After my realization, I calmly cut bits and pieces of hair so that I looked presentable. I took a quick jump in the shower to remove the excess hair stuck to my face and hands. I remembered once again who I was, a mother, a wife and the person who had to hold this all together. It was fine I told myself, I had a momentary set back and everyone does at some point in life. I left the bathroom and went to greet my children. Luckily they were busy with homework and playing so my outburst was not audible to anyone unless they were right next to me. I had learned to hide my feelings and forge on.
The boys sat in front of their duftars (notebook) scribbling the alphabet in Arabic. They complained as children do, about homework, when the work became too much I convinced them to stop and take a break. The girls were busy playing and giggling and making up their own games, the sleeping pads and blankets were made into amazing castles, a mighty fortress that no one would cross. The house was once again back on track, I sat with my little baby and nursed him to sleep. A calm came over me as I realized I was very lucky, I had these 5 healthy children, a home to live in and what seemed to be a safe place. I focused my thoughts on things to come and felt a pleasant relief. I didn’t quite know how I had gotten to where I was at that point, I only felt that I had failed and must try harder.
When he arrived home that night he didn’t notice my short, uneven hair instead he asked why I was not my usual chatty self. I explained that this trip meant allot to the children and to me as well! I told him it was hot, no a/c and no furniture. I reeled off a list of complaints and watched guardedly as he took it all in. Much to my surprise his face was calm and even relenting. He talked about his work and how it was not what he had pictured, he was trying to save money and move some day to a compound where everything was provided. A family of this size was a huge responsibility, he had to be careful, not frivolous. I listened to his reasoning and felt my anger turn to guilt and embarrassment. He explained that his brother’s salary for many months would be equal to the cost of a new stove or couches or any one of the things on my list. I sat and thought and although I had heard this same speech many times, I felt a certain connection to it more now than ever. I dropped my complaints and felt a new surge of energy to “make do” and try harder.
The next day things were better, he spoke of moving to a nicer place, something new, a good location. He brought home a television set and a new pan for cooking! Things were looking up. He offered to take me out to the store and waited in the car with the kids while I shopped. I picked out things that the kids wanted and even purchased cereal, loaf bread and peanut butter. I felt relieved, yes finally this new and better life was appearing on the horizon.
When he arrived home from work one night he proudly announced that the trip was still on. We would leave for my sister’s house after two days, they would be gone for a couple of days but that would be fine. I knew my patience had paid off and we were on our way! The kids were excited as they told stories about their cousins and all of the memories at their grandparent’s house. The car was old and small for a 4 hour trip through the desert so we took the train. We sat on bench type seats and watched outside as the dessert turned from tan to red and finally a beach like scenery emerged. The train pulled in and we waited at the terminal for my brother in law.
We arrived to a large cement Saudi house full of furniture that my sister had purchased in America and had shipped over. The children played outside and ran around while we laughed and talked and watched t.v. Yes, this was the future we would have and the life we would be living. Al-Khobar was a much more open and Western place than Riyadh. My sister told me that life in Saudi needed adjustments and certainly things were never easy in the beginning. I realized she was right and the long term benefits would far out weigh any inconvenience at this point. The two glorious weeks came and went quickly as most pleasurable things do. He came back on the train to take us home and we said our goodbyes. My sister promised to visit and we made our way back to the train station.
The train was packed with families, parents, children and grandparents. Everything in Saudi is separated into families and singles. There is a family area in any establishment and an area for single men as well. The family section on the train was loud and chaotic but at the same time an easy place to be with small children. It was a representation of Saudi Arabia, a mix of modern and traditional, a glaring contrast to be seen all over the Kingdom. As we sat the kids looked around quite mesmerized by this scene in front of them, children laughing and playing, maids chasing after them and ladies drinking tea and chatting. My son noticed the many maids sitting with children, holding babies, carrying bags and in general keeping the travelling household in tact. He pointed this out to his father and told him, ” mama could surely use help at home”. His father then turned to me with a grin planted on his lips and spoke the words that made me shudder and that he would repeat for many years to come, “Should I marry a second wife and she will help you and teach the kids Arabic?
On the way to the mall Camel market