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Posts from the ‘life story’ Category

Don’t make mama cry!

When Osama and Yusuf came for visits during their time at University it was a huge adjustment back to the old reality. This story is based on a visit one summer.


“Don’t make mama cry” I gulped down tears and scratched at my chin, holding it steady to prevent the quivering that seemed to grip my hands and face in recent months. Those words had become a common theme and echoed in my mind repeatedly. The green school table was modern and bright, a cheery reminder that life moved on and the world still turned as we sat behind four cement walls of isolation. I could hear my son on the marble stairs, a repeat in time continued to play, adding a new refrain with each changing episode. But now he was strong and confident, his voice could be heard echoing from the roof landing down to the basement room where I sat at the school table.”You have satellite in your room, the kids and mom should have it too“.

He was now a grown man, living out his dream of attending University in America. He stood on the landing of the villa that lead to the outside roof area where he had instructed the technician to make a new hook up.  A nervous smile planted on his face, he calmly addressed his father, who stood on the stairs, raging and flailing, stepping up and then down, slamming his hands on the rail. Distance had brought about a new perspective and a resolve to not accept the edicts that randomly vacillated between unhinged and lunacy. He reasoned with his father in a firm and unrelenting tone that had grown from a two year old’s first words, “Don’t make mama cry” into a calculated and strategic counterclaim.  He had been out in the “real” world and his eyes were open to the stark reality that he felt was akin to a silent prison.  This quick trip to visit during break had been stressful and rules regarding placement of household furniture, specific words, foods and gestures, now seemed to be more unreasonable than he had remembered. A lifetime spent watching, following and protecting had now risen to this occasion where he would defy his father.

I looked around the basement room, no doors or exits and now no way out. I sat scratching my chin, biting my lip to prevent the dreaded tears that were seen as manipulation. The clicking of his ship ships (Arab sandals) now turned to missed steps as he bolted down into the basement room. Dirt mixed with sweat left traces of my smudged fingerprints on the glossy school table, signaling my mind into a state of patterned fear. He lunged towards the table, yelling and screaming, grabbing my  preschool class papers, holding them as props in his tirade. He paced and then pounded the table, waving the documents in my face, ABC patterns and farm animals. I shuttered and stumbled to remember the words I was to speak, “I am sorry I will not do that again” but no words came. He repeated the phrase I had heard since that day when my little toddler dared to follow him up the stairs in the modest Seattle home, “Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, Do not turn my kids against me!” and with a swish he tossed the worksheets into the air.



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.

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