Ten years since I last saw my older sister, Shaakirah. Ten years since I saw her daughter, then a blond haired whirlwind rushing through our house on a one night visit on their way to Morocco. Ten years since my sister and I had one of our long conversations, which covered every subject from Islaam to baby diapers. Ten very long years, in which our family was whittled down by the loss of our sister Patty, and my father, Ray.
The timing couldn’t have been better. As we approached the Charlotte airport the cell phone rang. My daughter, Sukhailah, telling me that her aunt had called and said they were in the baggage area. A few minutes later, I called my sister, and they were waiting outside for us.
“You look for them, I’ll do my best not to run over anyone,” was my husband’s injunction. I craned my neck trying to see them, thinking that it couldn’t be too hard to spot two women in hijaab and a kind looking man with a long grey beard.
“There they are!” said my husband, who, of course, spotted them before me while managing not to crash into any pedestrians. I looked, but still didn’t see them. Then, I saw Abdul Ghani, looking trim and distinguished in his suit coat. And next to him was my sister.
Never having been one to worry too much about my dignity, I began waving madly as my husband swerved over to the curb. I leapt out of the car and grabbed my sister, hugging her hard. She felt like I remembered her- sweet and soft and like home. I vaguely heard my husband greeting hers, then leaned back to look at her eyes. Same blue eyes, crinkling in smile, peering out from her veil. I hugged her again, giving her another squeeze. Whatever deep, thoughtful thing that would have been said had this been a movie never got said. Instead, my sister said,
“You’ve gotten taller!” That was when I realized that she was right- instead of looking up at her, as I had for all of my life, I was now looking down. We both looked at our shoes, to see if that could be the cause- it wasn’t- and when I looked up I saw my niece, Ayesha.
No longer little, no longer blond, but still resembling my sister enough that their relationship was very clear. I hugged her to me as well. We climbed into the car, and I waved goodbye to Abdul Ghani as we headed for home.
Shaakira has been here for a week now. We have done a lot of remembering, laughing and dancing. One of the first things she told me was that I reminded her of our sister, Patty, now. So funny, because I always thought Patty was so wonderful, and I can’t see her in me at all. We measured ourselves- I had actually grown an inch, go figure. We’ve gone shopping and stayed up late talking and caused our children to roll their eyes at us just as we used to roll our eyes at our mother
Ten years may have passed, but within ten minutes of being together, it was like they were nothing.