While I tried to brainstorm all kinds of ideas on how to apologize to my family for my not being present in their lives the last 2 years. I thought the best place to start was a quick trip to the mall and buying some gifts for them after who doesn't like a gift? It wasn't difficult picking out something for mom and dad but when it came to getting something for Amina , I was lost. I tried to remember all the things she liked from back when we used to be close, but nothing came to mind.
Absentmindedly I walked into the jewelry department of the mall and found myself staring at sterling silver rings neatly displayed behind shiny glass counters. OK, wait a minute what am I doing here?! I am not proposing to her... but she does like rings and I felt bad for the last time I sent her a gift, last eid, a box of tacky looking coconut scented candles , even though I was well aware of the fact that Aminah hated the coconut scent. So, this time I MUST outdo myself. So, I picked out a simple yet elegant ring, I knew Aminah would love. I even got something for my brother- in - law Omer, I figured it was the proper thing to do since I would be seeing them for the first time since the two got married.
Once home, I thought I should call my folks let them know I am coming, maybe I should give them a surprise! Yes that is what I will do, wouldn't want them worrying instead in a moment of sheer spontaneity I decided to call Aminah, I don't know why but I did...and I didn't realize till Aminah picked up, "Assalamalikum" Aminah said ,
"Walikummusalam" I whispered,
Noura is that you?
Who else would it be?
Why are you whispering? Do you have a sore throat?
No... I'm going to give a surprise.
I don't want them to find out..
Who are you talking about?
Mom and dad, they are in town right?
Aminah burst out laughing,"Well rest assured they wont overhear you , "
Ahemm Ahemm, I cleared my throat , " Ofcourse, I knew that... huh I was only trying to be funny" I felt a little embarrassed but delighted all the same that I made her laugh, I had always managed to cheer her up with my lame jokes, for a moment it seemed everything between us was back to normal.
"So, when are you planning to come?" Said Aminah,
"This weekend Insha'Allah."
"Oh , that's not far off at all, I am so happy you're coming. You must come and stay at my place. Omer and I would be delighted to have you!"
"Oh, no no no, I don't want to cause you two any trouble."
"Trouble? Are you kidding me? We would love to have you over! Oh, we have so much catching up to do , places to see, fun fun fun fun times ahead".
"Aminah, you don't understand, its just, I'm ..."
While I wracked my brains to wriggle out of Aminah's invitation to stay at her place, my younger sister happily talked on and on of all the fun things we could do together and didn't let me say anything.
'Fun? I thought, What does she know about having fun? I don't even want to know what her definition of fun was anymore.'
"OK, I have to go now make preparation please text me the time your train gets here and and I'll come pick you" said Aminah cutting into my thoughts.
"Great, see you Insha'Allah Assalamalikum."
With that the call ended. I felt a bit dazed and what had just happened. All this time I had tried to distance myself from my younger sister labelling her as an annoying "haram police" and here she was inviting me with open arms to her new home as if , there was nothing wrong between us. I was touched.
'I too will try to be nice Insha'Allah to her and my parents and make up for lost time, after all its the least I can do' I thought. And I was determined to do just that.
3 Days Later....
The morning I had to catch a train back to my parents home in Surrey, had been a nerve wrecking one , I was nervous and my palms were sweaty and I couldn't force myself to eat anything and forced down a few sips of black coffee. Then hurriedly went to change and rummaged through my closet for something appropriate to wear. I have nothing to wear , I have nothing to wear, I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!!!!! While I was about to have a nervous breakdown my eyes fell on a pair of beige slacks and right to next to it long sleeved chocolate brown top , I hadn't worn in the longest time. As I looked for some accessories to go with my look I saw a scarf Aminah had given me back when she was in university. It had been one of her class projects and once she had been graded on it she gifted it to me.
It was teal colored scarf with metallic tread going through it and the tassels had small glass beads knotted into them. I marveled at how much skill would have gone in to this once piece of cloth as Aminah had to make weave the cloth, dye it and make the tassels herself. It had always been my favorite accessory and back then a part of identity but not anymore. I had made the compromise of letting go of a part me to be able to excel in my job and the thought of it never seized to make me feel guilty of my actions. I wrapped the scarf around my neck and rushed out the door.
On a crisp Saturday morning ,as my eyes searched for a familiar face in the crowded train station in Surrey a familiar face smiled back at me. I smiled back and walked towards Aminah. Omer was there to much to my surprise, I said salam to both of them. Aminah hugged me tight and I couldn't summon the courage to hug her back i just patted her on the back lightly. "Its good to have you back." Aminah said. And I just nodded and smiled back at her.
In the car , I politely answered questions and nodded in agreement to what Aminah was saying. Omer didn't say much and even if he spoke he was addressing Aminah not me. 'Typical conservative types I thought, I mean what is so wrong about making polite conversation with your sister in law, HELLOOO, WE'RE RELATED and I don't bite! Huh...
When the car turned into a familiar street, I sat upright, "Hey, are we going to see mom and dad first?"
"I remember you wanted to surprise them " whispered Aminah , "don't worry they don't know you're coming to see them". She giggled. "Aminah! you should have told me!" I said feeling a little annoyed, I didn't feel mentally ready to see them just yet. The car drove into the driveway and before I knew it I was ringing the doorbell to their house. The butterflies in my stomach started to flutter about at top speed and to make it worse I hadn't eaten anything through tout the day. I was nervous, famished, gittery, happy, worried OK I think you get the picture.
Mom opened the door, and her jaw dropped. "Noura ! is that you?" she asked . Seriously , people I haven't been away that long for you to not recognize me! I thought to myself. "Yeah it me." I said. She hugged me and I hugged her back. All day I had been holding back the tears and now when I hugged my mom I just couldn't hold them back any longer. I started sobbing like a little girl in my mom's arms .
"Noura? Whats wrong my love? Aren't you happy to see us?" My mom asked worriedly. "Mom, I missed you so much , I'm so sorry for being aloof all this time ,please forgive me" I said between sobs. "Oh, forget about all that, you're here now and that is all that matters" She answered gently. While we were still locked in a hug my dad came from behind took us both into a bear hug . The feeling of that moment was indescribable, all the guilt and sadness that I had been carrying around with me up until that moment seemed to melt away into nothingness. All that matters was that my family was safe and I was there with them, safe and sound.
I had never really thought about it but seeing my sister and parents made me realize that how blessed I truly was. Many people don't have as understanding and as loving a family as I did, I thanked Allah . They had every right to be upset,to be hurt and not welcome me back into their home because of my behavior towards all of them in the past two years and for no reason except that I only focused on securing a good job and a comfortable life for myself. Yet, here we were locked in hug . I lifted my head up from mom's shoulder to see Aminah standing at some distance, smiling at us, she too had tears in her eyes. I held out my hand to her and pulled her into a hug.
For a moment, I convinced myself that my world was right again.
(Stay tuned for part 3 Insha'Allah, :) )