In a room well-hidden
I stood inside a box
Corners of seclusion
Marked only by his thoughts
Bow down and own your choices
Senses meld to grey
Peace for one more day
In a room well-hidden
I stood inside a box
Corners of seclusion
Marked only by his thoughts
Bow down and own your choices
Senses meld to grey
Peace for one more day
Saturday afternoon a shiny, new stove arrived at my front door! The other stove was only nine years old but had seen much wear and tear, burners refused to turn off and heated up randomly and recently a buzzing noise from inside started catching the attention of my children. Still, I was so very grateful to have a stove as many people do not.
If you have followed my blog and life story then you already know that I cooked on a stove that was purchased from a flea market of sorts in downtown Riyadh. Two of the four burners functioned and both shocked me if I used any metal utensils. We lived with no beds, chairs, tables etc. for a couple of years and with the very bare necessities when we lived outside of compounds. My parents supplied any luxury items for our family (new towels, clothing, shoes, kitchen gadgets, toys) and we fought to hang on to those. We have all learned to be grateful for the smallest of things and realize material items cannot bring happiness, but they can make life very difficult when you do not have even the basics.
I was raised in a beautiful home on six sprawling acres of pine trees and never imagined living without the basics and also the many extras that I had become accustomed to. I was unaware of the insidious cycle of abuse until it swallowed me whole and spit me back out.
But now things are different and my children are allowed to make their own choices and to be who they were meant to be.
Meanwhile, I sit in my comfy recliner and sip coffee while visions of jelly roll, sugar cookies and fried rice dance in my head. Thoughts drift to concoctions that will be whipped up on a brand new stove!
Happy Holidays and remember that things can get better, there is always hope!
This is the story of our first year back in America, other installments can be found here:
A sharp buzzing pressed in my ear waking me from a restless sleep. It was time to rouse one of the girls, spoon coffee into a filter and pour a pot of water into the reservoir. Thoughts of school and the day before held a nagging place in my gutt. The sad little figure that lay sprawled in the grass amongst students and helpers remained fixed in my memory. I had overlooked the possibility that this was my youngest child and instead a mask of denial coated my brain leaving it in an unrealistic fog. But after his sister sat beside him taking her place in a stance of not so much concern but possibly comfort, it was clear that things would not be as easy as I had hoped. My focus turned to the thought that there were only two more weeks of the paper route and then a new routine would take shape; no more nights spent wrapping bundles, sorting orders and jumping out to deliver to each and every home. Cooking for the co-op, cleaning once a week at a building and the odd sub job assured me that we could keep afloat and each time mom and dad visited they unloaded boxes of bread, croissants, peanut butter, canned vegetables and chicken, candy, school snacks and staples. Provisions were hauled into the apartment, stacked on the kitchen floor and put into cupboards. I watched as hot coffee dripped into the carafe and pushed away the idea that I was truly at fault but still I couldn’t help but wonder if leaving Saudi was for the best. I heard his words ring through my ears triggering shooting pangs of guilt to my core. “You are torturing me and the children with your stubborn and unhappy ways, you have become one of those women that I hate”
I edged closer to the tiny parking spot that stood above Frat row. It was a cement slab just big enough to accomodate a large vehicle but still unnerved me each time I navigated onto the platform. Plastic bags were grabbed in batches and hauled over the rugged path and into the door of the old brick building. It was grocery day and that meant unloading and preparing a “fast food” meal including plenty of variety for those with dietary restrictions. I stuffed bags inside of each other forming a large ball of sacks that would be used for trash bags at a later time. Several packs of ground beef were placed into a large skillet and stirred, smashing them into smaller bits. The familiar sound of sizzling and the smell of taco meat would soon bring girls into the kitchen. Soos, Heme and Deeja made themselves busy with coloring books and crayons, cards and stickers. They placed themselves at a wooden table just outside the kitchen where residents would soon sit after dishing up their last meal for the day. Sullen faces stared blankly at my workstation and I knew that our discussion regarding school had still left them confused and fearful.
That day we had walked through the rickety wooden gate and into the school yard that lead to a side door. I kissed each one goodbye and delivered them to their respective classrooms, leaving my youngest for last. We had been to see the teacher days before and although she was inexperienced, she was also bubbly, kind and understanding. I was sure that everything would go as planned and so I walked with an air of confidence and pride. We reached a brightly colored door that said Welcome to first grade. Other students sat at standard desks and tables, hanging hoodies and jackets on a coat rack, backpacks were shoved into cubbies and parents waved their goodbyes. The teacher nodded her head as if to tell me that it would be fine and it was time to leave. I gave a quick wave and returned the same way I had entered, leaving the wooden gate and parking lot behind.
From the upstairs window I scanned the school playground hoping to catch a glimpse of at least one of my four children. The recess bell rang and with it a massive exit from the side door of the one story school. Children carried balls and toys and quickly started in with their mid day break from books and lessons. A tiny figure stood alone in the large grass area, a hood tightly wrapped around the shiny hair of what appeared to be a small child. A stark contrast became unsettling as he crouched near the brightly colored playground equipment looking from side to side and finally giving in to tears. Classmates ran, laughing and giving chase, engaging in childish games that only youngsters play. Their smiles and shrieks of glee only heightened as activities progressed into throwing, catching and eventually climbing onto a metal structure. I watched him cover his face, firmly placing it into the school yard grass until a familiar figure with dark brown hair placed herself next to him and gave him the company he longed for.
Many of you already know that I am a mom to nine fantastic children. But maybe you don’t know that I have five sons and four daughters. Recently Foof got married and a month before the ceremony my eldest daughter Saleeha, got engaged! As I have written in many of my true life stories, it was hard to ever imagine this joy and the idea that my girls would be able to pick their own careers, daily habits and most importantly their love interest. But here we are, two of my girls have found amazing partners and now for the second time I am overjoyed to witness them blossom, find love and build a future.
Saleeha met her intended through a friend and they share many similarities including their love for literature and writing. It has been a long road for my girl, building that trust and learning to relax and accept love and a warm and endearing heart but she is there and I couldn’t be happier.
Edison is a soft spoken Phd in Chemistry, a poet and he loves to cook! The ring he picked has a vintage look and is just what Saleeha wanted.
They have not picked a wedding date and both of them are not really into having a big bash so they will find what suits them. I am all about being yourself and doing what works for you, so whatever they chose will make me happy for them.
Edison proposed at their special place, deception pass. I posted pictures last year after they shared a romantic day there.
Recently wedding dress shopping commenced and she found the perfect fit for her! It is gorgeous. I will only show a bit of the dress so that Edison isn’t disappointed!
There is hope after the storm, there is peace and you can make it, whatever your struggle might be it can be part of your life and can make you stronger, not break you. Never would I have imagined that we would be here, back home, together and thriving. Don’t ever give up and stay true to being the best you!
Her eyes were tightly closed, a trickle of blood escaped from pursed lips and made a dripping pattern on the marble floor. I placed my hand on her back trying to ease the throbbing tension but in reality I knew it did little good. Her tiny frame shook and there was nothing else to be done. There were no prescription tablets, ice packs or specialty foods, this was it. I held her hand and let her squeeze mine, but it was clear she was unable to absorb the unrelenting pounding. In my desperation I crushed cubes of ice with a mallet and placed them in a cloth, softly holding them on her cheek and jaw. I watched the clock, waiting for seconds to tick away when another dose of tablets could be given. Her head rested against mine and she relaxed for a few moments and then drifted into a chaotic sleep.
The phone did not ring and no inquiries regarding the removal of her wisdom teeth were ever made. He was at the camp where he had worked for months, only returning on weekends. I told myself that he was busy and of course his mind was on our household and he would be calling soon. I was sure he would return a day early as he had numerous times for visits with friends and dinners.
The children played and laughed, free to move about without restriction. It was better this way and it was my job and duty to ease his stress. The phone rang and a wave of guilt washed over me for doubting his commitment to our family. He reminded me regularly that we were his top priority and he worked hard to provide and take care of us. I grabbed the receiver and eagerly answered with the customary greetings. There was a pause and then I heard my mother’s voice. “How is Saleeha”? She listened intently as I recounted our day; a ride provided by the man who owned the falafel shop, dropped off at the dentist for surgical removal of wisdom teeth, a few hours spent in the waiting area and a somewhat complicated procedure with local anesthesia that had been inadequate, followed by a return trip to the villa. I asked her what else could be done for pain as no medication was provided. She gave some tips for reduction of swelling and let me know that she was there for support any time of day. My father’s unwavering voice added a level of comfort and he assured me that everything would turn out o.k.
Dinner, bedtime and clean up, the evening ended with pain, more bleeding and a desperation that had become normal. No call, no email and no hope that he might come home a day early to help with the situation. The kids were put to bed, more ice was crushed and I took my position on the single bed where I could keep watch overnight.
The next afternoon he walked through the door at the usual time. He smiled, greeting the little ones, laughing and swinging them in the air. I managed a grin knowing that happiness was always required. He watched Saleeha and laughed joyously stepping towards her. I knew it was finally time, he would embrace her, purchase ice cream and inquire about her surgery. She stood looking gaunt and disheveled, pieces of her curly hair stuck in a sweaty matte on her forehead and tiny spots of blood about her mouth.
He told her she was fine and grabbed each cheek boldly pinching them between his thumb and finger in a back and forth motion. This was life and we should thank God and count our blessings.
She was a small town girl whose father and mother were first generation Americans. She was raised in a tiny town in Idaho where Daddy worked at the brickyard and Mama stayed home tending to children. But now, she (my mother) was the “boss” and her firm yet impartial demeanor had gotten her far and proved to be an example of what was expected in our household.
Headlights cast a dim glow on the staircase that lead to the kitchen and mom’s heels could be heard as the car door shut. Excitement paired with nerves took hold as I braced myself to face her. She had been my mentor and best friend and never failed when advice and comfort were required. But this was somehow different and I knew that mother would be surveying him with a most forbidding inspection, leaving nothing undiscovered.
Keys jangled in the lock and a frozen stance was held in place upon her entry. He smiled and graciously stood before her, an unassuming and yet confident young man. She shook his hand and then excused herself to change into more suitable clothing for a relaxing evening at home. His level of respect drew me closer and it was clear he knew how important family life was to me and it seemed he shared the same values.
We situated ourselves in the living room on the top floor just outside her bedroom door. Large white couches, end tables and side chairs had been carefully placed throughout the oddly shaped room. The ceiling slanted until it reached a point that ended in a large skylight jutting out into a triangular shape. A fireplace was the focal point of this space and was finished in white lava rock and a marble ledge.
He crossed his legs and kept a fair distance between us, only acknowledging me when he was spoken to. A curious lack of physical affection was eventually chalked up to his culture and a desire to be considerate in front of my parents. It was as if he fit in to any and all situations and easily molded himself into the perfect and appropriate companion. This quality was especially admirable to an animated, gum chomping girl who felt she was somehow overly chatty, and at times inadvertently too flashy.
For the past few months Saleeha (oldest daughter) has been working on the book. She has organized, suggested and reviewed. I worked last year until I needed a big break but now that school is almost starting I will put my efforts back into finishing the book and first publishing a poetry book. I am new to all of this but feel that it is time! It is something that I have to do or need to do or just a part of the process of recovery but whatever it is, this is the time. Thank you for being there on this journey. Your love and support mean everything!
Jeans were seen as inappropriate and bad for the bones and female form. Silence gripped the room as he looked up and down rubbing hands across his face and then head, ultimately finding their resting place in his lap. The usual commentary repeated itself and unbeknownst to my scrambled brain, it made little difference what logic I attempted to pursue; she was young and did not have a womanly body, we lived on a western compound where all young girls were allowed to wear jeans and lastly there was no way to return these items. I finished my plea with a reminder that his children were modest beyond the norm and had never engaged in activities that would reflect poorly on him. A roundabout discussion as to why my parents would bring such offensible items into our home and the improbable threat that he would actually speak with them, ended in tears. It was necessary to place myself on the side of caution and therefore I stood firmly with him. I knew there were only two options, we were either with him or against him. The jeans were rumpled into a ball and placed well away from view, hidden in a vast and endless cavern that contained forbidden actions, thoughts and words.
Her frail figure approached the table and placed the plastic sack down on a chair just beside me, tucking it under miscellaneous jackets, bags and items that were stacked in a pile. Her eyes shifted nervously at first forward and then a slight tilt of her head dared to look behind her. He was nowhere in sight that was the obvious and unspoken conclusion. The younger children voiced their irritation at this seemingly wasted trip to Faisaliah (one of the first malls in Riyadh). Clatter of shoes rubbing against the table jangled our nerves as Heme squirmed and rolled between the table, floor and chairs. The pants were eventually taken from the sack and handed over to my lap where I surveyed their color, length and ability to conceal her tiny figure.
Plain light blue, loose fitting and ordinary, they appeared to be the best that we could find and the only suitable option in this upscale, trendy mall. They looked to be perfect, a replacement for the shiny, fashionable jeans and shirt that Grama had recently brought from America. Grama and Grampa supplied all clothing and as far as she knew that is where necessities came from. A play station, toys, shoes, towels, mixers and of course clothing had become my parents “gift” to the children as well as to him. Dress pants, ties and shirts were purchased and put together into suitable and professional sets and then brought as yearly gifts in boxes that either preceded their visit or came along with them. This was undeniably the most helpful lifeline that we were blessed with but also came to be a sharp double edged sword, both welcomed and dreaded.
Little ones jumped to attention and sat upright, the girls fixed loose hairs and smoothed their abayas and I knew that this was it. He smiled and sat directly opposite my chair and I reciprocated with a grin and nervous laugh. Heme pestered and whined asking for ice cream, cheesecake and fries. I shushed him and placed him on my lap informing Baba (their father) that we had found the perfect pair of pants, a replacement for the distasteful and repulsive ones that had been the topic of discussion just days before. He waited patiently as I took them out and did my best to make them look mundane, unflattering and non-threatening. An exasperated sigh wisped between clenched teeth and parted lips, his eyes rolled back and forward and his hands rested in their place on his lap.
This is a series regarding the time period when I met him. I hope to shed light on how it all began. The first 6 installments can be found here:
Spokane Was. 1982
A single pine cone dropped from a tree that lined the well manicured dirt road. Pine needles and other natural debris were constantly raked and hauled away leaving a pristine entry way to the house that stood on the hill. It was the last of five homes that marked this mile long road and mom insisted that it be picture perfect.
I slowly made my way between two towering pine which had become the parking area for extra cars. The smell of popcorn, hot dogs and concessions permeated my hair and clothing making it necessary to quickly make my way in through the car port door and hopefully straight to the shower. I gingerly opened the door and walked just two feet when I was greeted by his smiling face. He approached me cautiously and placed a single kiss above my forehead.
The noise of Dad’s recliner clanking shut reminded me that he was still home and most likely taking a break between projects. He taught high school English and was the department head but for now it was summer and time was spent checking off jobs that mom had listed on a piece of lined paper. Within minutes Dad walked past and reminded him that they would need to start early morning and might possibly need more supplies. He nodded his head and grinned eagerly, piecing sentences together that tasked his rudimentary English skills.
This is a series detailing how I met him and how things began. If you missed the first story you can find it here.
Pullman, Wa. 1982
A shaded silhouette just outside the apartment kept its pace and could be seen through smoke laden curtains. Finally silence was broken with a knock at the door. I had been watching the thin figure as it made its way back and forth several times and now there he stood, the man from the previous day.
Sweaty hands left an imprint on the vinyl couch and loose hair flitted back and forth, masking a full view of the kitchen and entrance to the apartment. I fidgeted with a loose piece of material and tapped my fingers nervously, giving my sister the look that meant I was thoroughly annoyed. A repeat of the initial conversation was now whispered and gained volume with each syllable and expletive. My position had been clearly stated and left nothing more to be discussed.
He was handsome with olive skin and black curly hair, dark brown eyes and a black moustache made him look mature and self-assured. His thick accent and rudimentary language skills made hand gestures necessary but it was clear he was asking me out for a drink. He had borrowed a friends’ car and was waiting, it would be quick and harmless. It seemed ridiculous to continue protesting and it would make my sister and her boyfriend happy. One simple night out and life would then return to normal.
He drove to a nearby town where we sat for hours in the local hotel lounge. A polite and respectful exchange slowly drifted into intimate glances and eventually a tender press of his lips onto mine. He had a different way about him, doors opened, gentle words were spoken and an overall sense of a grounded person was presented. A reminder still tugged at my brain cautioning me to be guarded but I would not be deterred from following my heart.
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Author: The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Alum: Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College. Follow on twitter @SmpageSteve on Instagram @smpagemoria on Facebook @steven.page.1481
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