When All of This is Over

A family, sent from their home by the horrors of war reside in a refugee camp and long for the days when all of this is over


1. When All of This is Over


“When can we go home?” the child asked quietly tracing pictures in the dusty earth.

“When all of this is over,” his mother replied, rocking the hardly moving baby gently in her arms. The baby’s once chubby cheeks were hollow and had barely enough energy to open its eyes. The child continued drawing pictures in the dust, thinking about home. When this is all over, he could go home to their little house and play underneath the towering tree with the branches which soared towards the heavens with all his friends who lived nearby. They could play tag and hide and seek and play tricks on one another, laughing and shrieking until their mothers called them home as the dusk began to paint the skies pink and orange. He hadn’t seen his friends in a long time now.

“When will we see Daddy again?” the child then asked, looking at the four figures he had drawn. One of the said figures, far surpassed the rest in stature, close to it there was a medium sized blob with stick hands holding a very small blob in its arms. The final figure stood between the two, grasping their stick hands in his. The young boy did not notice how his mother stilled and closed her eyes momentarily, a brief, silent prayer passing her lips.

“When all of this is over.”  When this is all over, Daddy could come back home- the little boy smiled at the thought. His father would hoist him up onto his shoulders and run around the yard until Mum scolded them with a small smile on her face. Then they would all go inside to eat, smiling and laughing as the day slipped away into night. He would help his son tie his shoe laces and fix his shirt collar, telling him how he was a great little man, that he would make them all proud. The child was proud of his father, who always stood so tall and straight, whose laugh was the loudest and richest. He was very proud of him when he went off in the army truck, dressed in a soldier’s uniform like so many other fathers, uncles and brothers. He hadn’t seen his father in a long time now.

“When can I go back to school?” When could he go back to that big classroom with brightly coloured posters on the wall where the smiling teacher praised his work and only scolded him when he and his friends played little pranks. Where with a pencil gripped between his stubby fingers and tongue poking out in concentration he learned how to form letters and numbers, where all the children chanted out rhymes, the alphabet and sang songs.

“When can I see Grandmother, Grandfather, my aunties and uncles?” The ones that always gave him treats and kisses whenever his family came to visit. Those wonderful visits where Grandmother cooked them all a special dinner and afterwards, the little boy would be left feeling deliciously full. He hadn’t been full in a long time. Grandmother would sit him on her knee and tell him stories about magical places and of a world from long, long ago. Grandfather would join in telling these fantastical stories sometimes, but others he just sat in his chair and listened quietly. He hadn’t seen any of them in a long time and Mummy sometimes got upset when he asked.

A high-pitched wailing started from another one of the tents and the young boy shivered. He didn’t like it here. Neither did his mother who gripped her baby ever closer to her chest.

“When can we leave this place Mummy?” This horrid place where people were always crying and people were always dying. This place where the dust cloaked every possible surface and tried to climb inside you to smother you and to choke you. This place where you must queue for hours to get a drop of water, a bite to eat, to see the doctor, who always seemed to be shaking their head and looking at the other doctor with an indescribable look in their eyes.

“When all of this is over,” his mother replied, each and every time the questions were asked, growing wearier and wearier with each time he asked. When bombs stop raining down from the sky, threatening to obliterate anything that crosses their path. When the soldiers carrying the menacingly heavy guns and who have been dehumanised by their uniforms, lay down their weapons and remember that this war must stop, that innocent people are dying. When the people can go anywhere they may like and not feel or be threatened because of their race, religion or political opinions.

“When will all of this be over?” the child asked suddenly, gazing up at his mother with wide, expectant eyes. His mother stopped and glanced out the tent flap, the woman who she had stood in line with at the medical centre was wailing over the small bundle in her arms, cursing and bemoaning her loss. She stopped and thought about her son’s question. What was the use in lying to him, telling him that it would be over soon - he was no longer a child. There are no children in times of war. She used to reassure him that soon they would be back home in their small house and his father would be there waiting for them. Grandmother and Grandfather would be there too and Grandmother would have cooked a feast fit for the kings who featured in the stories she used to tell while the young boy listened in awe. That was a lie. ‘This’ was getting significantly worse with each passing day. And yet how could she turn to her own child and tell him that their house had been blown to kingdom come, that Grandmother, Grandfather and his father have probably been dead for months?

“I don’t know. I don’t know if ‘this’ ever will.”

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