As I make preparations for my son and daughter in law to arrive and later this week all of my children, I am reminded of the glorious freedom we now enjoy.
Bags and boxes of candy canes, chocolate kisses and holiday bells all held a small place on a Tamimi (Safeway) shelf next to the usual Western candy. It seemed a bold and daring move to have this display in plain view of the Mutawa (religious police) who could possibly confiscate the entire contents. I passed by numerous times weighing the benefits against the potential conflict that could be caused by purchasing any festive items. They would be put together into a plastic sack and stashed in my diaper bag to be hurriedly removed when we arrived to the compound. I knew the good stuff would not last long and on my next grocery outing would be gone, picked over by other Westerners who happily purchased these questionable items when they became available.
A warm yet fleeting feeling surged through my mind, a nonchalant breeze, a whisper. I held a bag of sugar ribbons, colored waves of crisp confections that had been placed in a red glass dish on the window box in my childhood home. Dad strung the usual colored lights along the eves outside of the green ranch style house. A towering tree was positioned near the sofa, leaving the continuous smell of pine throughout our home. Mom would buy my favorite, white taffy rounds highlighted in the center by a red and green Christmas tree, wrapped in tiny plastic that twisted and sealed the ends. Plans were made; gifts were purchased and placed underneath the noble pine, topped by a traditional light-up star. The wood cabinet held a colored television as well as a turn table that would be stacked with holiday records, as each one completed, the click and snap of the next in line would be eagerly awaited. An array of parties and events would follow Thanksgiving and the countdown would begin.
My hands trembled as I summoned the courage to place this simple bag of candy ribbons into the cart under lettuce and carrots, spices and napkins. I knew in my logical mind that he would not come to the store and rummage through a shopping cart but I felt a sick twinge of guilt for disobeying his orders. I grabbed the bag and looked over my shoulder, then gingerly tossed it onto the nearest rack. A loathsome awareness of my sins reminded me that this was not the way a pious wife would respond to such temptations.
Pictures, music and decorative items of any kind were not allowed in our household during holidays or at any other time. A strict adherence to his rules had become compulsory. Girls wearing pants and bright laughing smiles were discouraged and viewed as immersion into this temporary life. Asking too many questions regarding his rules was met with fury and labeled undisciplined and wicked. A strange weave of order teetered haplessly on his predilections and could be toppled by a sudden burst of happiness or irritation. Would a simple bag of chocolate bring about contempt and outrage or would he simply chalk it up to my rebellious spirit.
I inched my cart closer to the shelf, my older children looked on as kids chose favorite bags of candy, eyes growing wide with anticipation. I knew what each one fancied, chocolate covered peanut butter trees, flavored candy canes and kisses wrapped in red and green. Three bags of simple treasures, peppermint and chocolate, tightly guarded remnants and colors of a life interrupted.