Tag Archives: friendship

Ibtissam…

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Her name means smile.  And boy does she have a good one! I met her once before, months ago, on the playground around the corner and we stumbled along in French. I’ve since tried to ring her door bell a few times but we haven’t managed to find each other.  Until two weeks ago.

She was at the park by the kids’ school. I recognized her underneath her hijab and we began at once just where we left off. By the sometimes miracle of six months, our babies were actually old enough to play without our ever-intervention.  So we chatted along in French in the sunshine, with the line of Presidio trees rising along our shoulders to the left, the city blinking bright below us on the right.

I noticed a woman watching us and edging closer.  I turned to her and smiled.  She stepped over.  Our French had reached her ears and she came to sit by us.  As it would turn out she just moved from Paris six months ago. She introduced us to her darling baby and confessed to knowing no one, a couple French families, she said, but no Americans. We exchanged numbers and promised to have coffee.

I was going to walk back and invited Ibtissam to walk with me.  She went one step further and invited us into her apartment for a full Moroccan tea.

Like any hostess she apologized for the mess and hastily moved toys aside. Her two daughters played with my three kids. And we talked happily while she set out cookies in beautiful little crystal dishes.  She showed me how to scoop the mint and tea into a pot, how to steep it and how much sugar to add.  We had a feast of peanuts and pistachios, beautiful butter cookies dipped in chocolate, and little gold rimmed glasses of sweet hot Moroccan mint tea. When those were finished off (by many little fingers besides our own) she got out two beautiful flat disks of homemade bread and olives in oil for dipping.

We ate and talked well into the dinner hour and as it was getting dim we tore ourselves away. We had talked about the similarities between Lent and Ramadan. We had shared about our faiths. We had talked about the loneliness of motherhood. And we had shared what makes us ourselves outside of these domestic spheres. “This,” she said, spreading her hands, “Sitting like this with friends. This is what I love.”

I am thankful for the gift of language that has enabled me to get to know one of these beautiful mothers. And I am thankful for this experience that has forever changed how I see the women underneath the hijab.

For LD…

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My dear friend and her family came over for dinner tonight. They’re the ones, when people say, “Wow! Three kids in a two bedroom apartment? That’s crazy!” I say of whom, “Oh, yeah? Well, some of our closest friends have four kids in a two bedroom apartment. Two bunkbeds, one room, just like that, bam, bam, bam, bam.”

So, there were seven kids seven and under at my “house” tonight. We were four adults helping the children regardless of to whom they belonged. We asked help of each other’s spouses because they were closer. We took shifts at dinner. And, amid the chaos, over the course of two hours, my friend and I managed to hold a disjointed conversation about how healthy it is to have more kids than we can handle.

Why? Because it keeps you humble. And keeping humble keeps you needing, needing God, needing neighbors. It’s great for her because she has to say no to some things that she might otherwise let define her. And it’s great for me because it takes me into community and out of my house where I would be very content to be defined by the pretty stories in my mind. It keeps us dependent on something else to define us, someone else. It keeps us needing Jesus.

It keeps our kids needing Jesus, too. Because, Hey-O!, no way I can address every single concern these kids have throughout the day. My daughter asked me today to bring her the glue from the desk. I was like, “You’re sitting next to the desk.”

It teaches them a little more independence because Mom “just can’t even”. And, I have to let them (pour their own milk!) because I “just can’t even”.

It also keeps you poorer. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade, people. And that keeps us in a healthy state of examination. How badly do I want this pair of socks?

And the judging. You can forget about the judging. Everyone should be overwhelmed to the point that they can no longer judge, very healthy.

All this to say, I think we comforted each other tonight. And for all of you out there who can’t have the overwhelming leagues of children you would like to have for one reason or another, let me just say to you that we, the overwhelmed, are thankful, know we should be thankful, and are trying desperately to be thankful all at the same time.

Love to all the Mommas tonight.

Perseid Meteor Shower…

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One of my friends arranged a little late night stargazing last night. They picked me up at 9:45 and we drove our way the last twenty blocks between my house and Sutro Heights Park. We stood for a while there leaning on a chain link fence, the only thing plus three feet separating us from the edge of the cliff. The long strip of the Great Highway demarcated by yellowed traffic lights went out from under our feet. The long black strip of Ocean Beach butt up against it flaming here and there with bonfires of a truer yellow. Here and there the waves cut gashes of glowing white against the black beach. And the city laid out to our left looking so much like the lame attempt of humanity to duplicate the stars, it’s beautiful constellations less interesting in the too ordered lines of streets. There were four of us, bundled against the mist, passing flasks back and forth, talking about our summers, our babies, and the impending start of school. We couldn’t see the stars. The marine layer was thick over our heads.

Someone suggested we drive across the bridge in hopes for a better look. The fog above our heads glowed with the city’s light and leant an unnatural dusk to our steps. Here and there we heard animals scurry. There being coyotes in these parts I carried two sticks, because, you know, that would help. And we saw what looked like a goose coming up, its long curved neck looking back at us.

My friend ran at it and quacked. Then we saw it move.

“Oh, no it’s not a duck!”
“It’s a skunk, get back, get back!”
“It’s tail’s up!”
“It’s going away!!”
“They can spray up to forty feet!” (I stated this unhelpful fact and I’m not even sure it’s true.)

Well, we made it back to the car still smelling like ourselves and wound our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We felt young and old at the same time, running around with our friends at eleven o’clock at night, yet, tucked in the minivan next to car seats of various sizes with toys and tiny rain boots at our feet. As we climbed the bluffs on the other side of the bridge we realized that we weren’t going to get a better view from up here. We parked and walked out into a cloud. It wrapped around us giving the headlights coming around the bend the glow of wildfire.

We walked up the trail into the dark. The great bridge was below our feet, not far but completely lost in the fog. Its lamps alone delineated the bridge. And the cars driving through looked like sliding LED lights on a display board. The fog was so close it was claustrophobic, pressing it’s immense presence against us with a feather’s touch. The city light it captured and reflected back enhanced the effect of its solidity.

And it was good to be with these women, in our bundled jackets, sharing a dark chocolate bar, and trying not to acknowledge our yawns. We four being just mothers doing our best, working so hard to understand these hearts is our care, and trying to determine with laughter and earnestness where to offer ourselves grace and where to try harder. And the fog engulfing us made us feel small but it was tolerable because we were together.