Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy Eid!

It was a lucky day today, and my girls and I were the beneficiaries of an unexpected little blessing.

It’s very, very cold today: the coldest day yet this year. And yet, this was the day for the little one to get her flu shot. We don’t have a car in New Jersey, so that means walking a mile uphill into the wind for the shot, pushing the stroller, and then walking back downhill forty minutes later to drop her off at daycare. I walked back home, picking up some groceries on the way (another half mile or so), worked for an hour, and then walked back to school (that same half mile again) for a parent-teacher conference. Then, I walked downtown, had lunch, and took the train into the city, did some errands that needed doing today, got a cup of tea and worked a bit, and walked the half-mile back to school to pick up my kindergartener. I was cold and my feet were tired.

And there was Mrs. Z., a beloved after-school teacher, now transferred to work with the big kids. We both greeted her with love. She is, after all, the woman who painstakingly planned little crafts to amuse my daughter every day after school last year.

I complimented her headscarf. Today, it was a brilliant hot pink with sequins and hot pink lace detail.

Today is my holiday, she explained. And I have to work. So I thought, I’m just going to work with my pink and my new handbag. It’s a holiday but I have to work, and besides, my children are in college and they both have finals today. What am I going to do? Stay home and celebrate with my four walls?

She was practical, but sad, I could see. I remember when her mother died in Egypt last year. Although her children are grown, we are the same age, and I can imagine how it would feel to be far from home, motherless, and wanting to celebrate a holiday that few Americans know about.

We said our goodbyes and headed home.

A few moments later came a honk. There was Mrs. Z., in her huge gray minivan. Are you walking, mommy? Do you need a ride? It’s too cold to walk, mommy. Get in.

I protested that I had to get the baby. But she loves the baby. She would be happy to wait in the car. We got the baby. I put the stroller in the front seat and we drove off.

Do you have a special way to celebrate Eid? Is there a dish you’re going to make?

You mean in Egypt or here?

Well, both.

In Egypt, we go to the farm and get a sheep. They kill it and clean it for us and then we take it home. We keep a third of the lamb for ourselves, give a third to our friends and family, and give a third to the poor. We eat lamb. Lamb and rice. But we don’t keep it all: that’s part of our religion, to remember the poor. And we get new clothes, especially the kids. And we visit each other. And everywhere you go, the kids get money, even if it’s just a little bit, one dollar, five dollars.

Here, I went to the store and bought some lamb. I haven’t even cooked it yet!

We laughed.

She dropped us at home.

The children were thrilled: so happy to be spared the cold, to be spared that long walk. I was too. Best of all, I could see that we were the poor to Mrs. Z: the recipients of her good deed this Eid. I am very, very grateful.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Celebrating a quarter century of procrastination

It's early December. Finals are around the corner, but so is Christmas. And when I should be grading papers and finishing up loose ends, I find myself researching the pros and cons of various Christmas presents on the web and trying to figure out when it would be best to go visit Santa.

I remember this feeling so vividly from my freshman year of college--in 1984! My college had an honors code that allowed you to take exams at any time during exam period. We all pledged not to discuss exams after we'd done them. It sounds implausible, but it actually worked: there was very little cheating--I never saw any. While most of my fellow students mapped out reasonable schedules wherein they'd take a morning exam, rest in the afternoon, study for a day, and take a second exam, I planned to take my exams one on top of the other: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, until I was done. I hopped in a taxi, headed to Logan, and flew home to Seattle. I wanted to make cookies with my Mama.

I find it a little amazing--sad, funny, and strange--that now, a quarter century later, I remain just as stubbornly poor at finishing up what I've begun.

I just want to make cookies with my girls.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

So THAT's where the money's been

I got an email yesterday from my publisher. My royalty checks have been going to my old address. They've come back returned. If I send her my current mailing address, she'll cut a new check in the new year (times are tough all over, I guess).

I am trying hard not to think about how much the check will be for. It was a fun email to get.

I'm hoping that it'll be at least twenty dollars. That'd keep me in lattes for a couple weeks, with some careful budgeting...

I'll keep you posted.