My Daddy Bought Me Sneakers
My blue sneakers are not what I would’ve worn back in Yemen, but my daddy bought them for me to wear while I travelled. They helped me run through the Toronto airport. Living in Halifax now, I feel settled and successful, and I wear sneakers more often than high heels.
We fled Yemen and were travelling to Canada–myself, my husband and our three children. When we arrived in Germany, my daughter fell and broke her arm. My husband stayed with her while she received medical care, and I was to continue the trip with my son and my other daughter. It was my first time travelling alone. I tried to be strong.
In Toronto, I had to run through the airport to catch our flight to Halifax. I was wearing the blue sneakers Daddy gave me before I left. ‘Lucky,’ I thought. ‘They will help me catch the plane!’ Back home, I would have been wearing high heels. It’s hard to run in high heels.
My children were pulling in different directions—one wanted to go to the bathroom, the other wanted to stop and look at the shops. But we just ran. Even with all the running, my flight had already left.
I stood at the closed gate, holding my children’s hands, trying to catch my breath. I looked at the people rushing around me. I was in Canada. There was no war. I missed the plane, but I felt I was already home. I was lucky to be wearing my blue sneakers. I was lucky to have a father like mine.
Daddy was born in Yemen, but he got a scholarship to go to a university in Russia. He studied civil engineering and returned home wanting to improve the lives of the people. He became a manager, and he fought corruption. We never had much money.
Unlike many in my country, he didn’t like fashion or expensive, embroidered clothes. He used to polish his black leather shoes to look like new. “No need to buy new shoes since my old ones are still useful,” he would say. “The money I would’ve spent on the shoes can be used for the family.” He kept buying English books and learning English. When he saved enough, he bought a computer. He would wake up at three in the morning to learn it. At that time in my country, it was very rare to have a computer and especially rare to know how to use it.
Even about animals, my daddy was different. Many in Yemen didn’t care about animals, but every day, at the same time, Daddy would go into his garden to feed bread crumbs to the birds.
When there was no electricity, the airport and the embassies were closed, and I was waking up at night hearing the explosions, I could still find peace in remembering Daddy feeding the birds.
“We need to leave the country,” my husband said. My heart was broken. How could I say goodbye to my family? To my daddy, who, when he fed the birds, called them by my children’s names?
In Canada, I wear high heels only when I visit my friends from my country. In Canada, things are more plain. This is my style now. However, it doesn’t matter if they are high heels or sneakers, I want my shoes to be like my daddy’s shoes. Honest, hardworking, determined to help others. He gave me the blue sneakers, but his worn leather shoes gave me everything. I grew up independent and proud of who I was. Now, in Canada, I feel settled and at peace—and this means I’m successful.
Daddy, when I graduate from college and get a job, I will repay you. But for now, I bought a lottery ticket three times. Unfortunately, I did not win yet.
MAISA’A AL-ADOMI came to Canada from war-torn Yemen with her husband and their three young children. She misses her family and country, but she feels at home in Canada. Her favourite Canadian food is pizza and poutine. Her biggest dream is to study at the Nova Scotia Community College and then to work. She lives in Halifax, NS.