7-The visit

The time for my parents to come was approaching and we were all getting ready in our own way. I was planning out a menu for the special days and nights that mom and dad would be staying. The kids were being kids, remembering the house in the woods, spotting dear on the windy road, taking hikes, the smell of Grama’s house. They knew when Grampa came he would sit with them for hours, puzzling and playing cards.  Grama would be on the porch basking in the warm temperatures and welcoming the chance to escape ice storms and snow. We waited as time ticked away like the remaining minutes on an old thoughtful clock.

The long awaited day finally arrived, my brother in law would pick them up in the middle of the night at the airport. They would stay that night with my sister and then come the next day to us. The boys had to go to school but I promised they would see Grama and Grampa when they came home, and so they trudged off  with Ushruf the trusted driver.  See See and Foof carefully worked on the room where they would sleep, putting all of the finishing touches complete with chocolate for Grama and a newspaper for Gramps. They followed me around and were relentless in their questions regarding the exact time that they would arrive and a countdown of hours and minutes! See See said it was taking too long, time as big as the sky, which was how she described most everything at that age.

I was longing for this chance to see my folks and also to share with them the special, enchanted life we were leading. I had grown to rely on them for household items, clothing, shoes and other basic items.  When we lived in Seattle, the home we purchased was a nice little abode for a young couple with growing kids. That is how mom put it when she first visited our tiny house in Renton. She reminded me that she and dad started out in a run down apartment with nothing but love and happiness, they had built a life and those were the sweet memories that lingered so many years later. I tucked this away and always remembered that those were precious days. The house in Renton was simple and fine for a young couple, the lack of furniture was evident, a queen bed, some pads on the floor and remnants left behind by his friends from various countries. Mom and Dad had purchased shades for the house and a few years later passed down their beautiful couches, a chair and ottoman for our living room. The kitchen flooring had holes and was worn, the appliances were old and finishing touches were modest at best, but it was a home and as mom pointed out, a humble and lovely beginning. But now, here in this beautiful, upscale compound I felt they would not have to provide for us any more.

The time finally came and they arrived in the old pick up my brother in law let Dad borrow for driving around the local streets of Dhahran. They were tired but it had been 18 long months without seeing them so we all hugged and talked for hours. They marveled at the beauty of the compound, they had never been to one before. We slept that night all tucked into our comfy beds and woke to make breakfast early before the day began.  Mom started a tradition of riding along with the kids on each school trip, reading to them and chatting.  A tradition she would continue for the 20 or more visits she and dad would make over the years.

There was an unwritten law in our household, another of the many rules on a long invisible list, no gifts. Most gifts that were received were usually taken back. In Saudi there was no way to take anything back, no store to take it to and no returns anyway. So, gifts became something that the kids were very excited for and they treasured whatever they got. One day he arrived home with a bag full of winter gloves  and a colorful assortment of socks from Abu Riyalane (The two Riyal store). The kids stood in great anticipation waiting to see what “baba” had brought home, what treasure was being dispensed from this bag. They each stood peering into the bag, looking for their gloves and socks. They picked from the bag and ran outside to friends showing off their new and exciting “gifts”.

After 27 hours of travelling and little sleep they rested that first day and spent time with the little ones. Mom sorted through her 2 large boxes, placing presents into gift bags and getting ready for the boys to come home from school. Later that evening she summoned the kids to the family room where the door had remained shut since afternoon. She sat on the couch, colorful bags, bursting with goodies all lined up in front of her. The look on her face was priceless as she waited for the kids to settle down. It was as if one huge holiday had been wrapped in a bow and delivered to our door step. The kids, even little Abude sat quietly waiting for Grama to call their name.  Each one opened their bag and we all watched wide eyed. It was always a magical night when Grama and Grampa arrived.

I was 6 months pregnant, tired and heavy but I now felt light, free and happy. We spent the days catching up, cooking meals for the kids and walking around the mall. When the boys came home Grampa puzzled, played cards and monopoly, Grama sat on a plastic chair at the park watching the kids play and soaking up the sun. He came home on the weekend and greeted them with open arms. He joked and laughed and offered to take them to souks, malls and restaurants. He sat with my father and talked to the wee hours as they had always done. They discussed religion, culture, stock prices and may other things.  Mom and I took the shopping bus to various locations and watched the kids at the park. I introduced her to my friends and I could see she was at ease with our life. It was a visit that recharged me and helped me to continue with my life in Saudi.