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.


Rebecca H. said...

That's a great story -- I love the fact both that you are able to walk so many places where you live and that you didn't have to walk everywhere that particular day!

Anne Camille said...

What a great story. Funny, but also sad that she bought a lamb to celebrate the end of the fast, but hadn't cooked it yet.

Did they light up the Empire State Building for the holiday? I think it has been green in the past, but I don't know the symbolism of the color.

It's stories like this, and the realization that she couldn't take off work on her holiday, that really makes one realize how much our society revolves around Christian tradition.

Renaissance said...

I grew up in colombia and because the catholic church is pretty orthodox, there were no christmas trees, santa, etc. baby jesus left presents under each kid's bed, unwrapped and adults didn't exchange presents. though i'm not religious, i miss how simple the holidays were when i was a kid - it was all about family. This story reminds me of the food you always had to save for the poor. Everyday, right after lunch and dinner, you had to have enough food to share with them. they showed up with a dish and you took it to the kitchen, filled it with food and gave it back. every household had its regular group. usually they were children though so that was terribly sad.