I don’t like this.
Ya see, these fancy-schmancy rooms are for entertaining guests. I don’t want to be a guest. I’m their friend. I mean, I probably invited myself over in the first place, but that’s beside the point—I want to be a “refrigerator friend.” I want to get into the “family room”—not the “living room.”
I started noticing a trend—that when I was ushered into a room and they told me, “Tfudlii,” or “You first,” gesturing me to take a seat, I’d sit down in a space I chose…. and I always, ALWAYS, without fail, got moved. They’d look at me with pain in their faces, and tell me to move to a different seat—one which I felt was way less conducive to good conversation and potential dancing room. [This is what I do at people’s houses: talk and dance and eat. Sometimes they play with my hair.] Eventually, on return visits, I’d know where I was “supposed” to sit and depending on the amount of fight I had, I’d go directly there, or would end up there after a few [sassy] attempts to get a different spot.
Finally, I asked a good friend, after she moved me, of course:
“Kholoud, habibti [my love],
why do people always move me?
Am I bad at picking a place to sit?”
“Ya Sarah, laaa, laaaaaa, lllllaaaaaa!!!!!
[Noo, nooooo, noooooo!!!!]
You are good, you are good.
But we Arabs have a thing.
It is the highest place of honor to be
in the most inside place of the room,
furthest from the door.
We honor you—you sit in the seat of honor
when you cannot be called on to serve
or help in the kitchen
or get up to make room for more guests.
You are the queen in this seat.”
I get it.
“Ohhhh! Well, shuuuukkkrraaan! [Thank you!]
Shukran for honoring me, ya Kholoud!
You are so kind. Many blessings on your long life.
But I want to help in the kitchen
and play with the kids and bring YOU tea!”
As she laughs at me and what she deems as my ridiculous comments, her belly and shoulders shake and her eyes get really small behind her glasses.
“La, la, la. Mish mumkin, ya habibti.
[No, no, no. Not possible, my love.]
You will never serve in this house, my friend.
You are my forever high guest and dear friend.
Enti Sarrrrahhh!! [You are Sarah!!]”
I smile and reach out for the dates on the small table between our red, plush, overstuffed Western chairs. I bless her hands and her heart. I appreciate being so “tucked in” to the room and to the hearts of my friends. Quickly thinking back to all the times I’ve been moved to a “more honorable” place, my mind wanders to the passages that tell us to assume a humble position, so that the Lord will lift us up. I wondered at how many times I’ve been moved to a place of honor, without even knowing it, in front of men in their own houses, dressed in their white dishdashes and checkered hattahs, some very pleased and others noticeably annoyed. I didn’t mean to and nearly every time I didn’t want it.
But here I am, this young [foolish], single [unprotected], American [loose] woman [girl] being honored, in homes half a world away from my own. They choose to bring me deeply in, take me on as their own and protect me inside their walls. Sometimes we’re in golden foufy rooms, and sometimes we’re sitting on the floor atop of cushions which they’ve sprayed down with water to “keep them cool.” Either way—I’m brought way, way in. I AM honored.
It’s another event of emotional whiplash—
but it’s also another exhibition of the
deep love and hospitality extended to me.
I stand in awe of the ways God has given me favor, in so many ways, among the people of this land. I don’t even recognize it half the time, but He’s lifting me up while using my friends’ hands and nagging. :)
I used to get irritated at having to constantly be moved and corrected, and usually in front of many people. But now I’m just so glad to know that they’re just tucking me into their homes, just like they already have in their hearts.
My first visit in "Amina's" home.