Life on the compound remained the same, ladies walked the loop in their sports attire while others wore long skirts, shirts and scarves. Men drove up to the office, avoiding the 5 minute walk in the dry Riyadh heat. March had settled in and temperatures started to rise and just as quickly they dipped, signaling the start of a slow but steady upward climb. See See and Foof hopped on the bus and still enjoyed days at the American school where they decorated Easter eggs and posed with a bunny for photos. The boys spent hours on home work and stressed over the little details of their daily routine. He became more frustrated with each day that passed, pushing to be released and transferred to a “better” department. I still made sweets for the sheik and ran my little bakery but it was beginning to wear on me as numerous complaints were made about my lack of attentiveness to household work. Neighbors came and went as the compound became a transitory station for company employees new to the kingdom. Boxes were unloaded from the UK, Morocco and the middle east, and just as quickly they were packed and moved from our little community to a new residence. I took breaks from my daily routine, sitting on the porch for brief moments, allowing Abude and baby Soos to play on bikes and trikes. Ladies continued to power walk the loop but few actually stopped any more to chat, they waved, nodded and continued.
I watched as life passed by, the holidays came and went and people lived as people do. I stood at the window in the big Riyadh compound looking out and hearing the sounds of a busy world. Garbage trucks clanked past, workers wheeled shopping carts to deliver groceries, mothers pushed babies in strollers and discussed upcoming events with their neighbors. Ladies walked around the loop making their way to the clubhouse for the weekly coffee morning, where they drank tea and coffee and listened as compound managers and residents discussed current events. I made the daily drop off at school, scrubbed and cleaned, doing my duty as a “good wife” should. The children were to be bathed, clean and fed properly, meals were made from scratch, no mixes, boxes or cans were allowed. I baked sweet trays and vacuumed the carpet, leaving lines that looked like freshly mowed grass.
A new message had started playing, at first a gentle reminder and then a blatant accusation. If I wanted to, he believed that I could secure a better position for him. Other women were off socializing at events and making friends with the “right people” and yet I sat at home doing nothing, refusing his suggestions to get out and mingle. He listed his complaints and explained that it was just as easy to make acquaintances with “important” people instead of wasting my time on these “junk ” kind of people that I seemed to attract. He inquired about the coffee morning and my lack of attendance and then lectured me once again on the importance of socializing. He feared not only for himself and his job opportunities but also for our children and their lack of suitable marriage possibilities if I continued to live this selfish and uncooperative lifestyle. I explained that my duties at home were paramount and I had been told from the beginning that those came first. His anger welled up as he scoffed at my interpretation of his ideas and he saw what appeared to be an attempt at humiliation and mockery. He finally insisted that I attend the weekly coffee morning and make myself useful if at all possible.
I ran through the house, cleaning, changing diapers and readying little Abude and baby Soos for our departure to the coffee morning. I packed up the stroller, some odds and ends of toys and snacks, in hopes of keeping fussy moments at bay. I got the kids off to school, mixed and stirred sauces and picked up as much as possible before heading to the clubhouse. I walked in to a large room, tables and chairs were arranged so that women could easily chat and have access to cookies, muffins and various pastries. I carted my children, bags and bundles that seemed as if they trailed behind me. It was awkward at first as I acknowledged the many ladies I had smiled and nodded at, always saying I would try to make it, but never following through. They graciously laughed and helped me unload my things, acting as if I had been present each and every time. After a few minutes I found myself telling stories, sipping tea and making jokes with ladies who I barely knew. The little ones played with children and toddled around as we all became one group and part of this special community. Ladies laughed and exchanged stories of their travels to Greece, France and Italy. The time finally came to say goodbye and head back to my home before the children arrived. The day had been lovely, and I wondered why I had not gone before. I vowed to make a point of branching out and making new friends, going on special outings and maybe even having fun. I walked into the house and went about my work, putting things away from my bags and settling the kids in. Moments later he arrived looking agitated and hurried. He asked me what I had prepared for dinner and looked around at the disheveled living room. The stroller stood by the door, diapers had been strewn on the floor and baby Soos was crying. His face grew cloudy and he admonished me for not tending to my duties first before rushing off to have fun.”Um Osama how many times, how many times, do I have to tell you to be well organized and complete your work before having fun”