I went on an amazing hike today about an hour north of Madrid. On the bus ride over, I couldn’t help but think about my family.
I have a large, emotional and loving family. We yell as much as we laugh, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because at the end of the day… We are always there for each other.
We also communicate.
This may sometimes be loud and abrasive communication, but it is nonetheless face-to-face contact. I have been to friend’s homes that were uncomfortably quiet because the family members stick to themselves. They don’t even have family dinners. I never realized how spoiled I was until I came to college and got a glimpse of life on the other side. I used to be upset about my family. I hated that we were so direct. That we spent so much time together. That I never had a moment of peace—that I never got space.
Space—is a very American idea.
Yes, I grew up in the United States. But it is an indisputable fact that my household was run by two traditional immigrants. My father is full Lebanese, with Egyptian ancestry. My mother is Mexican with Spanish and Syrian ancestry. They were both born outside of the States. I am a first-generation American.
And I am so incredibly blessed.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom. The only difference between this and a full-time job is that there are no breaks, you do not get paid and the reward for your time, love and effort does not come for another 18 years… at the very least. Because no one understands what it’s like to be a mom until they hold their child in their arms for the very first time. I don’t understand, but I’m hoping that one day I will.
For now, I am merely capable of appreciation.
There is a hadith in Islam that states the following: “A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).”
Mothers are amazing. And my mom is the best.
My mom made dinner for us every single day, without fail.
I remember sitting on the floor of our kitchen with her rolling dough from scratch in order to make my Dad’s favorite Lebanese spinach and cheese pies. I remember sitting on the counter for her and stirring the milk for the yogurt… that she made from scratch. It always had to be stirred in the same direction, or the texture wouldn’t come out right. I remember the smell of the Velveeta cheese for a household favorite—Macaroni and cheese. I remember my favorite tomato soup. I remember how she would get me to drink milk by mixing in some teaspoons of Nesquick. I remember homemade cookies and the most amazing colorful cakes. Yea, we were fed well.
My mom was there for every single milestone we’ve ever encountered in our lives.
I remember my mom walking me to my first day of pre-school. I remember the day my mom opened up our hideous Chevy van to show me the purple dress she purchased from JC Penny for my kindergarten graduation. I remember my mom rubbing pink calamine lotion all over my body when I got the chicken pox at five years old. I remember when my mom comforted me after I fell of the monkey bars in second grade. I remember my mom making her famous ranch and sour cream dip for my holiday party in third grade. I remember going uniform shopping with my mom before my first year in public school. I remember my mom spoiling me at Hollister in middle school the day she bought me five shirts… That I never really needed. I remember my mom locating missing soccer uniform articles constantly in high school. I remember my mom dropping me off at my dorm in college. I remember endless volleyball matches, constant hiking trips and her ridiculous tolerance.
My mom was always there. My mom is always there.
My mom has one of the best hearts in this world.
She always goes out of her way to help people. She makes my friends feel comfortable and at home. No one ever comes to our house and feels unwelcome. No matter how terrible my mom is feeling, how mad she may be that day… She never took out her ill feelings on those who were innocent.
My mother is amazing. I love you Mommy.
There is another verse in the Quran that states the following: “And your Lord has ordained that you do not worship anyone except Him, and treat your parents with kindness; if either of them or both reach old age in your presence, do not say “Uff”* to them and do not rebuff them, and speak to them with the utmost respect.And lower your wing humbly for them, with mercy, and pray, “My Lord! Have mercy on them both, the way they nursed me when I was young.” (17:23-24)
[I have said “uff” many-a-times in my life. But I am working to improve.] Parents are the only people in this world who want us to be better than them. Not the same. BETTER. That is what a parent’s love is like. And we cannot forget the importance of a Father.
My Father is my role model. He is the person I admire the most and strive every day to not only mimic—but refine in my own inherited personality traits.
My Father migrated here, alone, when he was 20 years old. He got a job and put himself through college at Cal State University Long Beach. He did it all by himself. No one helped him. He paid for his rent, books and food. Not only that, he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering—at a University that wasn’t in his native language—and then bought a Chevron station, which he owns and runs. With the salary and livelihood he accumulated for himself, he never forgot his roots. He always used his income to support his family back home. My Dad works to support his parents, his single sister and his mentally disabled brother. He has also helped every single one of his siblings in some way with their lives.
My Dad taught me what generosity is.
My Dad can come off harsh, but his heart is always in the right place. And that is the most important thing. Through him, I learned the value of siblings and the indescribable connection God forges between us at birth through our DNA. I am blessed to have three wonderful people that will unconditionally love me and support me for my entire life. No matter what, I will always have three friends. And I should always reach out to help them in any way I can. Whether it’s financially, emotionally or just physically—by being there with them when they are sad. Just like my very own Baba (Dad) does for his siblings. His heart is one of a kind.
My Dad sacrificed his happiness for our family.
My parents have gone through a lot to say the least. No matter what happened between my parents… Even when divorce was a serious possibility, my Dad has always honored the principles of Islam on both marriage and divorce (I hate that word). He’s always assured my Mother that he would support her and my siblings and me for as long as she may live. Thank God things are better between them… But still… Even when there was nothing but bitterness, his heart was in the right place.
My Dad does everything with God on his mind.
My Dad prays five times a day, every-day—without fail. No matter how hard life is getting, he always references a surah in the Quran that guides him and gives him strength. I love him so much for it.
My Baba is the smartest man I know.
He honestly knows something about everything. He reads extensively. The best part is, my dad doesn’t have the personality where he is bragging or trying to prove to you that he knows what he is saying. My Father is confident. His self-assurance radiates. He doesn’t need to speak for hours to prove his point. He is concise, articulate and realistic. It literally blows my mind that English is his second language… He is just so knowledgeable and expressive.
I will strive every day, for the rest of my life, to be like him.
However, I am most thankful for the way in which my parents instilled religion in my siblings and me.
My Dad was born Muslim, but his father was very liberal. His mother was the religious one. Even though he had a colorful youth… When he came to the United States, he found his Islam. He took courses with Dr. Maher Hathout and was taught what moderate Islam is like. And how intention and faith are stronger than appearances and reputation. I am so blessed to have grown up with him as my spiritual guide. He never forced it upon us. He merely taught and encouraged. I have friends whose parents were forceful… So they rebelled.
I am so proud to say that my siblings and me are committed to our faith.
Yes, we may not pray five times a day every day. But we LOVE God. We believe in the last prophet, his messengers and the Holy Scriptures… And we work every day to be good people.
I cannot dismiss my Mother’s influence on us though.
My mother grew up in a Christian household. Her brothers were less-than-religious to say the least. But my mom was a committed Christian who taught at a Sunday school. She was pious, loving and sincere. It was as if my mom was Muslim… Even before she was Muslim. When she met my Father, she was hesitant to learn a new faith. But after seeing and experiencing how committed my father was to his faith… She decided to learn for herself. And she converted. She did it though, because she wanted to. And because she felt it in her heart. It was meant to be. Her morals did not change. She merely altered her belief on the oneness of God.
My mom has instilled abstinence, piety and modesty in me since I was a little girl. (I literally remember her telling me about abstinence when I was three—no joke.) Although her methods have been more forceful, and on occasion, abrasive. Whatever she did, it worked. I value sexual integrity immensely. I respect my body, my religion and myself. I also work to be sincere and kind to people. My mother is so kind, and so loving.
Sometimes I wish that I didn’t know better. I have those days when I wish I was oblivious of Islam (only rarely—I am human!!) Because, quite frankly, it’s easier to be immoral. It’s easy to be insincere and hateful and antagonistic. But what kind of life is that? Without God, without principles and without motivation to be a good person for a higher purpose… Life has no meaning.
I was endowed with Islam by my parents. But I am sticking with it because I unconditionally love God. Even when I think of how crazy it is that a higher being can exist. A higher being that we are literally incapable of understanding because of our human limitations… It is difficult. But life is a struggle. I need to have faith.
And every day I struggle to do the right thing.
I strive to exemplify the type of young woman my parents brought me up to be.
My parents are the best. I thank God for them every day. Especially in Spain… I can’t help but look around and thank God and my parents for this wonderful opportunity.
I am so blessed.
Have the most wonderful day.