Life on the large Riyadh compound remained unchanged. Ladies power walked past the porch, waving and stopping to chat if time allowed. Temperatures dropped and the sky continued to churn mahogany and orange in the horizon. The little girls hopped the bus to the American school and the boys continued on in the Arabic system. Each night piles of homework were assigned and weary hands did their best to calculate numbers, write words and letters in the pages of the school duftars (notebooks). My little bakery still took orders, some days were over run by frosting, whipped cream, sticky spoons on counters and boiling pots of syrup. These days were interspersed with lulls where not a single sweet was ordered except for the trays that went routinely to the “sheik”. Christmas was approaching and people purchased holiday candies that were prohibited in Saudi but could be found in a tiny display at the local Tamini (Safeway). He still worked at the office located in front of the compound as did most of the men who resided inside the compound walls. Our household was now a beautiful mix of chaos and anticipation with Grama and Grampa’s visit only days away.

My parents were due to arrive within the week and the household excitement could no longer be contained. The usual chores seemed effortless as I scrubbed tubs, ran up and down stairs, dusted cupboards, washed windows and prepared a room for mom and dad. The children could hardly focus on school and homework, but instead spoke with exuberance of the visit and all that it would mean. I made my usual menu of their favorite foods and prepared a little gift basket for their arrival. Dad would make his famous spaghetti, mom would cook and both would clean and help out with daily chores. The night they arrived was always magical, and for this reason the children now jumped out of bed each morning, finished showers, and with little protest made their way to school. Everyone knew how it would go, Mom would sit in the extra bedroom downstairs and shut the door, one helper was chosen and then the annual ritual began. She carefully unpacked boxes and sorted through the items she had picked for each child. Her appointed helper would carry gifts, clothing, toys and movies, placing them in beautiful bags that smelled like Grama and Grampa’s home. We all waited eagerly outside the door until the task had been completed and we were asked to enter. The days seemed to drag past as we waited for their arrival and this special night. As I went about my daily chores and planned my menu I felt a sort of warmth and comfort that comes with unconditional love. I remembered my childhood fondly, allowed to flourish and become a unique individual. I sat on Bud’s fence and sang every song from The Sound of music, answered the family phone with my donald duck voice and chewed packs of gum making bubbles inside of bubbles, watching them pop and stick to my hair. As I made the beds, tucked in sheets, washed the blankets and day dreamed of seeing my folks, a sick and silent feeling crept over me and and continued to nag at me each and every hour as I waited. What if they had purchased gift bags with snowmen, Santa or a Christmas theme. What if the clothes that they purchased were too tight or colorful, what if the toys and movies had themes that were not acceptable. My soft and lovely thoughts and anticipation turned to dread and fear. Once again I would have to navigate the slippery slope of standing in between two worlds.

Pictures of parents visits to Saudi

200 thoughts on “Reality

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