My Blog

Shadows Left Behind

The lid of the old plastic storage tub is difficult to pry off. A decade in storage has warped the plastic, wrapping it tighter around its burden of memories. A tug, a twist and it pulls free.

Saudi white musk. I remember a nine year old Mujaahid, his face wreathed in smiles the first time a brother gifted him with a tiny vial of this precious fragrance. From then on it was his favorite, used sparingly to make it last. As I breathe in the essence of a child lost, I know this container must be Mujaahid’s. Sad, but curious as to those things he felt were important enough to store before our journey to Yemen over ten years ago.

A Hot Wheel delivery truck, with “Cheetos” across the side, worn from years of small fingers holding it, just there, as a little boy raced it across his sleeping grandfather’s back. A plane, a small purple VW Bug that was always “Ummi’s car.” A notebook, written by a five year old boy.

“My little sister climbed the steps today.”

“We went to Aunt Shaakira’s and ate popcorn and macaroni and cheese.”

And later, in the voice of a nine year old, a talk he’d written and given at an Islamic conference, and names for bows he would like to sell:

“Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas Bow for Boys”

“Nusaybah Bow for Girls”

And rules and reminders for his first bowhunting season.

At the bottom, a scrapbook. I open it and see Morning Glories. A book of photos of my sister Patty’s little house and studio in the woods, with her careful descriptions written years ago. Her voice, now stilled, comes to life again as I turn the pages and remember.

“This is the door to my studio. I can sit here and watch the birds for hours.”

“This is our swing, covered in snow. Of course, we don’t use it when it is like this.”

bluemorningglory“These are Morning Glories. I love how they close their eyes and sleep at night, and wake up and greet the sun in the morning.”

Patty never had children, but she loved me and mine with a sweet and deep love that we never had cause to doubt.

A week of memories, of tears and reminders of a past almost forgotten in the fullness of each day. A hand painted milk jug and three matching hearts on ribbons, a final gift from my sister that last summer before we parted for good. Books on homesteading and raising goats, and my soap molds made by Patty’s husband Sully. Afghans crocheted by my grandmother’s hands, quilts I pieced lovingly for my two oldest children, all gone, chewed through and ruined by mice and bad storage conditions.

The afghans and quilts thrown away, the Cheetos truck carefully placed aside to send to the man that once lived in that little boy body, a pitcher on a window to remind me to watch the Morning Glories every day they bloom.

Gratitude, sadness, and prayer. A house filled with the shadows of what was, looking forward to whatever may be.

Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?” (Surah ar-Rahman)


Post a comment


Susan Wittig Albert on July 15, 2013 11:39 pm

Khadijah, this is so lovely–sweet and reminiscent. I can feel the sadness, but it is lightened by the prayer and the praise. Thank you once again.

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 1:05 am

Thank you Susan. The prayer is getting me through right now, no doubt at all…

Dani G. on July 16, 2013 12:58 am

Such elegant writing – write, my friend, write! It is your gift to share with the world and with the future. <3

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 1:07 am

I am thinking I have to make some changes, Dani, to be able to do more writing and working on what is truly important to me. Thank you for your encouragement and advice, it always helps, mash’Allaah.

Dani G. on July 22, 2013 7:23 pm

Just remember to have faith in the most important things. You know what those are.

Marva McClean on July 16, 2013 1:34 am

This is beautifully moving. Powerful. Evocative.

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 3:02 am

Thank you Marva, for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.

Joyce Spurgin on July 16, 2013 2:00 am

Beautiful! I could just see you removing the items one by one from the storage container. i could also feel the stabs of pain as you pulled out the now ruined afghan and quilts that were created with love. They are gone, but the love remains.

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 3:02 am

So true, Joyce. I thought I should feel more pain than I did over those afghans, but I realized just how much I have learned over the years about how truly unimportant “stuff” is. My memories are clear, alhamdulillah, I don’t need the physical reminders so much. But it did hurt, just the same…

Umm Muhammad-Ismail on July 16, 2013 8:16 am

A very poignant memory brought to life for us, JazakAllah khairan. I wonder what I will unearth if I was to dig up an old suitcase or storage box?

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 2:11 pm

Wa Jazak. When we left for Yemen we didn’t keep very much, but it is funny, now, looking at some of the things and wondering why we thought we had to keep them, mash’Allaah. Truly Allaah is the Best of Planners.

Mary M-S on July 16, 2013 4:11 pm

Khadijah, your beautiful writing moves right in: the grief, the joyful memories are deeply felt, the prayer lifts and reminds. Your writing is sublime. May you and yours be blessed, even though we don’t know what that word fully means . . . until we open a long-closed box.

Khadijah on July 16, 2013 6:51 pm

Thank you Mary!

Amina Bint Yusuf Knuckles on July 17, 2013 2:29 am

Asalaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,
I would be lying if I said this didn’t move me to tears. I truly pray one day you are reunited with all of your children, in this world and in Jannah.

Khadijah on July 17, 2013 3:09 am

Ameen, Amina, barakAllaahufeekee.

Umm Mohammed on July 17, 2013 8:26 pm

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh

dear Sister

your words really touched me. I sat here crying in front of the computer as I thought about how the time passes, and how we often fail to see the beauty in the little things. Our kids will soon be grown up and gone and then we will remember those small hands touching ours and how they laughed and talked their child talk. May Allah help us to be grateful for every moment we have with our kids Ameen

Abu Humairah on July 19, 2013 8:53 pm

I remember vividly, how a young blond man taught me how to disable pictures from Internet Explorer and Firefox in Dammaaj. I remember how it amazes me seeing a tech savvy qaari as well. I’ve used this skill time without number but each time, I remember the first time I learnt it and the person who taught me and I’m imagining him clinging onto a Cheetos truck. Allahumma baarik!

Khadijah on July 21, 2013 12:51 am

Alhamdulillah, I will let him know that you still use that skill that he taught you! And mash’Allaah, he did love that Cheetos truck…

Chery Kendrick on July 20, 2013 10:39 pm

Dearest sister Khadijah,
What beautiful words… I love how you tell a story…yours is a voice that will be heard and enjoyed by many….I feel your time is here.
love you dear one- write on!

Khadijah on July 21, 2013 12:52 am

I will do my best, Chery, insh’Allaah!!

Lisa Shirah-Hiers on July 21, 2013 9:49 pm

Khadijah, I loved the details in this beautiful piece as you described each object and what it meant to you and your family. It reminded me of something I read recently, that it is engagement with the objects in our home that makes them important to us–and of course the symbolic power each thing holds. Thank you for this little window into your family and your memories.