This might be my kids first iftaar with my parents. The immense blessing of this is so real.
My husband is away. I drive. The two hours to New York City doesn’t seem like it’s far enough to be away from my mother. For most of my adult life, I accepted her warning, “Don’t come here without your husband”— a leftover sentiment from another era. My mother says this out of love for our safety.
I disobey, willingly, because I think it’s important for my kids to experience being with Nani and Nana.
I get through the bridges and tunnels, listening to my Wird or Salawat and the snores of one kid the questions of the other and call my mother when I’m halfway there. She is neither happy nor displeased, just accepting.
I accepted what she said until I decided it was no longer okay.
I think my time is a sort of charity. My kids and I are both free to travel, and my parents Alhamdullilah, are able to receive us. If it were anyone else, I think they would have spent the entire week with their parents instead of alone at home. My mother tells me you can come if you want to, but I know her work triples when we are at her house.
My parents are not retired and not interested in retirement. The New York lifestyle of work, work, work is what keeps them moving. I believe it is core of who they are. For the entirety of tax season, my father has no complaints about his health. He is walking, going up stairs, moving, talking with clients, running his business. My Ma is doing all the things she always does, plus adding the intense schedule of extra worship. She prepares everything from scratch. Doesn’t believe in buying anything ready-made. She cooks the three or four dishes my dad wants, after she comes home from work. Her iftaar spread makes my eyes tear.
They are both fasting, Alhamdullilah. Just that they are able to experience this miracle is beyond me.
My mother works full time. Also she is committed to Ramadan 100%. She walks to tarawee every single night and walks home. She prepares all the meals and does all the cleaning. She does all that is expected of her and then does even more. She reads Quran every day before she leaves for work. There is no sleeping in— she has to get to her school at 7:30. When people say, “I don’t know how she does it all” they are speaking about my mother.
How I remember my Ma as a child
I’ve always seen her juggle work and family life so perfectly. I recall no balls ever dropped. I never questioned that I would be able to do the same. She choose a job so she would have independence and something to do.
As a child it affected me greatly when she went from being a SAHM to exploring careers in nursing and teaching. I remember crying and missing her so much. I used to create a lot of artwork I learned from library books. But I might have been 7 or 8 when she started, and in school full time. I thinks she said she was bored at home.
When my mother started work, my father’s mother — Dadu— was staying with us but she was almost in the background. I don’t remember anything except her white saris. She was a single mother who raised 5 kids on her own. But I don’t remember any interactions with her. She didn’t cook anything, she prayed a lot, and she always had dhikr beads in her hand. I don’t remember if we ever went anywhere together as a family. My parents were always working. We had television to babysit us, as if we didn’t notice the tension in the house.
Our routine was to turn on the tv, and do our homework, and I recall no service to my grandparent. No sitting down with her to read the Quran. No massaging her feet. My mother hired a Quran teacher who came to the house to teach me and brother. I remember how she used to fall asleep while listening to us read. Anyway, we probably missed out on a lot of bonding as a family because my parents were working. May God forgive me for what I didn’t know I was supposed to do.
My Ma has been the greatest source of light in my life. When I call her — no matter where she is— she picks up and talks to me, gives me advice. She doesn’t always have time to “sit around and do nothing” — her words to describe it—with the kids. She is always in motion. She also takes care of my dad, who for the most of my life, seems capable and competent but just chooses to spend his time differently. She sees her primary role as caregiver. She saw her mother — my Dida, maternal grandmother— work and care for her 5 kids for the most part and she continues the cycle of caring for those she loves.
This kind of labor is not gendered.
My father in law is of the same exact mold. He is constantly in motion, taking care of people and their needs. He does secret charity for people — pays their rent, takes care of someone’s mortgage, etc. He’s always helping my mil out with things she could do, but she chooses to spend her time differently, sorta like my father. Its a wacky parallel.
I knew I had always stayed on the path, and always been conscious about doing anything wrong. My mother had inculcated in me from an early age that it is important to do what she tells me to do. I never doubted her opinion, and always sought out her opinion on things that mattered. Pretty much my whole life.
When I brought friends to meet my parents, I always wanted my mother’s opinion She had an uncanny ability to judge others. My best friend growing up was Guyanese, the daughter of a single mother. My mother always encouraged us to be friends because my friend had great manners, and excellent character. She is a career coach now, running her own business: I’ve known others who share my culture, or religion, and my mother will become quiet when I ask her, do you like her as my friend? She never judged someone based on a piece of cloth on their head. In fact she said that women who cover have something to hide.
The things my Ma says!
I hope that my daughter seeks me out, and asks for advice the way that I seek my mother out.
I never saw beyond the surface, never saw past my own egotistical eyes, past my own judgements. I am like the vast majority of humanity that sticks to our race, creed, and every other marker that makes it easy. I stayed within the lines that were drawn by my mother. She gave me certain lines and I never crossed them.
Well now I cross them. I didn’t have a rebellious teenage phase so it’s about time.
I am grateful that she told me the endings to things, and that she predicted the futures so correctly. I am grateful that she kept me safe, and kept my safety and preservation as her number one priority. She never wavered in her commitment to me.
May God grant her the highest station in Paradise, build a house that is close to Him and May we all be with those we love.
I am starting to say no to my Ma.
I’m navigating whether what she says to me is out of some kind of emotion because I realize she says things that she does not mean. There is hidden meaning in the things she says.
She asks, what will you do when the kids grow up? You need to go back to your career. “Call the nanny, and get back to your life.”
I know staying home is the craziest thing I ever did– especially in these uncertain times– but I feel like she knows me better than any one else. She wants me to have something to fall back on, to use my education for something.
Instead I do exactly what she says not to do.
I take the kids to the park. We touch bunnies and lizards at the environmental center. We play and run around.
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