard, especially by my father’s daughter. But I did. I heard the horror stories of women who were raped to death and children who become the morticians of their parents.

Fear was born in that garage. Hot, sticky fear that glued my being to that wall, forcing me to listen to the soothing voice of my father, a man who sat in a dingy garage on a plastic crate that advertised life pre- war, tell the chilly tales of the massacred.

Reality came crashing around me, as I was engulfed in a cloud of exhaust emitted from a screaming gray helicopter. Hot, frightening, jolts of fear stabbed at my heart, and numbness overwhelmed me. The shrill cry of the air siren could be heard distinctly in the distance as my father grabbed me to quiet my screams. He looked me dead in the eye and slightly smiled. I stopped.

It’s funny how the smile of one man can melt away the terror brought by war. My father’s smile offered a false outlook on the actuality of our situation; however, that smile saved my sanity during a time when one was lucky to get out alive. I believe in the power of smiling.