I drove through the grids of cottonwood-lined streets in our Fremont neighborhood, where people who’d never shaken hands with kings lived in shabby, flat one-story houses with barred windows, where old cars like mine dripped oil on blacktop driveways. Pencil gray chain-link fences closed off the backyards in our neighborhood. Toys, bald tires, and beer bottles with peeling labels littered unkempt front lawns. . . . I drove the Torino up the hills of Los Altos, idling past estates with picture windows and silver lions guarding the wrought iron gates, homes with cherub fountains lining the manicured walkways and no Ford Torinos in the driveways. Homes that made Baba’s house in Wazir Akbar Khan look like a servant’s hut.
In his early twenties, Amir spends long hours alone, driving all over the San Francisco area. He describes the variety of houses and neighborhoods, comparing them, both favorably and unfavorably, to his previous home in Kabul. Some of the estates he drives past show the immense wealth of some Americans. Even though his father had been well-off, his fortune was nothing compared to what he sees here. Amir goes on to say that after two years, “I was still marveling at the size of this country, its vastness.”
They filled the parking spots at the mosque in Hayward. On the balding grass field behind the building, cars and SUVs parked in crowded makeshift rows. People had to drive three or four blocks north of the mosque to find a spot.
Baba’s funeral is held at the mosque in Hayward. Amir’s description of the huge volume of cars shows how popular and well-respected Baba was. So many people come to the funeral that finding a parking space is quite difficult, but people are willing to walk a good distance to honor Baba. Baba had become a pillar of the community in San Francisco. Many Afghans knew him from Kabul and respected his life and work from that time. New acquaintances in San Francisco soon saw how hard-working and upstanding he was. Amir explains that as he shook the hands of the mourners, most of them had something good to say about some way that Baba had helped them, either in Kabul or in San Francisco.
A few months later, we used the advance for my second novel and placed a down payment on a pretty, two-bedroom Victorian house in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights. It had a peaked roof, hardwood floors, and a tiny backyard which ended in a sun deck and a fire pit. . . . Khala Jamila bemoaned us moving almost an hour away. . . oblivious to the fact that her well-intended but overbearing sympathy was precisely what was driving Soraya to move.
Baba and Amir had been living in Fremont, California, in a small apartment in a blue-collar neighborhood. After Soraya and Amir married, she moved in with them and tended Baba until he died. Then she and Amir moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Fremont, a few blocks from her parents. The house and the Bernal Heights are a step up from where Soraya and Amir had been living, evidence of his success as a writer. The distance from Soraya’s parents’ house also shows the couple’s growing independence.
Soraya had turned the study upstairs into a bedroom for Sohrab. She led him in and he sat on the edge of the bed. The sheets showed brightly colored kites flying in indigo blue skies. She had made inscriptions on the wall by the closet, feet and inches to measure a child’s growing height. At the foot of the bed, I saw a wicker basket stuffed with books, a locomotive, a water-color set.
Amir has just arrived home with Sohrab. The care that Soraya has taken to decorate the room shows that she welcomes Sohrab as part of the family. She knows the importance of kites to Amir and Hassan, and now to Sohrab, as evidenced by the bed sheets. The growth marks on the wall indicate a hopeful expectation that Sohrab will stay with them and thrive. The basket of books and toys seems to be a way to help the boy regain his lost childhood.
A half-dozen kites were flying high, speckles of bright yellow, red, and green against the gray sky. . . . Another half-dozen kites had taken flight. . . . The green kite hesitated. Held position. Then shot down. . . [t]hen, just like that, the green kite was spinning and wheeling out of control.
Amir, Soraya, and Sohrab are in a local park at an Afghan New Year’s Day / first day of spring celebration. The sights, sounds, and smells are like the festivals the Afghans held at home. When Soraya points out the kites in the sky, Amir buys one. Although Sohrab doesn’t help Amir fly the kite, his attention is riveted to it, and he stays close to Amir. After a few minutes, Amir realizes that “the glassy, vacant look in his eyes was gone.” Flying the kite has become a bond between them, as it was with Amir and Hassan. After Amir cuts the string of the green kite, he notices a small smile on Sohrab’s face.