6-The first secret

I tried to stay calm and spoke to my precious boys with great ease and smooth words. I didn’t want to press too hard and knew it was already difficult for them to discuss. I talked instead about the fettucine I made for them while they were at school. We were not allowed Western products but one day when he requested fettucine for his friends, I took my big chance and started purchasing comfort foods here and there. I brought a plate of toffee bars and told the boys about our day, how See See and Foof made a new pad house and used the box as a train, how I had been thinking about them all day, and finally how no way would anyone ever hit my kids, ever!

I served the lunch and left the kids to eat. I could not contain myself any more or stand the thought of anyone ever hitting my children. I taught my children to be respectful and also wanted them to have that same respect given to them. How could I teach them respect if people were hitting them and how could they learn or be safe in these circumstances? I was not allowed to go in the school because it was men only, I did not know how to speak Arabic to call them and complain. My only link to the school was him.  He was taking his usual afternoon nap but this could not wait! I entered the room and picked up his clothes, moved things around in order to rouse him from his sleep. He finally rolled over with one eye squinting at me. He held out his arms for me to come and sit and hug him. I sat on the edge of the pad and told him about the incident at the school. I rambled on about protecting my children and that I had not traveled all this way, taken this leap, put up with these ridiculous conditions, all to have my children put in this situation, no no it would not happen like this!! He looked irritated but didn’t dare interrupt me, he knew when it came to

my children I had a resolve that would not be broken. He said he would go into the school and discuss this incident but also issued a warning about speaking to the boys regarding school. He claimed that this lead them to the conclusion that they were indeed being treated unfairly. I left this point hanging as my main goal was to protect my children, period! For all the years to come one trade was made for another to secure basic necessities or to make things better at school.

I cleaned up the sufra (tablecloth like plastic placed on the floor ) and dishes and told the boys to start their work. The little girls went back to playing around the apartment always finding new things to invent and discover. After finishing my chores I went to the window, once again I looked to the outside world and life of the street below.  The usual people milled past, car wash man, I wondered where his family was and what special dishes they had prepared longing for his return to their dinner table, little boy selling water to passing cars, hoping he would be safe out there on his own, the many stray cats that frequented the garbage dumpster that I later fed and cared for. I thought of the past life and how dream man and I had run off and married unbeknownst to anyone. It was as if that life were indeed a dream and one that seemed to have never happened not even while sleeping. He came in his old green vega, dressed in his best slacks, a shirt and sweater over it. He was clean shaven, thin and dark. His eyes were large and brown and held a certain comfort in their edges that turned up when he was happy. I had donned the white dress from mother, it had a ruffle down the middle and seemed just ever so elegant for a gum chewing, comedy queen! I felt this was a dare in some strange way, both of us had set our mind to marrying and it had to be done. We were in love, not the fleeting kind of love where words are spoken and actions not complete, but the real kind full of sacrifice and promises.  He spoke softly and never raised his voice, any matter that came up inspired great concern in his eyes but never a rise in temper. We looked at each other in nervous anticipation but no words were spoken. We drove the 90 miles to get a marriage license and then to a nearby town where we said our vows. The whole way as we wound our way through the wheat fields and eventually thick woods, we stayed in silence. Maybe it was the dare being completed that muted our voices and thoughts. It was a wonderful day that ended at a Chinese restaurant and then an over night stay at a cheap motel. We woke the next day and I felt in awe and fear of the fact that I was actually married. On our way home through the fields and forests he informed me that I was never to speak of this day to anyone, not my parents or sister or anyone. He said that his parents would not approve and it was better this way. I kept my promise of  this secret day for years to come and realized that is was the first test and I had passed.