This is an ongoing story recounting our first year back in America. There are three parts that can be found on my menu page.
Fight flight or freeze were words we all knew well. There was never a place to seek refuge in Saudi and fighting might have meant dire circumstances and so the mode of coping was usually freeze. Fighting only ensued when the children were involved and a demeanor of reason, reminders of religious principles and finally a stance of locked rebellion meant that the worst would not come to pass. Battles were picked according to priority which meant safety, basic needs and issues regarding personal liberation but I held firm when it came to my children. I was well versed in the operation of pick and chose, making sure that every decision took its place, stacked upon years of training, seasoned with fear.
The first grade teacher’s voice was no longer sweet and calm but had taken a turn towards dry resolve. She remarked that my son was clearly not ready for school and that it would be better if he did not return. Her heels clicked on the patterned floor as she marched the other students to the door to line up. We walked to the brightly painted cubby and collected a single backpack, hoodie and lunch bag. No words were spoken and a sense of defeat hung heavy as we unlatched the wooden gate that lead to the apartment parking lot. My three other children who had attended the first day of school also remained silent and the unremarkable yet familiar feeling of dread lagged shortly behind us.
Fattima stood at the ready stirring homemade sauce that bubbled and spattered, leaving red dots on the yellow tinted 70’s stove. She started to ask how it had gone but stopped when she saw my face and instead plated meals and grabbed backpacks. Mom and Dad’s hand me down lake table was opened and chairs positioned near the slider so that the meal could begin. It was a tight fit but the table brought back cheery thoughts of carefree days spent in the paddle boat, laying on the dock and roasting marshmallows. As each one finished they trudged into the tiny living room and plopped onto the couch.
It was clear that Heme was not going back to school, there was no option given and it was not worth the fight. It was almost a relief to keep him with me as his name had been mentioned and the idea that he should be returned to his father where he belonged. No other child was discussed but a message was clearly sent through a mediator that my youngest child belonged back in Saudi.