Sometimes the cheese works

The Close-of-Service “Letter to Yourself”
(Cross-posted at my other blog, Thoughts Redacted.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2001.

It’s your (my) last day in Bayt Yafa. Surprisingly typical: I had breakfast upstairs. We watched the new miniseries, but it isn’t as good as the old one with Abu Sfooh. I came downstairs to clean and the girls came with me to help and wouldn’t be deterred. Lunch was mensaf upstairs. We made potato pancakes from the mix I had. The whole family sat around the living room, tv on but ignored, and discussed food, politics, and my personal lack of a husband.

Now I’m sitting in my disturbingly bare living room writing this. Outside a child is crying, cars occasionally drive past, men are walking home after the maghreb prayers, and the guy in the house around the corner is practicing his flute-pipe, as he so often does. The sun has set. Somewhere not so far from here Rosh Hashana is ending, so the television schedule is irregular. The breeze is blowing and upstairs the baby and her older brother are stomping around. In nearly every way, it’s a day like every other day.

So what’s different now from September of 1999? A lot remains the same. I still hate goat meat. I still can’t eat with dignity using bread rather than a fork. But lots has changed. I never forget to say salaam aleikum when entering a room or to turn my shoes right-side-up. I can sit for lots longer on the floor without pain. I can cook well enough to live without the convenience of a microwave or a grocery store. I can entertain myself and let conversations happen around me. I know the thing to say after eating, bathing, coughing, and sneezing, and I know at least half a dozen ways to wear an ishaar.

[Insert paragraph about specific persons and our relationships here.]

So all this begs the question: where are you now? But I think we’ve learned one thing so far in life. Relaxing, hanging in there, seeing what happens, and going with gut impulses has worked well so far. And wherever you are now — it’s okay, if you’re happy and healthy and hopeful.

Great picture, Dad.

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