Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends and readers today.
The moon was sighted in Saudi Arabia on the night of August 7 signifying the end to the month-long fast of Ramadan and today brings on festivities throughout the Muslim world.
The memories of past Ramadans and Eid celebrations fill my mind and I indulge these, holding my Egypt mug full of the dark-roast brew close to my heart.
I’m seven or eight, holding tight to my dad’s hand. We are across the street from the largest mosque in the city of Hyderabad in the Sindh region of Pakistan. There are thousands of men gathered to pray before heading home to their Eid feasts. I still remember brilliant white, starched cotton shalwar/kameez – the Eid clothing glowing with newness.
I’m in junior high and we are on vacation in the Swat valley. We stay at a rest house with views that make it into National Geographic magazine. Our scenery is rushing rivers with small foot bridges that perch precariously over certain tragedy should you fall, beautiful green mountains and valleys, nature in all its glory and lack of pollution. We begin to smell goat cooking over an open fire later in the day – the pungent, delicious aroma wafts through the open area below the rest house. We are treated to some of this goat later in the day by Pakistanis, hospitable beyond words to these strangers, white people in their territory.
I’m 15 and thrilled to have a day off. I think little about Ramadan or Eid celebrations other than grabbing sweets from a box on the table. My world is me and I don’t realize how much I will regret how little I care about the culture that surrounds me.
I’m 27 and I’m in labor. I know the Eid celebration is coming but it’s still Ramadan. Okay. Breathe. Whoo. whoo. whoo. Slow and steady, make it through this pain. I must be around 7 centimeters and I know it will get worse before it gets better. This is the second baby I’ve birthed. I look at the clock and think “I hope Dr. Azima comes soon!” I know she’s breaking the fast for one of the final days of Ramadan, and the days are long with sunset coming around 9pm, but my baby is coming and she better be here. I care not about culture or Ramadan or Eid celebrations. It’s about me, damn it, and ‘they’ all better know it. Just before midnight I give birth to the most beautiful, blue-eyed boy I have ever seen and I am smitten.
I’m 36 and it’s our last year in Cairo. I hear the drums of Ramadan and know it will be a long time before I hear them again. I can’t give in to my deep feelings of loss and grief. The call to prayer, my alarm clock since birth, will no longer be heard echoing across the city of a thousand minarets. Instead mosques will be far away and familiarity even farther. But I can’t indulge on what will be. I have kids to care for, people to see, friends to enjoy.
I’m 53 and I wake in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It will be business as usual as I head to work on the subway. Muslim friends will take the day off but overall it will go largely unnoticed. There was no last day of Ramadan frenzy and today holds no air of festivity. I pray that I will see people on the T who will remind me of where I’ve been.
As I get to the subway an entire Muslim family is waiting for the red-line T. I wish them “Eid Mubarak”, knowing what it’s like to feel alone and homesick for family on holidays like Christmas and Easter while living in the Muslim world, thinking how similar this must be for them.
Your heart travels far away during times of celebration and holiday.
I begin to attack my keyboard with a frenzy and write about Ramadan 2013, waxing wise about Muslims and then I delete all of it. All I can do is sit and smile despite my longing. To have the honor of growing up where I did with the parents I had, to have participated in countless Eid celebrations in both Pakistan and Egypt, to have learned more about my Christian faith through the faith of my Muslim friends – this is an honor.