A gift

 

 

This story is about worthiness and that is something that I still struggle with today, a residual effect of domestic violence.

2014 Idaho

Tears stung my eyes and a flood of emotions seemed to make a steady barrage on my senses. I stepped outside and down the walkway marching, sighing and feeling indignant at the thought. It was hard to contain my anger and now tears fell into a steady stream until I finally sobbed.  Shame, guilt and confusion overrode my logical mind.  I felt betrayed and sickened, it was wrong and strange and there was nothing I could do about it, nothing.  I looked once again at the box that had been pushed onto the front porch and felt a tinge of calm take over. It was a fancy coffee maker complete with milk steamer and accessories.  I would find a simple and kind way to return the contents but I wasn’t sure exactly how. I had cooked for this family member that was all, it was nothing.  Why would he buy me such an expensive gift and how would I explain to myself that I was worthy.

Riyadh 2007

The kids gathered around me and held out boxes wrapped in bright colors with bows. I was shocked and unsure and saw him glance our way. They told me that they wanted to do something special for me and so they had come up with a plan that included gifts and making lunch. I continued to monitor his gestures as he sighed and gave a chuckle. I opened the package carefully removing tape and ribbons slowly, savoring each moment.  It was as if for that brief minute I was a real mom, entitled to love and affection and even gifts. I smiled and hugged each child as they clambered to smell the fragrance of this set they had personally put together. The basket containing special lotions, perfumes and body wash was organized neatly and wrapped with a pink ribbon.   A second parcel lay on the counter, a large piece of paper that had been covered with a delicate layer of tissue, topped with a tiny bow. I gently removed the outer layer and looked at the contents. A poem and picture including hearts and flowers had been written and designed by See See. I read it over silently and hugged her telling her it was perfect. The little ones grabbed my hands and drug me to the dining room where eggs and toast lay on the table.

It was a joyful day and although he skulked in the background it appeared that he had accepted this little celebration, forgetting his unwritten rule that no gifts would be given to mama.  Later that night he held the paper and words that described me as a mother, faithful, loving and amazing. He picked up parts of the gift basket and looked at each label, turning them from side to side. Finally his silence was broken and he laughed holding the paper in hand looking as if he would tear it in half. “This is who? Who? Your mother? “He laughed until he could no longer breathe and threw it down onto the bed half rumpled. “Look ya See See do not ever ever give anything to mama without my permission, NEVER!”

And so I smile

Riyadh 2006

Her smile had faded and stringy hair had been cut into one even line, but it was obvious she still existed. No modern styles were allowed and like the children, she would be summoned to sit in his chair and wait for scissors to chop and shape until this task was complete. Her skin had wrinkled and bits of grey washed through a dirty blonde but there was no mistaking, it was really her.  A red shirt hung loosely over her chest and spots of bleach dotted her pants. The space was noticeable but only with a wide smile which could easily be avoided.  It had been years, even decades since I really looked at her in the mirror.

His job ended and once again he would stay at home for 12 months looking for the perfect employment opportunity. Offers came and went but none were at the standard that he had become accustomed to. He held a U.S. passport which entitled him to benefits and a salary that were in line with his status. His frustration built with each passing day as he slept till noon, drank tea with friends and walked through the house making random inspections.

The balance that was kept when he was working had now come crashing down and although money had been saved and was plentiful, it was not to be touched.  The boys were at University, children needed immunizations and our teeter totter balance could not be disrupted. Eating and drinking had become difficult and avoiding the fractured tooth that hung precariously was no longer possible. It wiggled and moved sending shooting pain along a rugged path that ended only to be agitated more frequently. One last warning was given and an offer to see the dentist. He was of course the best provider and always thought of his family first. I nodded my head in agreement, handing him the pliers and a tissue. He placed his hand firmly on my head and gripped the jagged piece of tooth ripping it loose.

Blessings

The past few months have been spent working on my book, sticking to the usual routine and spending a great deal of time with Osama, Jacki and the precious ones. They have made several visits to our home and we have been there as well.

In January Jacki surprised Osama with a night out for his birthday and a sleep away at a posh hotel. We were called upon to spend the night and watch our three adorable babies. It was great fun and we were thrilled to be a part of the surprise. The kids were here this past weekend as well and as usual it was lovely chaos!

One of the favorite activities at ma’s house is a ride around in the desk chair.

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     Chair for watching t.v

Aunts love to play dress up!

Princess Alayna enjoys a quiet moment

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Blessings Love Family Blessings Love Family Blessings Love Family Blessings 

 

 

Welcome home

Riyadh 1993

Events of the night before slowly drifted back, the crunch of dead cockroaches under foot, leaving the airport and walking into a rush of hot blustery air and driving aimlessly through the same neighborhood numerous times.  Each and every street looked the same, an open garbage dumpster positioned in a vacant lot, empty pop cans, plastic bags and remnants of shwarma sandwiches all lay strewn in piles that scattered the street.  Ferule cats snuck in and out of the make shift landfill, eyes glowing in the dark, skulking stealthy, looking more like predators than harmless felines. Workers stood rag and bucket in hand, dressed in ratty pants and shirts, scarves draped around their nose and mouth to filter out the dust and sand that swirled endlessly. They waved, flagging down cars in hopes of making a few riyals. Saudi boys kicked footballs, stirring up dust, their thobes ( long garment worn by Saudi men) hiked up and tucked haphazardly into their surwals (pants underneath a thobe) making it easier to maneuver during a routine game.

It appeared that each and every block was interchangeable and he had no more knowledge of this area than we did. A long line of cement walls with metal gates that enclosed tan colored villas looked to be one unit. He swerved in and out of traffic, looping around and back again to the same neighborhoods, stopping to peer momentarily at the vehicles lined up near the curb. An exasperated look crossed his face and sighs of irritation gave way to words uttered under his breath. After several attempts he finally smiled and said “Abu Abudllah’s truck”(downstairs neighbor and owner of the villa).  He parked the vehicle and exited to open the large rusty gate that stood in front of yet another row of impenetrable walls enclosing block like cement homes.

The van that had been borrowed from a Saudi friend was fully equipped with a/c, luxury seats and a small television.  He pulled out into the street and then backed into the parking area. An empty carport stood before us, hundreds of dead cockroaches lay on their backs, evidence of a recent fumigation in preparation for our arrival. One lone palm tree waved in the intermittent breeze struggling to grow among the concrete of this enclosure. I smiled and sucked down a wave of panic, thinking to myself that surely this was not the place we would call home. After all, I had paid my dues, had been the perfect and dutiful wife for ten years, living with bits and pieces of old furniture that Saudis left behind when returning home, had converted to a new religion and followed it to the letter. I turned away from my old life, singing jazz, pictures and friends. I told my parents that no gifts were allowed for holidays and did not resist when he announced a chosen name for each and every newborn.  It was a slow current that drifted away from autonomy and veered toward total lack of control. But this move to Saudi was the ultimate sacrifice and I was sure this time things would be different.