I finished the cookie dough, adding the extra chocolate chips and walnuts that mom was so fond of. As I mixed I thought of her face and hands, how she would look through them with a child’s excitement, finally picking the one with the most chocolate, barely held together by little bits of dough. The house had been scrubbed, beds were made, gift basket placed on the dresser and kids were off to the airport. Little Abude ran around singing and talking about Grama and Grampa’s upcoming arrival, he had patiently waited for days and was now ready to burst. Baby Soos was 10 months old and gingerly put one foot in front of the other as she made her way around the coffee table, letting go to take a step here and there on her own. I straightened up one last time, plumping pillows, wiping counters and picking up the latest messes that continued to pop up around the little ones. A surge of excitement took over as I realized I would soon be seeing mom and dad. I felt proud to bring them to this home, comfy and warm, fully furnished and brightly colored, to introduce them to my friends and let them know that the kids and I were doing well. All of the mixed emotions had faded as my heart raced and head reeled with anticipation. The thought of holiday gift bags, toys and brightly colored clothing all seemed like imaginary worries as I stood looking at warm chocolate chip cookies.

Finally headlights could be seen through the living room curtains, a signal that they had arrived. The door swung open, the bigger kids walked in carrying bags and boxes. Mom and Dad followed close behind looking weary from hours of flying and lay overs. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and a beautiful essence wrapped around me as I fought to hold back tears. Dad gave his usual fatherly hug and then he made his way upstairs following the children who were eager to show him his room. I grabbed the cookies for mom and we sat chatting while she held baby Sumaya for the first time. We talked about their flight, the snow and things back home. Finally it was time, Mom picked a helper as we knew she would, shut the door and started her ritual of placing the gifts in each bag.  He sat with dad chatting about work, the stock market and topics they had in common. When he first drove up the dirt road leading to the house on the hill so many years before, he spent hours with dad, going to hardware stores, working on projects and talking about many things. When he needed someone to sign for him to get his green card, to be responsible for him, it was dad. They stayed up for hours each night discussing religion, finance and current events. We were finally allowed to enter the room and mom’s little helper passed out the gift bags. The children quickly took each item out amazed at the latest trendy toys and much needed clothing, shoes and socks. He received a bag as well, mom always took great pains to include him and give him special things needed for a professional engineer. Dress slacks, shirts and ties, a pair of shoes and a wind suit for the rainy weather. I felt a twinge of nerves as I watched the kids remove the contents of each bag, but he smiled and laughed, picking up toys, playing with Abude and baby Soos. He pushed buttons, listened to the musical sounds and gave piggy back rides as if he were a small child on Christmas. He then stood and said his goodbyes as he made his way to the “sheik’s” home for the rest of the evening.

The days were beautiful and warm, as if transported to a carefree time when the worries of real life seemed distant. Mom woke early and insisted on riding with the boys to the Arabic school while dad made coffee and walked to the mini mart to get a newspaper. They sat on the porch, took walks, rode the shopping bus and planned the meals they would make. Each day was a special gift and a reminder of the life we had left behind. He seemed happy and content to share morning coffee, chat and laugh before leaving for the office at the front of the compound. I felt relaxed and saw that my fears were just as he always told me, unfounded and unfair.