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Volume 2, Issue 3
Autumn 2006:

Aida and Anna

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Autumn; 2(3):a7

Two Take Flight
Photographer: Barry Penchansky
[Larger Image]

From where I relax at the desk in my upstairs office, I can see them sitting together on the swing in our backyard: two young girls wedged side by side on the wooden seat, each holding on to one of the heavy ropes hanging from the branch of the ancient silver maple that towers overhead.

Heads down, arm in arm, wisps of long coarse black hair lifted by a slight breeze, they glide back and forth in the warm spring afternoon on the swing that I made for my oldest daughter on her birthday years ago.

At first glance, they could pass as sisters, with their black hair, dark eyes, and brown complexions. Although Aida is a year younger than Anna, both are beginning to blossom into young ladies. I smile as I watch them, imagining what they might be talking about as they sway lazily back and forth, giggling to one another.

My wife introduced the two girls to each other sometime ago. She knew each of their families separately. One, former neighbors of ours, Iranian immigrants; the other, new neighbors down the street, Cuban immigrants. Both families came to the United States in search of a better life, away from the political and religious oppression in their countries of origin.

We've helped them out from time to time. Once, when Japhar's car broke down across town coming home from grocery shopping, we spotted them the money to pay for the tow. My wife babysat their three children for a while when his wife found a day job. She also helped Pepito out when he brought his new bride over from Cuba, arranging to matriculate his stepdaughter in the local elementary school.

Somehow it seemed only natural for Aida and Anna to meet. They got along splendidly, as children often do when their parents aren't around. That is how the two of them have come to enjoy a quiet moment together on the swing in our backyard this afternoon.

Several years ago I watched a piece on the evening news, how a journalist had arranged for some Jewish and Palestinian children to meet. Over time, the two groups bonded together in spirit, despite the wide gulf extant between their ethnic and religious backgrounds. Later, the two groups splintered apart, unable to hold up against the cultural pressures of Middle Eastern society.

As I watch Aida and Anna swinging together outside my window, right now there are no barriers between them. Persian and Cuban, Farsi and Spanish, Muslim and Christian — labels that, at this present moment, seem to matter little if at all.

I think about what the future will hold for the two of them; I wonder if their friendship will survive.

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