A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
I could picture myself as a mother. The children and laundry. The sacrifice. The teaching. I could picture myself at a sink full of dishes, my hips bones pressed into the counter. I could see the bare nails, never painted. Always a bath to give. Always a plate to wash. The names my mother and I discussed, would they be used? Or would I come up with new ones by then? It was a clear and certain future. A satisfying one. I had already accepted the extra weight that would accumulate on my thighs from finishing the children’s leftovers, trying not to waste food. How else should I spend my life?
There is a sweater of my mother’s that I wear often. It is light blue with smooth wooden buttons. The cotton is soft and retains her scent.
In freshman year, I brought the sweater to college. I wore it to class paired with sweatpants and rain boots. Sometimes paired with jeans if it felt right. One time I slept in it. The next morning a girl who lived in my hall needed coffee creamer. I handed her the cold, plastic container. Before leaving, she told me that I looked like Mary.
“It’s just so maternal,” she added. “The blue with your dark hair.” It made me feel whole. As if all the things I was reaching for–motherhood, a family–would one day be handed to me.
What is the opposite of motherhood? Of family? Of children? Is it unbruised hips? Is it one stack of laundry instead of six? In the past few months I’ve tilted in this direction, indulging in the thought of developing stories instead of kids. Bathing in the excitement of traveling instead of settling down.
“Do you have your heart set on being a grandpa?” I asked my dad.
“Mom, would you be heartbroken if I didn’t have kids?”
But there is a middle ground. A terrain in which I am living abundantly, not worried about my future identity. My identity is now.
I finished the book yesterday, shuffling through the beautifully crafted sentences, slightly envious of them. The last sentence bulldozed me. I stared at it, read it over and over. It is a story in itself, I thought. A poem. Then, like a hiccup, a laugh popped out of my throat.
Thank you, Khaled Hosseini, for taking me to Afghanistan, for introducing me to Mariam and Laila. Thank you for showing me the height of womanhood. For reminding me of life’s abundance. For describing motherhood in such an irresistible manner. Khaled, your book A Thousand Splendid Suns calmed me. I feel peaceful. I no longer reach for a certain life. My life does not have to be aligned in a certain direction. I can point and elbow and look and acknowledge so many different directions.
And I don’t know how love will change me. You made me see this. You taught me to be open to the potency of love. Like Laila and Tariq. A friendship. A profound understanding of the other, manifested in the most gentle of acts.
After memorizing the last line, I closed the book feeling satisfied and whole. Then, draped over my shoulder, I noticed my dark hair against light blue cotton.
I want to leave you with my favorite quote from this book (besides the last line which would be a HUGE spoiler if I typed it).
“She had this laugh. I swear it’s why I married her, Laila, for that laugh. It bulldozed you. You stood no chance against it.”