A foreign lady

I gingerly opened the freezer door and watched as the cake tumbled out and onto the floor! Each luscious chocolaty layer spilling over the next, a waterfall of fudge and whipped cream all planted in a blob next to my feet! My face turned red, but luckily the cousins broke into laughter as we stood watching and wondering what to do next. The two lady cousins had asked, on this visit to Al-Khobar (3 1/2 hours from Riyadh) that I show them how to make a cake, an American cake, shukalata (chocolate). Although it seemed there was no time or the proper ingredients I agreed and we set to work. The men had gone out for a walk and I was left with the two cousins who I did not know. They lived in a tiny apartment next door to each other on the community college campus. The husbands taught wood working to Saudi students and were provided this place to live.  Of course I complimented them on their beautiful home and sat on the floor doing as they did. They were very agreeable women and embraced me, as did the rest of the family.

At first it was a rocky road with the immediate family, as he did not tell them of our marriage until our first child was 6 months old.  They vowed to never accept me and were very angry, I was 2 months pregnant with an 8 month old when I traveled to Syria to make things right. I could not stand the thought of these people hating me, the same people I had secretly loved and care for, purchased gifts for, watched the younger siblings grow through faded photos, witnessed marriages and births, all the while myself being kept from view.  I knew them each by name and knew their faces from the pictures I had pasted into photo albums, dreaming of the day we would meet, aunts, uncles, siblings and even cousins. He dropped me at the airport and arrived back home to receive a letter saying, “do not send this lady.”

I entered the apartment in Damascus with open arms, hugging each aunt and uncle, cousin and parents. They were all there and stood staring at this foreign lady they knew nothing of, but who appeared to eerily know each of them. I spent the next 5 weeks at my in-laws apartment in Damascus. A steady stream of guests came each day from morning until night, I recognized each one.  I went to the home of  every relative, sat on their couches enjoying  the first wave of fruit and water followed by tea and a sweet and finally strong Arabic coffee. They smiled and nodded and I did the same, each one holding the baby and fawning over him.  The day I left Syria, my father in law sat me down, “Um Osama (mother of Osama) we love you and are happy you are married to our son.” Tears filled my eyes and since that time in Damascus, it has been the same, I was given the privilege of being part of them. These two ladies were no different, opening their hearts and homes to me, a stranger to them.

We picked up pieces of cake and scooped up melted frosting, the ladies giggled, licking the fudge and giving me thumbs up! I told them we might be moving to Al-Khobar for a job and I would come another day and make a real cake. When the men came back we sat some more and discussed how the cake had fallen straight out of the freezer and onto the floor. The two husbands laughed heartily and gave me re-assuring looks!  I noticed that in this home there was an abundance of laughter and joking and freedom. My assumption was that Arab ladies were meek and quiet, but the opposite seemed to be true. The children had toys although their parents had little means, the ladies had hobbies and spoke up eagerly when irritated. It was a confusing and enlightening visit. I had always been told, “Each morning as my father leaves for his shop he asks my mother if she needs anything, and each day she answers the same, NO, she never complains, never leaves the home and never needs anything.”

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97 thoughts on “A foreign lady

  1. As a fellow ‘foreign lady’ I can relate. I think my I laws were nervous of me as well, but accepted me the first day they met me. I am glad you found happy times with your in-laws. I, like you, loved them already before I met them…I think that is what makes all the difference!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes well it was not fun at the cousins but trying to stay upbeat it would be too down! They stuck up for me and told him off but didnt share what he did or said! I never know if its too much to say! Dont want to be depressing for readers!

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  2. Thank you for sharing another snippet of your life. I’m so glad that your husband’s family embraced you.
    Looking back, do you think you would have done things differently? Are you a more assertive person now as a result of everything you’ve been through? I’m still amazed at your resilience and tenacity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks, i feel I would, I didn’t know the culture at all and that was a huge problem. I also felt and was told how spoiled I was so I always tried to be easy going and thankful! So just a huge bunch of factors! Thanks so much Bec

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  3. I will share a short story-someone close to me married into a Greek Family she spoke English and French (She was French-Canadian) she got real tired of hearing this large “Greek” family speak behind her back (in-laws, etc.) so she learned Greek, one day she was so annoyed she yelled back in Greek at them from that day forward they accepted her-nothing stopped her fluency in multiple languages. Love the story and it is so true!

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  4. Another wonderful chapter Lynn! I love your writing! So descriptive. I could easily imagine that cake and the giggling cousins as they helped you licking their fingers! And your father in law…what a precious moment you shared. I so look forward to reading each installment your story. It touches my heart!

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  5. I am glad you got to see that not all members of the family were like this odd man you were married to. I wonder why he was so controlling – I never really understood why mine was until I met his mother many years later, and slowly realised she had made him feel so very insufficient and fearful. He tried to keep me tied to him with all kinds of mind plays and suggestions, orders and strategies……….. It takes us so long to suss it out!

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  6. another great chapter….and how wonderful for you to see that there was happiness and joy in some of the family…your controlling husband had his moments but really did live as he was raised…I dated a man from Nigeria…the more wife’s and children the more wealth you are assumed of having…his father had 3 wives’ and 22 children…could you imagine , he was born from the first wife so his status was higher than many of the others, however he was still about 6 or 7 from the top…all the wives liven in separate huts (obi”s) with there own children, when his father wanted to spend time with one of them she was called for by the servent….so that was an interesting relationship to say the least…he felt the more woman he say and had at his reach the bigger man he was….what an ass was all I thought….between you and me he was fun in the hay…but I don’t share well….LOL that was a long time ago….LOL glad there were good times…and so glad you didn’t know the family did want you to come….and how could they not love you, you loved there controlling son, they had to be amazed at that and your brought grandchildren and was a mother bear for them….of course they fell in love with and had total respect for you…..thanks again for letting us share in your life journey….you rock lynz…!!!

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  7. I have been the foreign lady in many situations. But as I am not married, never in that. I must compliment you. You acted with grace and humour. And married on not, I have always admired that.
    Good luck and continued good relations with your in laws.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello Lynz,

    I always love how you start these posts with no preamble whatsoever, you just get into it, carrying us on a wave of emotions and the reality of life.

    I enjoyed reading this a lot 🙂

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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