We rarely get invited to any of the family occasions anymore since mother filed for divorce and dad left. It’s not my dad’s family I am talking about here. They invite me every weekend to have lunch and usually insist that I stay over. It’s her family who avoids us. Or should I say not us but rather it’s her they keep a distance from.
Poor mother. She doesn’t know how to deal with it. She’s not strong enough to make the decision to cut ties with her parents. At the same time, she can’t get her point across and get them to see how unjustly they treat her. Her relationship with her two sisters changed drastically once they got married. Both of their husbands didn’t fancy mother’s lifestyle. Only a few days after his engagement, having encountered mother in a night club, one of them rushed to see grandpa. He politely, yet confidently, broke the news to him, asserting that mother’s behaviour is unacceptable for a divorced woman. He completely missed the point that it’s possibly not appropriate for a newly engaged man to be clubbing without his fiancé́ either.
Naturally, grandpa agreed with him. He’d always been a conservative man. A strict father, he limited the freedoms of his daughters to that which he believed to be appropriate. And Mother, being his eldest daughter, proved to be his biggest challenge. Their epic fights had been mother’s favourite choice of bedtime stories when I was a child, as well as my aunts favourite subject to discuss when they meet. For Mother, marriage was her ticket out. And since then grandpa backed off.
A few hours after my aunt’s husband – fiancé at that time – left grandpa’s house, he received a phone call. Mother gave him a piece of her mind, ordered him to mind his own business and warned him to never interfere in her life again. Later, when my aunt was pressured to take a stand between the two, she chose him. My other aunt followed suit to please her own husband. And since then, grandma excluded us from family gatherings to avoid any conflicts.
We arrive last to the party. Still considering it her home, Mother opens the door and barges in with me trailing behind her. The women were already busy preparing the table for the festive meal. Grandma appears at the kitchen door with a plate of hummus in her left hand and a plate of tabbouleh in her right. She comes close to mother, kisses her cheek and sarcastically exclaims,
‘So, you’ve come?’
Mother mistakenly took what grandma said as a sign that she wasn’t wanted instead of her simply being irritated at our late arrival.
‘Of course we came, we’d never miss your special invitation, dear mother!’ she replied with the same sarcastic tone.
She then moves to hug her sisters and greet their husbands then runs off to the cheers of her nieces and nephews. When grandpa shows up, she barely looks at him.
I on the other hand, have to go through the full circle. That means getting hugged and kissed multiple times on both of my cheeks by every single one of them. Each embrace is accompanied with the usual words of admiration,
“Mashallah! You look great. What an Aroos you have grown up to be . . .”
I learnt to take their compliments with a grain of salt, especially when I see them awe at mother’s beauty, which none of them dares to acknowledge. It’s funny how they feel obliged to commend me for something that I don’t possess while they ignore the undeniable beauty of mother. According to grandma, my beauty is better than mother’s because it’s subtle. This is her way to say it’s minimal. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t want to be seen as beautiful as Mother is. I’d prefer to feel more loved.