A Daughters Homecoming
Publishing Date: 2/20/2014
Author: Saikrupa Chandramoul

                   




Isabella Palmer stood at her window. Unutterable sorrow dominated her thoughts. The tension of struggling tears which yearned for an outlet, was building up. For several years, she had been victim to a haunting sense of inadequacy. Being an only child, and having lost her mother almost the moment she was born, she had only known family to mean her father.

David Palmer, her father, was a resolute patriot. Having fought in the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, he took great delight in recounting tales of his heroism and bravery. Never once did he let exaggeration creep into his narrative. They were honest, straight out of his head, and gave him the pleasure of reliving every second of those glorious days. He honored America – her history and her growth, and he swelled at the thought that he had, in his own way, contributed to her noble past.

In 1975, David had returned home after the war, a handsome young man of twenty-five, and had been welcomed with admiration and reverence. In no time, he had become the heart-throb of Frisco, the little town that was his home. The men had flocked to him to listen to his stories and ideas, both of which portrayed wisdom way beyond his years. The women had looked upon him as a son that had brought them honor. The girls had watched from afar, infatuated by his youth and charm.

Just when everything had seemed rosy and secure, life had dealt him a hard blow, the first of many that would eventually catch up with him. His parents had died in an accident at a factory in the town. Their demise had left him shattered, and his hometown had become a cloister that held memories too painful to experience. And so, David Palmer had left Frisco, determined to travel, to keep moving on, far and away.

A decade later, he had seen nearly the entire world, and had written a handful of books. These books had given him the resources to keep his journey going. And then finally, he had found his way back to his own country. When his feet had hit the American soil after years of separation, the sense of homecoming that had surged through his veins had convinced him that he would be all right. He had begun working as a teacher in New York, and his charisma had once again aided him well. His warm nature and pleasant talk had become a favorite with his students. A couple of years into his life as a teacher, he had met Allison Sanders, the only woman who had managed to capture his interest. Her insight into life matched his own, and they had taken an instant liking to each other. They had no mutual interests; he breathed history, she talked marketing. But this did nothing to dampen the flame that had sparked up in his life after years of self-imposed exile from human civilization. If anything, their differences fuelled the fire, and before long, they had bonded well, befriended each other, and a whirlwind romance later, had tied the knot.

For the next five years, David had been the happiest he could ever have. Allison had rekindled the light that had long gone out of his eyes, and together, they had built a happy world that revolved around each other. The smile was back on David’s face, and the spring in his step had returned. He had even grown bold enough to visit Frisco, where old friends had welcomed him home. That was where he had learned that they were going to have a baby. Excited and nervous at the same time, he had gently persuaded Allison that they had to move back to New York.

Nine months later, Isabella Palmer had been welcomed into the world. David had barely managed to come to terms with his ecstasy at holding the little bundle of joy in his eager hands, when life dealt him the next blow; Allison Palmer was gone! Torn between fathering his little girl and grieving his beloved wife, David had relapsed into the melancholy that had once permeated his life, this time with greater vehemence. The years had flown by quickly, and Isabella grew up in a world that revolved around a grieving father. Father and daughter had occasionally traveled to Frisco. It had been on these visits to her father’s hometown that Isabella had learned about his past. She had always been an avid listener to his conversations with the veterans, and even though David had never openly accepted it, she had heard enough to conclude that, deep within, he nursed an unspoken regret that he didn’t have a son to keep his legacy of patriotic assistance to America alive.

Isabella was well aware that he doted on her and cared for her deeply. It was just those occasional times when he seemed to be in a faraway land that disturbed her. And then there were those times when she caught him looking at her with something close to pity in his eyes; or was it regret?

Gradually, she had grown to feel a bit inadequate, and had made regular efforts to win her father’s heart completely. Time and again, she had failed.

So she stood at her window that morning, watching the sun come up, as her tears came gushing fiercely. And then she heard them- the slogans and demands echoing from the road down below. She watched without really seeing as hundreds of people marched on, spreading the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’. In a flash it came to her, as the current of ideas in her head flowed swift and strong. She would do it, she decided. She would cover that last mile and make her father proud.

She spent the entire day indoors, reading up on the origin of the Movement, the demands of the people walking outside her door, their organization and their goals. She learned of how a fine line had been drawn to demarcate the wealth of America, of how it was all distributed unevenly, of the 99% and the other 1%, and of the increasing need for debt forgiveness for student loans. She read all day about the impact the corporate world had on American politics and the necessity of progressive taxes. And then the demand to end wars and bring their soldiers home by Christmas. She came to an abrupt stop, as she speculated her father’s reaction to this particular demand. The years he had spent as a soldier were undoubtedly the most cherished times of his life. She forced herself to focus on the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’. By sunset, she had gotten the hang of it. “Tomorrow will be another day,” she told herself.

The next morning, Isabella walked out her door with a cardboard sign she had designed. For one whole minute, she clutched it close to her heart, and whispered a silent prayer. Then she set off down the street. The protest for the day was just beginning. She caught glimpses of various signs and slogans on her way. Some of them were interesting one-liners like – “One day, the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich,” and “Hungry? Eat a banker.” Others were meaningful ones like “People over profit,” and “I am a human being, not a commodity.”

Isabella took a deep breath a raised her board. It said–
First they ignore us,
Then they laugh at us,
Then they fight us,
Then we win.

As she joined in the march, she felt a sense of harmony and unity. The hearts of all the people on the road beat as one. They were all one voice, one thought, and one soul. She realized then what it meant to feel that oneness with the country where she was born and the people that inhabited it. She became aware of the patriotism that ran through her, and was saturated with a sense of fulfillment. All day, she paraded with her fellow citizens, and whole-heartedly supported the cause that had brought them together.

Late that evening, she sauntered back home, tired yet exhilarated. David awaited her on their porch, and he was almost worn to shreds by anxiety. In that little gleam of time when his concerned eyes met her content ones, something clicked into place. A spell was cast, or maybe it was broken, neither of them knew which, but Isabella had gotten her heart’s desire. As David’s eyes shuttled between her expectant gaze and the slogan she carried in her hand, his heart beat, and almost burst with pride.

He thought of how imprudent it had been of him to expect anything less of his girl, his little girl. She was his daughter through and through, and today, she had stood up for her people just as he had, several decades ago. He had employed his muscles, and she, her mind. With a rush of fierce pride for her, and repoach for himself, he pulled her into his arms. His legacy had been passed down, after all. Isabella Palmer finally had what she wanted the most in the world – the light in her father’s eyes was back.



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