Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Coming Messiah – Part I

Category : English Posts , Short Story

As a family we were all longing and expecting a victorious birth of a son to come into our lives, to satisfy our needs and fulfill our dreams. The child who would bring hope and joy, and give us a purposeful life, as Jesus did for all humanity. The birth of a son into Arabic culture brought with it the expectations of a “savior”, the one who would protect, carry on the family name and provide for our needs.

In the summer of 1979, my mom was expecting to give birth to her sixth child. She was feeling extremely different this time. She was positive that she would have a boy. Her doctor, however, could not confirm her feeling of being pregnant with a boy, even though, Baghdad was the best place for people to have access to modern technology. But still, the sonar device to detect the sex of the fetus had not been invented yet. Wouldn’t it be great for my mom and many other women at that time, to be able to know for sure the gender of their babies previously?
The colors of my mother’s feelings had to stay neutral just as it was for her baby’s clothes colors, all also neutral. Although she had plenty of pink colored clothes, she dreamed of buying clothes in blue colors, just for one time in her life. My mom had to preserve her hopes and the excitement of having a boy to herself only. She also needed to be satisfied and fully prepared to have her sixth daughter.

In the middle of that night, my mother felt it was the time to deliver her baby. My dad hurried to ask our neighbor to meet him at the hospital. They then rented a taxi. When they arrived at the hospital, my mom was taken immediately into the labor and delivery room. The only person who would be allowed to join her was her neighbor. My dad had to wait in the outer corridor.

Every hour of that day felt like a year for my dad while he was waiting anxiously, thinking about my mother’s health condition and what she might bring to him, the first son or the sixth daughter. His level of excitement and fear was interrupted by every sound he heard. The seven hours he waited outside that labor room, forced him to pray and pray and also to promise God that he would do this and that, if He would grant him with a boy. Finally, the smiling face and the excited gestures of our neighbor were enough to release all the emotions my dad had at that time. He could not believe his neighbor saying to him “It is a boy, it is a boy, congratulations, and it is a boy.” Since our neighbor was the first one who brought the good news of having a boy to my dad, she would definitely deserve a very precious gift. My parents later joyfully gave her a golden ring as part consistent with our traditions and customs.

Now the whole family was waiting for the “coming savior “to be born, which in this case was my brother. The joy we had as a family and the preparation my parents had to welcome this child, felt like celebrating Jesus’ birth– the one who would rebuild the family reputation and give honor to his mother. Without him, my mother was not a complete woman. In fact, she would stay in shame for not being able to become pregnant with a boy. Now my father could go to spend some time and have fun with his friends and cousins at the coffee shop with his chin held high, feeling a sense of pride.

For us, the five sisters, we felt safe. Why? Because we had a brother who could protect us. I remember us sitting around my little brother waiting for him to wake up so we could play with him. The sense of joy he brought to our family was beyond any words. At our early age we did not fully understand why everyone was happy, but we felt the burden fall off my parent’s shoulders. They were more joyful to be around and the whole home was more peaceful.

“He is smiling.” “He is yawning.” “Mom, he is hungry” and ‘he wants to eat,”
Mom is yelling from the kitchen. “Girls leave your brother alone. He just had his bath and he needs to sleep.” How could anyone see this most beautiful baby and not be around him all the time? He was chunky and very cute. My mother’s attempts to get us distracted by asking for our help to take care of the household chores was not successful. She was definitely happy for us and wanted to give us our space and time to enjoy being with our brother. However, she was running out of patience. She had to use another method in order for us to listen and complete our chores and get things done. My mother had to pull out her assistant stick and the outcome was helpful to scatter us so that my brother could sleep in peace.


Five Daughters & No Son – Part II

Category : English Posts , Short Story

The political situation in northern Iraq was not stable. Tension between the Iraqi government and the Kurds was increasing. Kurds wanted their own independence apart from Iraq. They showed this by being rebellious against the government, which only created a chaotic environment and made it hard for my family to have an appropriate and safe life. Even though my dad was earning a good living, still he couldn’t risk the unpredictability of the political situation any more. He needed to think big. Nothing seemed bigger than moving to Baghdad, the capital, where he could give his family a better life. Bagdad in the late seventies was flourishing in every aspect. There were a lot of opportunities to work in better schools and that is what happened for my father later on.

With every baby girl came additional burdens. The burdens were a combination of different feelings of fear, anxiety, shame and loneliness. My parents are the most kind and loving people you can ever imagine. That is not just how all of my siblings and myself view them, but also everyone who has met them and knows them personally, including their sons and daughter in law. The culture, however, and the environment they grew up in was very harsh. Culture and traditional expectations have been rooted deeply for hundreds of years and it is so hard to change or even modify them. Honoring and keeping the cultural traditions that we inherited without questioning could easily turn out to be the god we worship.

My parent’s hope of having a son was vanishing with every birth of a girl. That put them under the pressure of proving themselves worthy enough. As the song lyrics say: “You are nobody, until somebody loves you.” In my parent’s case, the song’s lyrics went like this: “You are nobody until you have a son”. For my siblings and me the song would be “You are nobody until you have a brother”. Unfortunately, the negative version of this song “you are nobody until… and you fill in the blank, is shared by almost every culture and generation.

In my stories, I will be sharing several occasions where this kind of negative mentality would fit in an individual’s way of thinking and feeling. Solicitude of having a boy manifested itself in both a positive and negative manner. When we were children, we did not really grasp what it meant to have a brother or not. What we felt was we would be seriously unfit and vulnerable as sisters with no brother. Showing favoritism toward boys was the norm. We used to hear people around us reminding us of our unfit state of not having a brother who would care for our needs.

Studies and research have shown that children from an early age can sense their parent’s anxiety and fear. Our attachment style toward my parents, to others, and the world, has been influenced by that. Some people would manifest their attachment style by being angry, others by crying all the time. My attachment style, however, was by showing affection to my parents, especially to my dad.

 


Five Daughters & No Son – Part I

Category : English Posts , Short Story

Arab families are generally patriarchal so having five daughters in a row was a continuing pressure on my parents for many years. With every pregnancy, my mother would pray and even fast to become pregnant with a boy. She actually had her first baby boy after having two girls, and my mother felt great relief. She could relax now and be confident again of her ability to give birth to a boy. She could plan a party and almost everybody in the village would be invited. Well, in reality, whoever heard about the great news of Kamoura’s could join the party and celebrate without waiting for the invitation.

Unfortunately, the joy my parents experienced did not last for long. In the early seventies, Iraq had very limited resources to cure and fight disease, so my little brother died when he was a few months old and my parent’s dream of having a son died with him. My mother was in deep sorrow. The entire village came to pay their respects to my parents. Believe me, as harsh as this sounds, if one of my sisters had passed away, not many would feel obligated to come and be with my parents to comfort them. Why? Because most simply felt and also said, “It is okay. Don’t be sad. You have other girls,” as if mothers could determine or regulate their emotions based on the gender of their child.

After my brother died, it was my turn to be born into this world without knowing that my parents wished and hoped to have a boy. It seemed like my dad gave up. He wanted to name me Zain, which is actually a boy’s name, but my mom did not like that name so my parents named me Zina. My parents told me that as a young child, I was very kind to them and I tried to gain their favor. I was very attached to my dad and wanted to go with him wherever he went, since he used to travel often in his position as a teacher. I sometimes wonder why I was so connected to my dad. It could be that I felt the burden he had about not having a son and I wanted to comfort him and let him know everything would be alright. My dad was highly respected by everyone not just because he was a wonderful man, but also because he was a teacher. Being a teacher in the early seventies was considered a top-notch career. However, people around my father felt sorry for him because he did not yet have a son.

I remember my father telling me once that my mom was pregnant with her fourth child. When it came the time to deliver, my dad was out of town and nobody could reach him. Cell phones and Facebook were not invented at that time. On his way home, one of my dad’s cousins saw him and asked him to join his family for a meal. That was a custom and still is, since hospitality is a big part of our culture. At that time people used to travel long distances to get to their jobs. Public transportation was not always available so by the time he got home he would be very exhausted. His cousin was about to tell him the bad news, but he wanted my dad to get some rest and eat first; he then told my dad that my mother had another girl and asked my dad to not be sad. My dad’s response was, “Girl or boy, that is what God’s will is and I am thankful that my wife and the baby are in good health.”

“End of part 1”


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