The Hug

A long time a go, I remember giving my son a hug. It was 2006 or 2007. Not sure of the date or month, or even the year, but I remember him smiling up at me in return very clearly. I said to him, “ I know you want to hug me back but you cant.” Fast forward to a couple of days a go Adam was running after Dawud wanting to give him a hug with his arms wide open. Dawud was running away from his hug. It’s a very common occurrence in our house. One of them wants to hug the other and the other runs away saying, “no, get away from me I don’t want a hug.” Their father was there too. I guess the open arms of his three year old were too hard to resist, or maybe he also remembered the same day I remembered. He called Adam and said I want a hug. He came running and gave his dad a hug. Then I asked for a hug. He came to me. As he wrapped his little arms around me I remembered how much I wanted this. How much I missed this with my oldest who wasn’t with us. In that moment I felt like he was right there. That was his hug. That hug from that day when he couldn’t wrap his arms around me when I hugged him. That hug from that day when Ismail, smiled at me and I said, “I know”. That was my hug. That’s smile he gave me, I didn’t know it then but I get it now. I know what it meant. He told me so much. I get all of it now. He knew so much more than I did.

This isn’t the first time my children have hugged me. This isn’t the first time I have thought about how badly I wanted Ismail to hug me back. This isn’t the first time that I have been thankful for having children who can hug me back.

This is the first time, however, I have seen Ismail in Adams hug. This is the first time I have seen Ismail in his smile and somehow known that he is feeling hugged and loved. That this love wrapped up in all its wonders is reaching him and his eyes are twinkling just like Adam and Dawud’s and he is smiling even wider than he did that day when I hugged him. He is saying, “I told you so”. He is saying, “I have it all, and guess what mom? So do you.”

So, there it is another big moment. All this made me realized that maybe this is the time that Adam is ready to hear about his big brother. Am I ready to tell him? I never thought it would be something that I would need to put so much thought into. I though it would just be something that would happen naturally and seamlessly. But it’s turning out to be a little more emotional. The emotions are not just mine. The emotions Im concerned about are also my children’s. Until I had them I just thought about myself, and how I would feel talking about Ismail. I couldn’t imagine what it would really feel like to tell real live little people about their big brother and why he’s not with them. Now I imagine their little faces when they hear about him and the questions, oh the questions. The questions don’t make me sad, the questions make me laugh just thinking about them. I can hear them in my head right now. I have no idea how to even begin to answer those. I know Dawud would just want to get away from us and go play and the pictures of the child he would just assume is himself; what can I tell you. That one is a narcissistic little boy. His only brother is Adam, he is not going to accept anything else until much much much later. But Adam’s questions… Maybe Ill wait just a little bit longer.

For now, Ill settle for those hugs and kisses that go above and beyond. Those “I love you’s” that come out of the blue and make it all better until you realize it wasn’t out of the blue at all. No, it was because they decided to mix the rice and flour on the floor kitchen and make coffee with it in their little pretend cups. Ill still take it though, because you know what? They are here and they are doing all these crazy things that drive me insane, that Ismail isn’t doing that I wish like crazy that he were. So, Ill take it all. Ill take the guilt hugs then clean up the mess and, then lecture them on how that’s not how coffee is made and, then drink the pretend coffee and call it a day. Well, at least hope to call it a day.

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The Warm Welcome

Every time I exit the airport the heat, and smoke, and dust all blends in to make this terrible mixture that creates this balance; A balance that remains in my throat and mouth for days after. Welcome to Pakistan folks! Oh how I love this country. It’s hot here, even though my sisters insisted that it’s going to be cold. Bring jackets they said. TWO! Psh. I didn’t even need one, but that’s all beside the point. As I was saying I come out and look into the crowd hoping that I will recognize my nephew because all the faces look the same. They all look like my own. They are all my people. They are all annoying me, asking me questions; do you need a taxi? Do you need to buy that? Do you need…? NO. What I need is to find my nephew and get the hell out of here. The kids are crying and did I mention it’s HOT? Where is he? He knows how much I hate waiting. He knows how it is out here he should have been here by now. I told him over and over again on the phone to be on time but these kids they hear half of what you say because they are too busy telling you they know what they are doing. Oh my goodness my porter wants to leave me here with my luggage and the kids because there’s another flight coming and of course he sees more customers. No way buddy, that’s not happening. How long has it been? Where’s my phone? Oh it’s only been 7 mins. Hmm…calm down old lady (that would be me). There he is, my handsome nephew. Such a good-looking boy he’s turned into, it’s always such a pleasure to see him. So responsible, never really disappoints me, so obedient to his elders. I can always count on him to be there and make sure to pick me up on time, which is important to me since I’m usually traveling with kids. All right buddy grab the kids lets get me some air conditioning and a comfy place to lay down.

YAY! We are at a house. It has a bed. Hopefully a working AC because, you know, who knows if there’s electricity at this time. I walk in and I’m swarmed by familiar faces. My kids get scooped up. I know what that means for me. Sleep. So much sleep.

Lights are off. I’m off. Almost off. Where are the kids? Have they eaten? They need to brush their teeth before they go to bed. I should ask someone. I should tell someone. Or maybe I should just go to sleep.

What’s that buzzing? Mosquitos? I’m so tired that I’m not even letting my kids’ wellbeing interrupt my sleep, you think you can win this battle little dude? HA! CEILING FAN ON FULL! We’ll deal with your army permanently when I wake up. Adam and Dawud are not used to mosquitos, I should tell someone to spray or put a mosquito mat in the room they are in. Or…I should just sleep.

The world is different here. It’s not as comfortable. Not as organized. Things don’t operate in a logical and systematical fashion. Everything is working on a whim here it seems. I don’t know how else to explain it. When I’m here I am extremely frustrated with how businesses and even people in general function, but at the same time it’s just so great. I am so extremely comfortable. I don’t mind at all that I’m late to most things. I don’t mind that I’m frustrated. I don’t mind when I show an office clerk an email that says he should have received my documents on a particular date, instead he obsesses over the date on the document itself and keeps telling me that I have the date wrong. All of my explaining to him that the date inside the document and the date on when he should have received the document are two completely different matters is in vain. I was completely frustrated but was also extremely entertained and was trying to prolong the conversation to figure out how he landed this job. I know, like I said in the beginning these are my people and like I said in the first post I am crazy.

I wish I could paint a perfect picture of Pakistan where everything is perfect. I wish I could say that when I land I am met with perfection and beautiful smelling daffodils or whatever people say when they visit their hometown. What I’m met with is heat, dirt and sweat. I’m met with hard working people who are trying to find their way in this cruel world. Im met with my people who are being harshly and cruelly judged by even me because Ive lived outside a few years and now I think I’m too cool for them. Most of my countrymen are trying so hard to survive and all they are getting in return is barely some food to eat once a day and a shade over their heads if they are lucky. However, I love it all. It’s pure. It’s natural. It’s who I am. No apologies. I’m always happy to be home: Always sad to leave Pakistan. Welcome home. Welcome to Pakistan.

The Nephew    —>     IMG-20160116-WA0002