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Entries in love (11)


The Boy Chases Monsters

Nuha’s friend’s mom texted me and asked  if Nuha could see Maleficient with them this past Saturday. I didn’t respond right away. I wasn’t worried about the appropriateness of the movie. It was because of Yusuf. He couldn’t go. First, because Maleficient is too scary. Second? Because sending someone to the movies with Yusuf would be the equivalent of placing a severed horse head in their bed in the middle of the night. 

I end up saying yes to the movie, so I soften the blow on Saturday morning by making an impromptu announcement that I will be taking Yusuf to Mud Island Park. It’s a scale model thing of the Mississippi River that the Army Corps of Engineers built in some year I can’t remember. Once we get there, we decide to walk from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. I think that’s about a mile. Maybe two? 

This will be the most I have moved in several days. I’m battling things. Health things. My joints are messed up. My muscles are all spasming and being uncooperative in every way. The doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong with me. When I get home from work, it’s all I can do to help Tariq feed, bathe and put the children to bed. 

You have no idea how hard that last sentence was for me to type out. You might not have even noticed the part that was hard for me. 

I … help Tariq with the kids…” This feels wrong to me. He should help me with the kids. As in, I’m supposed to be in charge of taking care of the kids. That’s my job. Not because I'm a woman, but because I am Faiqa. But. I just can’t be in charge of it right now, and I’m ashamed of this. I don’t know why my body isn’t cooperating, the doctor doesn’t know why, my family doesn’t know why and I have been angry, sad and lonely because of it.

In fact, when I announced the Mud Island excursion, Tariq cocked his head to the left and telepathically sent a message, “Are you sure?” 

I think I said, “His sister got to go to a movie! He should get to go to Mud Island.” Which was weird because he didn’t actually ask the question and it made me look like I was talking to myself.

Once we’re there, though, we have fun! We make boats out of leaves, and every fifteen minutes or so, Yusuf places his leaf in a miniature lake. “Time to get another one,” he tells me, “that one is done.” As he walks away from the old leaf, he calls over his shoulder, “Thanks, Leaf, for letting us use you as a boat.” 

I mean…WHAAAT? I didn’t teach him that. Whoever taught him that is a beautiful person. Maybe nobody taught him that. Maybe that’s who we all really are when we’re allowed to be who we are. 

We’ve made it as far as the border of Louisiana on this scale model thing and a downpour of rain surprises us. We run to one of the many shade trees that line mini-Old Man River, and wait out the squall.  The tree mists us and I look at my sweet boy. I realize that I’m really looking at him, right now. Not as a job, not as something that I haven’t been very good at, but as a human. What I see and feel in that moment is indescribable. It is joy, hope, love, longing… all of those things that I’ve been trying to feel for a while, but I just couldn’t quite touch.

The storm is a short one, but it’s not the last rain of the day. We concede a bit past northern Louisiana. Not bad, we almost made it. On the way out, he says in a serious voice, “I had fun, Mama. Thank you.” I’m struck again by this child’s casual relationship with gratitude. I should be more like this boy who thanks leaves for being boats and Mama for taking him out. 

On the way out of the park, I hold up my phone and we take a selfie shot together. The rain has washed away my make up and frizzed my hair, and I look a hot mess in every photo. I look at them, though, and I have a revelation. I will always be beautiful to this boy the way my mother will always be beautiful to me.

There's also a good chance that, despite the fact that I don’t feel like I’m measuring up, he will count himself lucky to be loved by me. Maybe every flaw of ours is forgiven by the ones who truly love us when we decide to try being a good person. In this moment, I forgive myself for needing help, and, also, for being mad at myself about that in the first place.  

Even now, I don’t know why those words, “I had fun” inspired me to shake off the fog. Stated so simply, with such seriousness, they seem benign, but, it's unmistakably true, I was changed. My son changed my mind about me on that rainy Saturday afternoon. Deep in the pit of who I am, I know that everything is going to be fine now.

Several months ago, I started singing “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to Yusuf at his bedtime. There’s this one line, “The monster’s gone / He’s on the run / And your Daddy’s here…” John Lennon was a genius for many reasons, and one of them is that he wrote that perfect lullaby for his son. Funny thing about John Lennon, though, he may have chased his son’s monsters away, but I think my son chases mine.



My music is a time machine.

Put the earbuds in.

Turn up the volume.

The world of this moment disintegrates into the infiniteness of the universe. Time goes faster. I’m thrust into the future. I’m me, but maybe more… maybe less. It paints reality with a subjective brush — dark colors or light… it depends on the fuel in the machine today. The notes. The rhythm. The words.

Today, the time machine is set to high speed and forward. Time machines are especially convenient in this way. Propelling you past the moments you couldn't care less for… towards being “done” and past the wisdoms that imply journeys are esteemed over destinations. Case in point, I’m scrubbing the children’s bathroom.

The agenda today was to clean my own bathroom. Uno. One bathroom. Not two.

I was scrubbing the shower and the children were impressed by my fervent commitment to clean. A moment of inspiration hit them and they announced their intentions to clean their bathroom, too, because they wanted to “help.” I smiled to let them know that they are sweet and good and kind to think of their mother. Then, I went back to scrubbing as the music that is now a little older than I feel comfortable with did the task of making time move faster.

And then there was screaming. “My AIIII-YZZZ!!”

I paused my time machine and turned around to find my dear daughter grabbing a hand towel to wipe her eyes down. “MAIIII AIIIYYYYYZZZZZ!!!”

People who are good in emergencies know one thing that people who are not good in emergencies do not know. 

You must keep calm. 

No matter how much despair promises to crash upon you, for God’s sake, keep calm. I’m good at emergencies. My daughter is not. And before we discuss the thirty year age difference, know that I have always been good at emergencies. Even when I was seven. My theory is that every human being needs to express a certain amount of drama in a lifetime. I express mine in little doses all day and my daughter who is an extremely calm person in her every day life expresses them when she gets soap in her eyes.  

 “Am I going to go bliiiind? OWWWW!!”

“Of course not, it’s just soap. Hold still.”

“Do I have to go to the hospital?!!”

“No. Hold still, I have to rinse your eye.”


“I haven’t raised you so far without being careful… now… hold… still… and STOP touching your eyes.”

“I think I need a doctor!!”

“You do not need a doctor. You need to hold still and stop touching your eye.”

And through all this, the three year old is yelling in the background like some sort of narcissist, “Mama, you have to come see the baffroom, I cleaned it so well, we’re helpers.”

So, we take care of the soap in her eyes and when she is moderately calm, I ask her exactly what kind of soap caused her to eyes to burn. Between you and me, I’m worried about the fact that she used the crazy scrub free bathroom cleaner spray that probably has some chemical in it that would, in fact, cause blindness or, even worse, result in a trip to the emergency room that would require me to change out of my bleach stained yoga pants that are reserved for bathroom cleanings. To my surprise, she takes me to the kitchen and hands me dish soap.

My first thought is to pat myself on the back for getting that free and clear brand that doesn’t have anything but plain old soap in it. 

My second thought is, “Oh, shit.”

As a dishwashing expert I know this: dish soap means a lot of bubbles. Mounds of bubbles. Dish soap is made for washing dishes as the name cleverly implies. It is not particularly suited to cleaning bathrooms. Speaking of small doses of daily drama, I feel the drama queen within me practicing vocal exercises like an opera diva in a green room. Then, I remember. 

“We’re going to help.” 

They are good, sweet and kind to help their mama. 

I park the girl on the couch with a washcloth over her eye because she insists that her eye still hurts which I know is absolutely untrue. The boy takes me to the bathroom which, my friends, is not clean. Like, at all. It's a mess of dirt and bubbles and reminds me of this party I went to in Cancun back in 1993 where they sprayed foam from the ceilings or something crazy like that. It’s a beautiful shower stall streaked with soapy residue. It’s a floor smattered with water, dust, toilet paper and bubbles. It’s a rug with… is that…what the hell… toothpaste?

A mass of light brown curls fall over his eyes, and he looks up glowing, “See?! Clean! Just like you do.”

I want to tell them both that this isn’t clean. I want to say, "Never, ever do this ever again!"

I feel the strong urge to let them know that they didn’t help me, but instead have created work for me. No, more importantly, they stole the hour I planned on using to finish a book before they’re dad got home. I want to. So very bad.

I don’t.

Because I’ve been here.

I’ve wanted to help someone and made a mess of things. I’ve been all good intentions with toothpaste on the rug and dirt and soap and toilet paper smushed on the floor. I'm not sure what that metaphor is about, but the answer may well still be in Cancun. Today, my children get a pass. One day, I will prepare them better. One day, I’ll teach them how to clean a bathroom. I’ll explain that intention isn’t enough.

Not today. Because while it isn’t enough, intention is necessary. The hope of us all lies in good intentions and in this damned bathroom with dish soap streaked on its stalls and toothpaste smeared on the ceramic tiles, and this mess isn’t just a symbol of all of my children’s love and good intentions — it’s a symbol of all of our good intentions. Yours. Mine. Today, my inner drama queen will have to wait for the moment she steps on a lego or a matchbox car (because that’s clearly evil). Today,  she will bask in intention and process.

No matter how terribly wrong the result.


Hunger Games and Happy Marriages

Last night, we watched Hunger Games on Blu-Ray.

We could have watched it in the theater when it came out, but we sat on the couch last night and watched instead. Sometimes, when we can't get a sitter, we complain about how far we've come since that day about ten years ago when we walked into a movie theater on a Thursday night and discovered we'd seen every movie that was out.

I think the last movie we saw in a theater was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer. Which was dope.That's my new phrase. I'm brining back "dope", "phat" and "boss." Wait. People still say "boss", don't they? It's not surprising because "boss' is pretty, well, boss.

Here are some excerpts from our dual commentary.


Me: OhmyGOODNESS, you should definitely grow a flamey beard.

Him: I was thinking the same thing. He looks smooth.

Me: Ew.



Me: Did he just snap that boy's neck with his bare hands? Okay, he's just a douche.

Him: They say that once you kill one person, then you know…::creepy eyebrow raise::"



Me: Of course she's going to go, he needs medicine, she HAS to go, why is he telling her not to go, he's being stupid.

Him: Are we still talking about the movie?

Me: Yes. Maybe. Okay. No.


Me: Bad guy mistake number one…

Him: Never tell the good guys how you're going to kill them.


Me: Oh, look that's like when we had to rub Flexall on each other's knees that one time.

Tariq: Don't ever say that again.


Him: Hey, where did HE come from? My money is on him -- the Black guy is going to win.

Me:I think that might be racist.

Him: It's not racist if I think he's going to win.

Me: I also think you haven't seen enough movies with endearing Black men.


Here's a little revelation: I don't like going to the movies with my husband because I love talking to him more than anything. He thinks I don't talk to him enough, but I don't think he realizes that I'm not much for small talk and all the big talk can get tiring. There's only so many times you can contemplate the mysteries of the universe in the context of humankind's existential dilemma.

The "how was your day" conversation isn't my forte though it seems to come easily to a lot of people,. 

The reason I love talking to my husband during movies or otherwise isn't because he's smart, which he is. Or clever, which he can be. Or even interesting, which he is 99% of the time (economic policy is not interesting, honey. Sorry, it just isn't.) It's not that he gets me mostly.

It's that he makes me laugh. Not just any laugh, when I'm with him I laugh with my whole heart.  It's not easy on a marriage -- having little children.

We argue. We get passive aggressive or, better yet, aggressive aggressive. But in those moments when we're both laughing so hard that the tears are coming out, I know it's fine. I know we're meant for each other.

Because we laugh.

And seem to have a penchant for mediocre one liners. 


Is there a quality in someone you love that feels redemptive for you and them? What is it? And why? 

You may open your blue books… now.


Apple Trees Don't Explain Broken Hearts.

In every mind, narratives explain life's little events.  Some always have heroes, villains and magical somethings.  The faces change, but the plots are played out the same way each time.

What are the stories we tell ourselves that explain our lives?  Are we casting new actors in the same roles?  Or are we seeing every experience as a blockbuster opening night with a carefully guarded surprise plot twist?

It's not that there's a right way to process life's victories and disappointments. I personally don't like telling myself the same story over and over, though. Unlike when I was a kid.

This was that era when parents didn't hover over you every second of the day and you could watch whatever you wanted as long as nobody was getting naked. One extraordinarily unbearable Florida summer, my brother and I watched Bill Murray and company battle the undead every single day in Ghostbusters. Watching the same people do the same thing in the same way every single time holds a special and necessary function.  The not knowing collapses under the sweet, weighty relief of knowing.

You don't even have to be there. It's going to happen the same way. Every time. You feel... control. My dad passes through the room one of those summer afternoons as Bill Murray holds up playing cards faced towards him and pretends the busty blond across the table is guessing all of them correctly.

How many times you gonna to watch this movie?  Something different is gonna happen this time? This is followed, of course, by a diatribe instructing us to go outside because this is compulsory for all parents of this time period because I think that movie about Adam Walsh hasn't been made yet and my mom won't start volunteering at the local rape crisis center for at least another two years. It's a simpler time.

Take a look at this:

Aside from the fact that the statically gendered aspect of this little graphic irritates me, I'm also affronted somewhat by how oppositional it is to the way I see everything. I don't tell myself the same stories repeatedly.

Correction: I stop myself from telling myself the same stories repeatedly .


Because boys can be like apples on trees, too, and girls can be too scared (or lazy) to climb all the way to the top to get "good" apples. What if being brave or being scared isn't even the issue? What if a broken heart doesn't have anything at all to do with an apple tree, and is, in fact, due to the fact that a climber simply prefers oranges?! There is also a distinct possibility that one of those apples on the floor is a good apple!! And for the love of God and all things holy, you're just going to sit on top of that tree and wait for someone to pick you?!!!

It reminds me of that Ghostbusters Summer.

How many times you gonna tell yourself this story?

Something different gonna happen this time?

You start telling yourself that same story and you don't even really have to be there for it to happen.

Maybe you'd be better off just going outside to play.

Image Credit


Lyrical Life: Happy Anniversary

Today is our eleventh anniversary.

Kind of. Because in India and Pakistan, weddings last for days and we never know whether to celebrate the day that we signed our papers or the day we had a ceremony.  So, we decided to celebrate the anniversary on a day when nothing happened.  Which was today.

A day that was relatively quiet and even.  Not a lot of flash.

In over a decade of marriage, I have learned a few things.  One of them is that love is a choice.  Passion ebbs and flows as does romance, but a happy marriage is one where each person wakes every morning and makes a decision to love the person next to them.  Or the person on the other side of the toddler sleeping next to them.

My wedding ring is simple.  It has a pretty nice size diamond on it with an antiqued platinum band.  My favorite part of my ring is the band.  It's sturdy, predictable, beautiful and strong.  The diamond is beautiful, without it - the ring would be nothing but a circle of metal.

But that band?  It's still my favorite part and for me, the light that the diamond casts gently over the sturdy, practical band is symbolic of how I feel about this marriage.  Passion and practicality. Love and commitment.

Happy Anniversary, Tariq.  Getting married to you is still the best thing I ever did.

I don't quite know

How to say

How I feel

Those three words

Are said too much

They're not enough

- "Chasing Cars", Snow Patrol