The bike

Residing on the Riyadh compound was a real life, not a life without lights or power, no furniture, no beds, not enough and always making do. Returning gifts to buy groceries and making the necessary excuses to avoid invitations.  This was a real home, furniture, appliances, a dining room set complete with a hutch full of china. Soft, fluffy blankets were placed on the beds, enough pillows and sheets and a place for each child to lay their head. End tables, lamps, curtains and throw pillows, it all seemed permanent and lasting, for the first time. Neighbors walked past giving a wave, nod or smile which meant contact with other people. No way to escape or hide a life that had been monitored and measured in every way. Marriage so far had been full of “temporary” living. The idea that tomorrow would be the day when we would finally settle, have friends, be happy and content. This lack of stability continued well through this ten year mark and showed no sign of changing.  Being a busy mom I neglected to sort out when this magical event would occur and it seemed unimportant at that time.  My one concern was trying to raise the beautiful children I had been blessed with.

The kids spent the rest of their summer sleeping in, watching cartoons, lazy day breakfasts of pancakes and cream cheese sandwiches, walks to the park and swimming at the pool. The boys now 9 and 10 were old enough to walk around the compound and to the recreation center to play basketball. For the first time in their lives they made friends, real friends. See See and Foof sat on the porch playing tea time with the British neighbors, giggling, sharing imaginary sweets, and then walking to the park across the street. Ladies speed walked past the porch waving and giving a hearty greeting. Coffee mornings were held weekly and residents met at the clubhouse to chat and get to know one another. The shopping bus left each day at two appointed times, people were shuttled to a variety of destinations throughout Riyadh. A thriving community was taking shape inside of the compound walls, people bonded through the commonality of expat life. While existence on the inside of the compound was full of privilege it was also clouded by the fear of possible attacks and security was always a looming reality. No one entered the compound in a vehicle except residents who were carefully checked upon each and every arrival. Guests had to stop at the gate, sign in, have their ID approved, their visit confirmed and only then could they proceed on foot.

My routine remained unchanged as I navigated through the life of being a stay at home mom to 6 children. I woke each day at 4 to nurse my baby and then to make the sunrise prayer (Fajr). I headed down stairs to start cleaning and making breakfast. I had yet to make any friends on the compound but it had only been a few weeks and I was a busy mom. The previous compound was beautiful and upscale but also had an unwelcoming vibe with it’s white carpeting and glass wall in the family room. This new home was warm and comforting,  soft green carpet lined the rooms,  a far cry from the rough chipped tiling in the first villa. Life seemed surreal, a dream that had been whirling around my mind for 10 long years. Finally I would not feel that shame when mother felt the necessity to bring basic housewares to an empty home.

Allowance, toys and gifts were not allowed in our household and until this time things had gone according to his plan. The children and I wore approved clothing, spoke no words that offended his senses, and ultimately kept unwanted thoughts to ourselves. When I stepped out of line the result was not good for anyone in the household and could produce hours of screaming and days of anger. His explanation was that every few months I had some “strange” issue that resulted in unflattering behavior and thus a problem ensued.  This logic is what I grew to accept and believe and so I tried my best to keep this unwanted trait under control. But now in this open environment interacting with people who seemed to walk about freely, who lived a rather normal life, things rapidly changed. It was the first step to thinking different thoughts and breaking outside of our unreal world and isolation.  My oldest son had always opposed his father’s rules and now more than ever it was hard for him to understand our “tightrope” life.  It seemed impossible to stop this wave that had now started. At first he questioned simple rules and then it grew to include allowance, gifts and toys. I stood holding my breath as this progression unfolded each day and although it was unnerving, I supported my son. His first new friends were American, Australian and Pakistani expats. They had the latest electronic games, trendy gadgets and also basic things such as bikes. One of the biggest past times for children on the compound was riding bikes. They could safely make the half mile loop around the houses, up to the mini market and recreation center. Days wore on and my son continued to jog next to his friends on their bikes,  cut through the park to meet them at the “Rec” and answer the unending questions from friends as to why he didn’t just, “get a bike”.  He repeatedly asked his father if he could some how earn money to purchase a bike, help mama around the house, do chores and any bike would do. His requests were all met with the usual response, stories of his brothers/uncles who had to work all year in a laundry shop and still could not afford a simple luxury like a bike. While I felt the pain that my in-laws faced I also watched as kids on the compound sported their scooters, pogo sticks and play stations. Once again I did what I had grown accustomed to and approached him about the bike. Hours of negotiations and the numerous trade offs were made in order to finally secure a simple, green bike!  Each time a little piece of dignity was traded and each time the cutting words I had heard many times rang in my ears, “You are only good for one thing Lynn.”

 

 

232 thoughts on “The bike

  1. As usual Lynz, you paint such a vivid picture with so much imagery – ladies ‘speed-walking’ past the window – I can see them! As I can feel the anger and frustration and humiliation of your son.
    Well Lynz – how wrong can a man be…..you were obviously very good at negotiating, keeping the peace, raising wonderful children, keeping a home, BAKING AND COOKING.
    And now you are showing the world that you are an amazing writer……with so many ‘one things; to chose from, he must be very clever to be able to chose just one………or maybe very stupid not to see what a wonderful treasure that he had in you.
    I love the photo of your son with the bike, his face says it all xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Lynn. I read that last line and I felt like I had been punched. I can’t begin to imagine how that made YOU feel. Please, PLEASE know you are good for SO much more. You’re a wonderful mom, cook, and blogger, among other things, and this I know just from being a reader these last few months. I hope he stays far away from you so you may have the peaceful and happy existence you very much deserve!

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  3. Another compelling chapter. You don’t mention what you had to trade off for that bike…but when I read those words my heart broke for you. Your son does look very happy with his “new” bike. 🙂

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  4. Thanks again Lynn for a story well told even though the content is very sad. I think that just in the way you tell the story, you make me appreciate so much that I take for granted. I do hope that writing about this is therapeutic for the emotional abuse you endured for so long. I’m sure by now you also know that you are a beautiful soul good for many things. I’ve been blessed in many respects in my life and career but each time I read your stories I learn and take a life lesson away. I’m sure that life can only keep getting better for you. Have an awesome weekend my dear. Chevvy

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  5. Another amazing instalment in the true story of your life Lynz it continues to fascinate me, and it appears that now your eldest son wishes to break the mould by his requesting to be “normal” wanting “normal” things like a bike. Sounds like you did a great job supporting him in this aim, even though you had to suffer ugly words as a consequence. Well done, for standing your ground, my dear, and being such a wonderful mother and role model to your kids.

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  6. Oh Lynz! You made me feel your life, your struggle, your pain, your nightmare! All of this is so very, very sad!!! It is strange what you can be left with measuring “better” by. You deserve love and peace and happiness! Thank you for sharing a small piece of the life that was your reality. It is disgusting the damage one man can do! It is powerful and beautiful what one woman – you Lynz have done with all of this for your children! I am in awe of you!

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  7. I read your story, and I marvel: A true testament to the human spirit. In particular, I marvel at your children. How did they have the clarity to understand so early on the insanity of the situation? To be whole and loving human beings while walking on eggshells all the time is a difficult balance.

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  8. Lynz,
    I think you have clearly written the story of what happens within so many households. I think these stories need to be told- and retold, along with fairy tales because these are real tales of life, and love and honour and dignity( or lack of) and how a woman can fight against all odds and come out successful. Forgive me for being personal but have you gotten out of the old life or are you still tied ?
    I am so thankful that your children stood by you through it all and are there for you- you are an amazing person- watched your youtube video on tabouli and loved it- particularly the spices that you put in.
    I have a Palestinian friend who is constantly told by her husband that he will take another wife, as she is not good enough- this is a phenomenon that takes place every so often in her household. He had a good job in our hospital but because he felt he was not treated well ( after 9 years and many requests for promotions and hikes), he quit and moved to Jordan with his family, where they live in a joint family home with little space and privacy. She tells me that she is for ever talked to by her husband’s brother’s wife ( with whom her husband compares her, when he wants to take her down). She is a nurse by profession and when she gathers enough guts and has enough she applies for a job to the Nursing Department and manages to get a job too but he doesn’t let her keep it. He wants to leave her and marry again.
    I cannot think of a worse situation than a man telling another human being that he/she is useless.
    I salute the spirit of women who put up with this for the sake of her marriage and her children.
    Susie

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