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8 4 Although Maria has grown quite a bit after a few years, all she can see when she looks through the living-room window is the snow on the barn roof. She would have to push a chair to one of the windows high up in the thick wall to see the snow-covered road.The sun is shining and the room is bright. Grandmother comes stamping through the door with snow still on her shoes, which quickly melts into little puddles. From her sturdy apron she tips oak and fir logs into the basket behind the big iron stove. Maria feels the floor, the bench, and the table shake. With a hook Grandmother opens the stove door and throws wood into the red glow. Maria sees the flames licking. Her sister Gertrud is playing with their little brother Willi, who is crawling on the floor and ruffling the dog’s coat. In a wicker basket on the long bench lies her youngest brother. He tries again and again to raise his head. He is called Nikolaus, later nicknamed Klöss. Only Maria will call him Nikolaus later. Maria picks up her doll from the windowsill. She has made it herself from a piece of cloth. She wrapped the cloth around her fist, tied a strip around her wrist, and then pulled her hand out. She stuffed another piece of cloth inside the pouch, pulled the strip tight, and made a doll’s head. With needle and thread she sewed on eyes, a nose, and a mouth.The loose ends of the cloth are the arms and legs. She lays her doll in the wicker basket next to her baby brother. Grandmother brings in potatoes, beans, and some bacon. Quickly Maria runs to the door to close it. The cold has to stay outside. Maria opens the largest of the small oven doors so that Grandmother can place the bowls in the small oven chamber to keep warm. All at once there is an appetizing smell in the room and Maria hurries to clear the table. Grandmother wipes it clean and Maria goes with her to the cupboard in the hallway. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 8 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM The Stories They Told Me 9 Grandmother hands Maria the plates with the cutlery on top. Maria sets the table. She is suddenly very hungry. She goes to look for her parents. In the yard a path to the barn has been shoveled clear; the manure heap has disappeared under the snow except for the dung from yesterday and this morning.The barn door is wide open and Father and Mother are standing opposite each other threshing. Rye sheaves lie spread out in two rows, the ears pointing inwards.Again and again her parents raise the smooth handle of the threshing flail and drop the swingle down on the ears rhythmically, two-strokes. Father has made the flail himself on the chopping bench. Hubert and Elisabeth’s faces are red from exertion. When they glance toward Maria without interrupting their work, the child points her finger to her opened mouth: Time to eat! Mother nods her head. The parents turn the sheaves over and carry on threshing until the ears are empty. Then they shake the rye straw thoroughly so that all the grains fall out and gather it into a corner of the barn. Later they will use it to bind the shorter sheaves of wheat, barley, and oats. Mother stretches herself. Her back aches. Father sweeps the grain and chaff into a pile. Dust swirls up. Hens run between his legs and peck greedily. Mother comes out into the snow, wearily takes off her headscarf and shakes it out. Father also shakes his jacket. They go into the house with Maria. They all sit down at the long table and make the sign of the cross. Willi, who is a toddler, sits on Mother’s lap. Father, Mother, and Grandmother move their lips very quickly for a long time while Maria watches them attentively, then they cross themselves again and begin to eat. Father insists on order at table, as the children well know. They sit quietly without fidgeting or talking. Maria props her feet up on the dog, who is lying under the table with his head on his paws.After giving thanks, Maria helps Grandmother with the dishes and then she sees to Gertrud, who has pushed a chair up...


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners of war -- United States.
  • Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.
  • Prisoners of war -- Cuba -- Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
  • Afghan War, 2001- -- Prisoners and prisons, American.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
  • Khan, Mahvish Rukhsana -- Diaries.
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