Alhamdulillah, we were scheduled to begin our journey back to the States last Saturday. Our neighbors, who have always said, “We are your family,” and meant it, cooked us both breakfast and lunch, and stopped by for final goodbyes. There were few visitors, because the day before one of my dear friends had held a party for us, inviting my students and others to share in food and memories and prayers. We spent the final day busy with last minute preparations and cleaning. We were all packed and ready to go- no easy task in a family of nine, mash’Allaah.
The car came. As usual, I was amazed by the Yemeni ability to fit tons of stuff (including people) into a relatively small space. We headed off to the airport with our bags piled high on the roof, held on by an intricate weaving of ropes and straps. As we pulled out, the neighborhood boys waved and said, “Bye bye.”
“Assalamu Aleikum,” I answered quietly, waving back. When they saw me waving at them they all beamed and waved even harder.
After an uneventful drive to the airport we had to wait outside for awhile, as the incoming plane was late. When finally allowed in, Khalil went to check in while we went and sat in the departure area. After a few minutes, Hudhaifah came and told us to come back out. My husband then told me that our plane had been scheduled for 10:30 in the morning, not night, as the travel agent had told us. We had missed it.
So, alhamdulillah, we were at the airport with all of our baggage, having just spent our last money on the taxi there. The airport employees were incredibly sympathetic, trying to see if another flight would work, then offering to help load our baggage on the carts for free. One of them insisted that we allow him to loan us the money to get back to Shihr, may Allaah reward them all. As Khalil arranged for a taxi back, Asmaa played and danced and laughed, rewarding the airport men for their generosity and help. It was funny to watch the big guard, with his machine gun across his lap, laughing at the baby running and playing.
Khalil bought us some soda and potato chips, and later, while he went and tried to contact his sister with the news, I sat with the children in their empty bedroom and we had a little party. “Who would have thought this morning, “ said Juwairiyah, “that tonight instead of being on a plane we’d be sitting here eating potato chips and pop!” I was once again reminded of the blessing of my children, who accepted the whole disappointment and change in plans without any problems; indeed, they were unfailingly cheerful and helpful.
Our neighbors, who truly do act more like family than just neighbors, have been so helpful these last few days. One of the sisters of my heart came to visit yesterday. Later on, we heard a knock at the door and it was the same sister, returning with two pizzas she had made for us, and a bag of fruit from another friend. “You know you’re getting close to America,” she said, “When you have a pizza delivery!!” We all laughed, and another special day was made, alhamdulillah.
This morning Mujaahid was able to call, and I called him back, The landlines are down in Damaaj, so only cell phones work- the problem being that it is difficult to recharge phones without electricity. Alhamdulillah, a family friend there has a generator and was able to do it for him. Our last call, on Saturday, had been full of tears and sadness, but this morning we were able to laugh and share the blessing of the kindness we have both found from even strangers in this beautiful land.
He said they had been able to purchase a sheep (at a relatively outrageous price)- a sick old sheep, but still, a sheep- and Hiyaat had preserved most of it in salt and vinegar so it should last a few days at least. They had tea, and enough sugar for another pot, and raisins. While I was talking to him a small boy came up selling packets of tomato paste- again, for a high price- and he bought two of them. So I knew Hiyaat would be happy to have a little something to flavor up their next few meals with.
They are in good spirits, though there is still no end in sight. The students are being patient and doing all they can to bolster and support each other. Mujaahid tells me that little Suhayb has been acting up since the blockade began.
“Children know,” I say. “No matter how much you try to shelter them, they know.”
A moment of silence, then we go on to practical matters.
Our flights have been rescheduled, alhamdulillah, and I will, insh’Allaah, be able to talk to Mujaahid one more time before we leave, a certain blessing even if it brings with it the sharp taste of loss. I hope someday we will be together again- if not in this life, then, insh’Allaah, the next.
Until then, we wait, and we pray.
pudgy hands raised
“give me the moon”
as my heart twists in my chest
I hold you tighter
you’re asking the wrong person
I can’t even keep you safe
cradled in my arms yes
but the world spreads
farther than my arms
your hands raised