Sundays Are For Calling Home

Sunday mornings are for calling home. I can recall waking up to the sound of my father yelling into the landline as he speaks to his friends and family in Ethiopia. He discussed life back home, and how his children would never be able to comprehend the challenges the faced to get here. They discuss how life in America is difficult, but necessary, if he wants to insure a better life for his daughters. And that one day he hopes to go back home and live a simple life, funded by his Americanized children. As he sits on the couch amused by the stories he hears my mother fills the air with the smell of a traditional Ethiopian breakfast: firfir, chechebsa, and quinchey. Working harder and harder to create a meal that connects her to a land she left years ago.

And as my parents used Sunday mornings to capture a remnant of their homeland my sister and I try to block the sounds and aromas of the unknown place with the television loudly playing the cartoons and disney shows we had come to love. For us Sunday mornings were about laughter as we tried to surround ourselves with people and media that made us feel warmth and understood. Even with this fun, my mother made sure that she came into our room early enough to yell at us for not getting ready for church. Reminding us that in the time that we were watching television she had cooked breakfast, cleaned the kitchen and ironed her church clothes. And while many hated the procedure of waking up early for church, for my family it was the perfect escape from the laboring task of making it in America.

Sundays were for listening to the sounds of Mesfin Gutu permeating our Toyota Corolla as we made our way to church. Where my sister and I would create games to make the time go. Where my mother and father talked of their plans after church: if they would visit the sick man, or have dinner with friends, or visit the new mother and her baby. We drove 45 minutes from our home in Maryland into Northern Virginia for a church service with people who spoke and looked like us. And my family never complained. These long car rides were necessary. The price we paid for a couple hours of friendship and solace.

And attending church was a revered task. A couple hours immersed into a world that did not exist outside those walls. Where hundreds of Ethiopians, from varying ages and backgrounds gathered to praise God, regardless of their current circumstances. A space where I could congregate with other children of immigrants to eat, play, and worship in a language that was our own. Where I found my tribe of children that knew what it meant to be Ethiopian American in a world that did not know how the two could intersect. A tribe that understood the concept of being too Ethiopian at school and too American at home. On Sundays I was me amongst young people who had a shared lived experience.

Sundays are special because it was the day my parents could shed the exhaustion that was the American hustle and fill themselves with a home they longed for. Sundays were the intersection of home and America. A day when I could immerse myself with a language and a culture that spoke to my parents’ heart, while acknowledging that Monday would be different. Mondays were days I woke up to a world that did not understand my parents, or respect their contributions to society. But that did not matter on Sundays, because on Sundays they were understood. On Sundays they were seen.

Sundays were a time of reflection. Reflection through phone calls to relatives reminiscing of the past and that of a spiritual need to look back at how God had taken you out of your hardest circumstances. Sundays felt like the embrace of the promise of tomorrow while acknowledging the work you and your family put in the past. Sundays smelt like buna and firfir, a hefty meal to prepare us for our long day at church. Sundays felt like beauty supply lip gloss and tulle skirts that flew in the wind as a younger me ran to greet her friends. Sundays were communion and companionship. A day to congregate with others who have left home to make a life in America. A day where our parents could speak in Amharic freely amongst their friends and discuss the politics of a land they fled. Sundays were the days they called home.

And now, I am in my twenties and the childlike chapter of my life is closed. Today, Sundays are for brunch and self care. But I can never forget the beauty of Sunday mornings in my parents’ home, a nostalgia that mirrors that of my parents’. And in a world that reminds me of the hustles I must make as the child of immigrants Sundays provide me with the solace I need to carry on. Sundays are hectic, reflective, comforting and sanctified. But most importantly, Sundays are for calling home.

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