Um Osama–mother of Osama

This post was inspired by Spearfruit a fellow blogger. I saw this song on his page and it brought back memories! Thanks Spearfruit! He shares stories about his life and is very honest and open! 

I walked up to the piano, the clicking of my shoes echoed on the hard floor. I felt as if everyone could hear my heart pounding and the paper of the sheet music crumpling through shaky fingers. My sweaty hands wore little holes through the paper where it had now frayed.  It was a mess, each week being summoned to walk those few feet up to the piano, only to stand like a statue staring and waiting for the inevitable. “Either sing or fail, everyone else has taken their turn, just sing and get it over worth.” Each time I opened my mouth but nothing came out. The spotlight would be on me, singing in front of my peers. I was not a shy girl at all, I chewed gum making enormous bubbles, talked, laughed, spoke in accents, but this was just not doable. Mr. Mcguire, the music teacher started to pull me aside at lunch and coax me into completing this task so that I would not fail. He told me to just get up and try, no one would laugh, everyone had done it! He called my parents who told me to please just sing, avoid failing. But, I could not.  Here it was, the last chance, “Lynn, Lynn, this is it, sing or get an F!” I had never failed before so maybe that was the motivation, who knows, but finally I managed to sing, “Fire and Rain”. I could hear the sweet melody playing in my mind all of these 20 years later as I stood gazing out through the compound window. It was like a tiny crack through to my life’s reality that seemed odd but some how delightful. A little smile came to my mouth as I remembered that day and how 7th grade music had changed everything.

Lynn, LYNN, how many times have I told you no, no no, do not make this one!”The words were a jolt back to this moment, to reality. I looked down at the tray of sweets, meringues, eclairs, carrot cake and lemon bars, wondering which one was the culprit this time.  He had met a very wealthy man who owned businesses and sponsored many large companies. He had requested that I make a tray each week for him to bring when he visited this “Skeik”. It is customary in Arab culture to visit people for illness, delivery of a baby, graduations, deaths, and  random visits to be social. Visiting is just part of Arab life and not given a second thought. This man, the “sheik”  opened his enormous mejalis (sitting room)  each night for dinner and tea to a multitude of wealthy men. There were also many others who came to hang out or who needed something from the gracious “sheik”.  Making this tray of desserts three times a week, every week for 6 years would soon be added to my already busy list.  I knew not to show weakness or sadness and I asked in a monotone voice, which ones?”How many times have I told you not to make these, his finger was aimed at…….. lemon bars“. I had forgotten that a dessert had to be easy to handle when given to a large group of people, one of the many “rules” about baking which had escaped me as I made my way through my hectic daily routine. He turned and walked away to prepare for the night with his beloved “Sheik” without further incident.

My routine had not changed much from the villa to the apartment and now to this luxury compound. I woke at 4 a.m. with the baby, which I had now done for many years, starting with my oldest son who was now 9, down to Abude who was no longer a little baby, but close to turning 2.  I treasured these moments with each of my precious little ones, chattering as we shared our morning routine. I made the school lunches, got breakfast going and did general clean up. I climbed the stairs to wake the boys and get them up for another school day. See See and Foof still slept only opening their eyes to playfully wave to Abude.The driver, Ushruf would arrive at 6:30 and wait outside for the boys. At first I had accompanied the boys on this trip as I could not imagine letting my children go alone with a stranger. But after a few weeks of this routine, carrying a napping Abude, fussy and tired toddlers, and seeing that Ushruf seemed clean cut and kind, I decided to stay home. The routine days were filled with the joy and happiness of being a mom, cooking was the main activity for a large and growing family.

He smiled warmly when he returned from the “sheik” and his open mejalis night. The lemon bars were now forgotten and instead he spoke of the “important” people who had attended, their trips on the private jet, lavish meals served by the numerous household help. My ears perked up and I hung on ever word when he mentioned Um Osama, a woman who he had spoken highly of to the “sheik” and other visitors,someone who embodied the traits of a perfect wife and mother. She was an educated woman who chose to stay home with her many beautiful children, she baked and cooked from scratch and never left the home. I sat blankly wondering who this woman was.

Morning villa


Kitchen area, fan and brown window

That night our 10 boxes had been lined up along the empty living room wall. As tired as we were the kids and I ripped open tape and rummaged through each box to find the new, fresh pillows I had purchased and brought along. At the time it seemed like a strange idea to buy pillows, but I did anyway. I also packed 2 blankets passed on to us years before by a man who finished school and left everything he owned in his vacant apartment to go back home. They were big rough blankets, light and dark browns with images of horses or some type of animal. We found the blankets and pillows and made a make shift bed on the floor. We slept in the men’s mejalis (sitting room for male guests) or any other room, it didn’t much matter as each was interchangeable with the other.

Sleep came easily to us after hours of traveling, the kids had laid on their seats resting their heads against each other. They slept intermittently throughout each flight. For me it was different, my 20 month old daughter had no seat so she sat on my lap,which at this point had shrunk down to a small space. I shifted between having her on my lap and letting her sleep on the floor in front of me in the bed the airline provided. This meant a quite ridiculous picture of a woman, 8 months pregnant resting her legs up near the food tray because there was no other place to put them! Then when Foof woke, having her sit on my small space of a lap while I rested my weary feet back on the floor. What a site!  I didn’t sleep much just a nod off here and there when my head would jerk forward waking me from the few minutes of sleep I was able to catch. So, sleep overtook me quite easily that night. We all snuggled up next to each other as we always did at home and slept on our make shift bed.

I awoke with that feeling when you are on vacation or visiting Grama when you think you are home but then realize your surroundings are not the same. I peered out of one eye to see that things had not changed and were as I had remembered them when I went to sleep. My two older children were not there so this woke me from my heavy sleep. I turned on my side, hips throbbing, I crawled to a position that would enable use of my hands. I slowly stood and straightened out my body.  I roamed around the villa to see in the light of day that things looked the same, but every line on the walls, each crack through the plywood and lack of furniture was much more evident. I felt a sudden twinge, that sick feeling when you panic and question, your mind bolts and races and wanders. I then composed myself and tried to remember that I was a God fearing, good woman, we came to this place not for glamour or fun but to start a new life, to raise the kids in a safe environment, to learn a new language and culture. Yes, this was the right choice and I would carry on and make things the very best.

I called for my boys and finally they answered, they had been used to playing in their play house in the back yard, running through the green grass and riding bikes. So, they had gone exploring looking for that place to play. Directly out of the brown door were the stairs that had led us to this place, going up was the roof which was surrounded by tall ( 5 to 6 foot) cement walls. Downstairs was a small courtyard where a car would be parked, but now was empty.

With the boys safe and occupied, I made my way back into the living room. It was hot in the villa with no a/c and everything closed up. I walked to the wall and peered up to the brown, plastic window. I reached up and pulled until it opened.

A small breeze gently caressed my face, the sweat beads dried on my forehead and I felt a momentary relief. The next thing was water and food, I went to the kitchen, a room with a sink and a counter next to it, a small drain in the middle of the floor. Where would I find food or water? Was the water in the sink drinkable? The children would wake soon and they would be hungry. On the counter a small sack from the local bukala (neighborhood store) inside were several bottles of water and a melted container of sticky mango ice cream.