Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eid Mubarak, Happy 2007, and my Mother

It's time to bid farewell to a passing year and greet with warmth and hope another one. Not sure about you, but the last couple of years have been a bit rough for me. I've tested and been tested and will continue to test myself from what I hope is a healthier, more centered place. I've never done the resolution thing, but I think this year I just might hold myself to something... or a few things.

A number of people have entered my life this year and some have left it too. I've done some of my own leaving and I hope that even if it's not understood that people can find it in their hearts to forgive me. I've needed to hybernate for a while and given myself time to lick some wounds I discovered had been ignored. To those of you who have shared with me over this year, thank you and kisses at midnight. To those of you frustrated by my disappearance, expect a more personal apology and explanation. To everybody, HAPPY 2007!

It's been hectic with so many things happening at the same time. First, it's Eid el-Adha (Sacrificial Holiday), which celebrates Abraham's obedience to God and God's reciprocal generosity to him. One of my favorite aspects of this holiday (as well as Ramadan) is that it demonstrates the sense of social responsibility in Islam in a tangeable way--the meat of the slaughtered animal (sheep or lamb in most places) is distributed among friends, neighbors, and the poor. And while I'm on the secular end of things, I appreciate this as well as the emphasis on family.

In addition to Eid and the New Year, it's my mother's birthday! Born exactly 71 years to this day in Tripoli, Libya, was the lovely lady that would later have her own 7 children of which I am musmasit il karsha (womb rinser is the strange nick-name for the youngest in Libya--don't ask where that comes from).

She would become one of the first generation of Arabic Libyan students and teachers and dropped off by her father (a true revolutionary) in Msilata to teach at a new school as a part of the government's education program. From msilata, she adopted the custom of using way too many jalapeno peppers in just about everything she cooked. This would be a source of contention for some years between us as my pallet wasn't yet accustomed to 3rd degree fires in my mouth. But as is predictable, I have turned into my mother: I now happily create fires in my own cooking, causing others to resent me in exactly the same way. And it was true when she said she didn't intend do because I don't either.

This amazing woman would marry an ambitious hotty from the small eastern village of Derna--a neighbor of her older sister's husband from the same town--and they would begin their adventures together thereafter. And the adventures were only beginning when he flew in Dutch cows and brought a small calf home one day because he couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. This would eventually lead them to actually move to the small ranch (villas and cows don't mix well) and dabble in dairy products. Other adventures I've heard of include cross North African road trips during which eccentric hitch-hikers were picked up.

She later returned to teaching and school administration and is gleefully addressed as "Abla A---" by many women throughout Tripoli and even abroad. Her disciplinary method of choice was a tight pinch on the inner thigh--sufficiently horrifying hundreds of students into behaving. Besides that, she's the kind of person whose gentility and kindness elicit respect from children and adults alike (and you don't want to get on her bad side lest you continuously are at the receiving end of subtle yet effective looks of disappointment).

When life brought tragedy and trouble to her, she buckled down and got to work. And when she saw the opportunity to take back what was rightfully hers, she would take the risk that so many others before her were afraid to do. As much as the approval of her loved ones mattered to her, her sense of right, wrong, and justice were strongly centered in her faith. And if God is on her side, nothing could make her back down. So she didn't. And she was right.

I owe so much to my mother and I can't possibly list it here. She's wise, perceptive, and gentle--and has a killer smile! Lucky for me, I look exactly like her (though she's really prettier). Happy Birthday to la madre mia! Inshallah next year, I'll be with her on this day.

Salams/Peace to all!