Review and edit of old stories- The box

A little introduction to this story– Even within your own family abusers try to isolate you and this is the message in this story. 

 

The apartment brought with it many benefits, large clear windows with a view to the street, the possibility of walking to a nearby grocery store and most importantly a new and better school that shared a wall with the building. I listed these things in my mind each and ever day as night enveloped the darkened hallways and unbearable heat overtook the new apartment. Meals were left on the stove and popsicles melted in the freezer, fans made out of old school duftars (notebook) were whisked back and forth with the intent of cooling. Still his words rang in my ears, a privileged American girl, no worries or cares, an easy life, spoiled.  Not having access to regular electricity was quite a draw back and something I  had never considered until it was gone. I tried to make the best of things and reminded the children as well as myself that others went without a place to lay their head at night,no food to fill their hungry bellies and the constant threat of war. I didn’t have to look far to see reality as I watched workers barely clad in scraggy clothing, hailing speeding cars in hopes of earning a few Riyals for a quick wash. I often wondered where their families were and watched them cross the street to a shanty town, metal pieces and boards made up what had become their home away from home. We made our way to the call cabin once every few weeks where I would wait in line and then speak to my parents, sitting on a tiny stool, behind a raggedy curtain. My mother’s once calm and assured voice, was now shaky and full of a questioning bewilderment given the current living circumstances. Days and nights became interchangeable as we sat in the apartment alone.

The job that had allowed us entry to the Kingdom had ended after 9 short months. It had been incompatible with his level of expertise and education. To enter the kingdom one must have a sponsor, this can be an individual or a company.  He would not be able to transfer his Iquama ( I.D. and paperwork allowing you to be in the kingdom) unless they released him and so he agitated and provoked until they declared they would no longer need his services. He spent the next 12 months at home, making inquires about jobs for expats and visiting the numerous friends he had collected since his arrival in Saudi. Most days meant drinking tea with friends and taking naps interspersed with various leads that never seemed to solidify.  One day, like any other day he went out in hopes of finding his dream job, visited friends for hours and then returned home. He entered holding a large box, packing tape meticulously wrapped around each corner, familiar letters faithfully written across each side. The kids gathered around eagerly as he placed the large cardboard box onto the carpeting that had been salvaged from the villa. It was neatly wrapped up, a brown, ordinary box, taped and sealed with a precision that could only mean one thing, Mom!  Although the girls could not read they loudly and in unison shouted, GRAMA!

We quickly rummaged through the contents before the lights went out. A gift for each child was retrieved and they sat in the mejalis (men’s sitting room) laughing gleefully at their good fortune. I promised we would empty the box as soon as morning light allowed and each child fell asleep with thoughts of the hidden treasures that awaited them the next day.  I gathered up the laundry for the early morning routine and placed it in the kitchen near the washer, I did dishes and anything I could before total darkness set in. I sat on the couch pad and rested in the glimmer of the light from the street lamps, thinking of my mother and father and the box. Memories drifted back to summers I spent walking through our neighborhood to the community pool, riding my bike with friends and rolling down the big green summer hills in the backyard. We camped in our tent and then they bought a trailer, we made campfires, hiked to the swimming area, roasted marshmallows and as teenagers angrily objected to these trips! It was all a blur now and he snapped me back into reality when he entered the dimly lit room. He commented on the box and how nice it was of them to send it, although his pants were too long and his tie too brightly colored, but all the same, a nice thought and well received.  He sat next to me in the dark and asked me what I had received from the box, my heart sank as I knew what was next. He spoke for 10 minutes or more about the lovely gifts of perfumed lotions, soap and candy that he knew I didn’t like and never used, about a journal that was over priced and a waste of time.  In the end the same result was coming, I must give up my treasures, maybe holding on to one small item if I wanted to keep my children’s gifts.  I knew the price that had to be paid and although it was unspoken, as many things, it was well known to us both.  He spoke of the children’s gifts and how impractical and expensive they were. Children in other countries were lucky to go to school, did not have clean drinking water and definitely did not have luxuries. I knew all of these things were very true and they ran through my mind daily!  When we lived in the States he would push and prod until some of these unnecessary items disappeared and were returned for grocery money.  The next day, as he slept, I quickly emptied the box and distributed the gifts, feeling secure that my children had their things and no store to return them to. I held the pink bottle, jasmine, I smelled the lotion and then quickly set it down, it was indeed a luxury, something a plain woman like myself did not need.  I picked up my other gifts and put them in his room, my offering from the box.

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Three oldest kids in new apartment

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132 thoughts on “Review and edit of old stories- The box

  1. I empathize. My father was born in Israel, Palestine at the time (but we are Christians). My grandparents were able to help him emigrate to America when he was seventeen. He became very successful. Happily married to my English mother, he brought my grandparents over next. It wasn’t until my uncles arrived with old world attitudes that life changed drastically in my family. I witnessed the psychological warfare on my aunts and cousins. My father was shamed in his own family for not doing the same.

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  2. Oh dear! May I say though that you did keep something from the box that he could never take away from you. In giving up the things from the box that were meant for you, your children were able to keep those treasures from their grandparents. What a gift for a mother such as yourself, a mother that would sacrifice for her children, big and small. I think you are amazing!

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    • The kids tried to buy me a basket of lotions and soaps back in Saudi, he was furious and warned my daughter privately to never ever do that again, never buy mama anything! My son bought me a notebook and printed pages because I am a planner, haha, he insisted we take it back( I hid it ) I have a hard time accepting gifts or buying myself things, but the kids make up for it!!! they are insisting on it and buy me all kinds of things. It makes me feel weird but I am grateful. When I started blogging my son bought me a computer, my daughter just bought me a bbq haha, so mom, dad and the kids try to spoil me. I know it’s strange but it makes me feel very weird! xxxx

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  3. What a sweet, unselfish gesture to distribute those gifts to your children before giving up your own. You should be very proud of that. And you should let them spoil you a bit now ! 💝 A beautifully written piece of a very difficult situation, as always. You are masterful at this, Lynn. ☺

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  4. That’s lovely that your kids spoil you. Don’t feel weird, after all you have been through you deserve to be pampered and spoiled and buying gifts for you is probably one of the ways to say they love you and are thinking of you. I know I love buying gifts, no matter how big or small, for people to see the smile on their faces. Your ex has conditioned you to feel weird and forced you to reject or give away presents. Accepting gifts is a way of breaking this conditioning and taking back your control.

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  5. You’ve likely heard the saying to live each day as if it’s the last. So, take what comes your way, in the form of material or spiritual if it is given to you as a gift because it may be the last time too that you will ever get anything from that gift giver. It goes both ways. You make them happy when you accept, as you also feel happy to know that someone is thinking about you.

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  6. There’s so much bubbling inside me from reading your post…so many points I could comment on…but instead, let’s celebrate that your wonderful children like to spoil you and bring you gifts. That’s absolutely lovely, accept them with love and grace xxx

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      • Lynn,

        I do… I know why he did this. Your parents were outside his control, and their gifts provided a glimpse of a different life. To control you and give the message that nothing could come to you that he did not allow, he psychologically blackmailed you. If you didn’t give up and give in, he would punish you and the children…again a message of his control. I am so glad you escaped from this for yourself and your children. Clearly, your children saw the sacrifices that you made on their behalf and want you to know you are cherished and loved.

        In my case, it was my father who did not believe we deserved anything…even a pair of shoes when our old ones were too small and worn out. My mother sacrificed a lot to see that we had basic things. My father even did the grocery shopping so he control what we ate and how much was spent. But we were here in the US so my mother was able to go to work to see we had the basics and some little treats. We also saved and bought her presents from the time we were children because we knew the sacrifices she made for us, and wanted her to know she was appreciated and loved. As an adult, I had to learn myself that accepting gifts is in return a gift to the one who is giving to you. Let yourself focus on the joy they have in giving and you will feel less weird…and, at least, a bit more comfortable. You are so strong and capable….a great mom, and you deserve to be pampered! jo

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        • Thank you so much for sharing! Yes, the same thing with him, my parents bought all clothing and even housewares! He barely bought clothing and food was monitored! he would often ask me for the receipt and then order me to take everything out that I had purchased! I hid little treats and then tutored and bought the kids gifts which made huge issues! It was then my money, but then he decided I could not use it, he also started having me pay for bills etc! so, yes very similar! Thanks so much for your insight, you are so right!

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  7. You know, I seriously do not understand that man. He was so intent on making your life a misery ! Why? He was supposed to have loved you. Surely, in a relationship one wants to make the other happy! Whether you were “a priviledged American Girl, with no worries or cares, had an easy life, and was spoilt ” or not, that is not the issue, why did he want to change you? Who gave him that right? If you were, all of those things he kept ramming down your throat, so what?, was he jealous of you and your lifestyle? He knew you in the States and how you lived, he fell in love with you there, he knew what you were all about, why change you and your lifestyle? If he was so unhappy with the lifestyle and believed differently, so be it, but he had no right to enforce change with you. I don’t know what he believed in as a higher power, but I am pretty sure, suffering, change, belittlement, control and selfishness and I could go on… was, and is not the deal.
    I have said this before…your life sounded worse than a prison camp.

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    • One of my older daughters has always said that he resents that lifestyle and was irritated by it! I do think about all of those things you have said, so many times, why? He also loved my parents friends, still talks about them, loved the finer things is life, loved hanging out with anyone who was “important” “rich” so it is a mystery to me! He was raised as a refugee in Syria, so did he want those things, then feel angry about them? I just dont know but he sought out rich friends in saudi like the Sheik and surrounded himself with them, little did they know we had no furniture or power!

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  8. You write so well of the terrible situation you lived through and about giving up so much for your children. One thing I am learning from aging is that I am often on the receiving end of things I now need help with. I think that receiving the gifts of my children and friends is a gift to them. ❤

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  9. Such a good deed by your parents… almost soiled, but still remained bright in some ways. Lovely writing…I relive these moments with you every time I read them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am happy I did and I still continue to, they didn’t ask for this mess! they are the most amazing people and I am so honored to be their mom. I guess I wanted to show the way abusers work, they even isolate you within the family, even try to keep your kids away!

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  10. Reading this I felt sad that you were made to give your things away. Very well written, Lynn. How special to receive a box from Grandma! I’m glad the kids were able to keep their things, even if it was at the expense of you losing yours. I hope you are surrounded by little luxuries today!

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    • I really didn’t care about those things but it just felt like I was noone, I guess that was the hurt. I was always being erased. I would give anything for my kids, and now they insist on spoiling me!!!Thanks for reading!

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  11. You are truly a gifted writer Lynn, and have the ability of putting the reader in the story. I am just sad after reading this post, and that you couldn’t keep the little luxuries your mom had sent you.

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  12. He actually enjoyed tormenting you. So awful. Thank heaven your parents were there for you and your children. I hope one day you will realize that it’s OK to accept gifts, because you deserve to be treated kindly. He was WRONG.

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  13. You are such an amazing person and mom. I often wondered how you did it with 9 children and an adult who behaved like a child, then I thought perhaps your children kept you going? I’m so glad you and the kids were able to get out of the situation and rebuild your lives.

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  14. Lynn you are so brave to write of these experiences! It is incredible the power a man can have over a whole household. The crippling and numbing and heartbreaking trails they leave behind their every action is hard for many to understand, and yet you write in a way that makes it so real. You are an amazing writer and woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This passage is extraordinary in how it so tangibly shows the setting: “The apartment brought with it many benefits, large clear windows with a view to the street, the possibility of walking to a nearby grocery store and most importantly a new and better school that shared a wall with the building. I listed these things in my mind each and ever day as night enveloped the darkened hallways and unbearable heat overtook the new apartment. Meals were left on the stove and popsicles melted in the freezer, fans made out of old school duftars (notebook) were whisked back and forth with the intent of cooling. ”

    Marvelous writing of a poignant story.

    Liked by 1 person

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