freedom is the freedom to choose whose slave you want to be.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

a snapshot in words (baby-heavy post)

I don't know if I can pour out a full year's worth of emotions in one go, but I feel like I really need to save all of this before the edges get rounded and the colours are dulled and the details get blurred into the mundane although I don't think that Ibraheem could ever be anything less than extraordinary to me.

So much - or all - of this year is really only my journey intertwined with his existence and as the second of November crept up I became more and more aware that selfish as it may be, all of the emotions I was feeling were for me. His first birthday? is a milestone for me.

I thought I was different and strong and focused and independent but then month four rolled around and I fell in love. Ibraheem slept in his own room, and recognized me and giggled for no reason and watched his hands reach out and touch his toys in amazement. He circled his toes in one direction and then the other and got mesmerized by his reflection in mirrors and smiled a big goofy toothless smile from behind his pacifier every night I tucked him in and I fell so hard.

I pulled back over and over, foolishly, to reclaim myself. I am driving six hours away from him for the weekend as I type, even on his first birthday, because I am stubborn and insist that he is part of me but not the whole but what a futile endeavour this is, what a lie. In my heart of hearts I know this is it. I am done for. This is my life and my children will forever own and control my heart even as I deny it and make fake time for myself.

Over this year I have come full circle in reverse; from spending guiltless hours in the gym, on the computer, and running errands in the initial months, I now find the slightest excuse to get up from my desk and books to pick and touch him as soon as he comes inside after playing in the courtyard with the babysitter because I realized belatedly that he was, in fact, growing up very quickly. That if I didn't pay closer attention I would miss everything.

And I struggle every so often, even a year on, on the cusp of 29 years of age, to figure out who I am and what I want to do now. I grapple with this momentous life change that I caused to happen purposefully which has altered my life in unimaginable ways both beautiful and difficult and is here to stay.  But even as I am plotting, mapping out the next few months and years and foolishly demarcating parts of the day as mine to be cerebral and important and productive, I want to remember. Possessing the knowledge that most babies follow the same roads of discovery and growth and nothing about this matters much to anybody except for me, I want to remember:

the song and dance I do in front of the entire shop without so much as batting an eyelash to get his hair cut every two months,

the flat and square shape of his bitty toe nails and how we sing the national anthem to puzzle and distract him as I stealthily cut his nails with the little scissors that Apya gave to me,

the unabated flow of happy babble over the monitor every morning right at 7 a.m. and how I can count on finding him standing at the corner of the crib closest to the door with his hands on the rails, waiting for me with a smile that turns into disbelief that I actually showed up when I enter,

that his absolute favourite foods are sweet potatoes, bananas, and palak gosht,

the hysterical crawl-chase-tackle-tickle game that we play in the living room,

the way his hands and feet make a rapid pitter-patter sound when he is racing towards me because a) he is afraid of the wind-up car because it is moving on its own, or b) he has figured out where I am and is coming to get me, fast and furious,

his swollen eyes in the morning because he sleeps on his stomach, hands by his sides, with his butt in the air,

how we discovered on our first long road trip to Tampa when he was a little over a month old that most versions of 'Here comes the sun' calmed him down when he got fussy,

our trip to the ER when he started getting violently sick and became dehydrated and my intense guilt for ever wishing for my old life as I sat in the back seat, blowing air in his face to prevent him from falling unconscious and trying desperately to hold it together,

our trip to Mount Rainier and the wonder in his eyes that we'd never seen before ashis eyes followed the lengths of the tall trees and arms stretched out to touch leaves in delight,

his inability to roll over, crawl, or move much at all until he was well over eight months old, much to the chagrin of aunties every where,

the moment he finally figured out how to sit down on the ground from a standing position, thus ending the blissful months of us being able to stick him in a spot for any duration of time, secure in the knowledge that he wouldn't go anywhere,

the way he held his blanket over his face to sleep for a few months before he learned to roll over,

his mouth hanging open when he is in deep concentration,

his love to rattle and bang on every surface, and particular fondness of pushing any kind of button with his index finger,

him scolding us when we leave him in his highchair for too long, laughing, pleading to be let out, and expressing anger at the same time,

his nose nuzzling into the back of my legs as I cook every afternoon, big wet open-mouthed kisses reserved for me and open armed hugs,

and above all, his ability to be completely and utterly joyous every single day for absolutely no reason at all. 

It is his birthday, but all I can think about is how this is about us, about me. About the discoveries he has made as he has become delightfully aware of himself and the world around him but also about how we have become a team exploring my strength and weakness. How he forces me to slow down, and challenges me to grow up. It is so scary to know and control so little, so heady and exhilarating, and I love him so much more than I ever thought I could.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


I don’t want to forget the good days.

The days Ibraheem lays on his mat swatting at the crinkly wings of the bees that hang overhead and gives me gummy smiles when he notices me watching him as I run and run to Pandora and feel strong and happy and know, nowhere else I need to be. And I look outside at the water and the trees and the sun and the boats sailing past, better than a resort, damn it.

I want to remember the good days.

The days I have slept six hours and had the moments of calm to watch Ibraheem marvel at the uncurling and recurling of his fist and then the curve of his toe. And I smear avocado on toast and plop a scrambled egg on top with spicy ketchup and lettuce and sit down on the floor and I want to remember the ten minutes it takes to eat the sandwich I have been eating daily for over a month and drink my tea and talk to my baby in the sunlight. I am grateful.

I want to keep the good nights.

When Ibraheem’s hair still smells like shampoo and he stays in his swaddle and drinks all his milk and looks at me in the darkened room through eyes that are gummed shut and he struggles to open them but falls back asleep sighing on my neck.

Those mornings when he wakes up before I do and I walk into his room, slower than I need to so I can hear his cooing to the fan and the ceiling for just a few seconds more and that smile he smiles upon seeing me walk in that lights up the whole damn universe.

And he is old enough that his hands are always outstretched and small enough that his legs are still bent frog like and I have never, never known love like this ever before.

Monday, September 13, 2010

choti eid 2010

Driving driving driving SW on 275, the sunset imminent, freshly napped in the gas station parking lot and coffee-ed and pretzel m'n'm-ed (150 calories between two people, I'll take that). On an impulse I get inside my Lucky Ali playlist, the one I downloaded and created during the first ugly, crying and laughing by myself all day, dancing as I dusted the house it's crazy how distinctly I remember the first few times I listened to Lucky Ali here, on the clunky Dell laptop room to room and in my head on my way down Cross Creek to the Publix under a crazy cloudy sky. And Lucky Ali sings, clean and clear and awkward and suddenly it's not the sugar or the caffeine or the heading home from one of the most difficult Eids in history that is making me smile but 1998, 1999, and 2000.

aisa naseeba hum dil waaloon ka hai yeh

mil kar na mil paaein yeh faasla hai yeh

sachi wafaaoun ka shayad sila hai yeh

paayen gai phir bhee tujh ko hausla hai yeh

Staying up all night running out of internet minutes, downloading music from Napster, translating Anjaani Raahoon Mein into the original Opendiary, a time where everything you wanted to learn or know or get could not be found on the internet and there were winters and birthday cassettes and dark, desperate days completely unlike dark and desperate days now.

It is impossible to sing along in any melodious way but I do it, and then I replay it and I translate it for T and I don't know, I don't know, it doesn't make sense in English, does it?

kehnay se bhee mein darta hoon

apno ke dhunn mein rehta hoon

kar kya sakta hoon?

dai sakta hoon mein thora pyar yahan par - jitnee haisiyyat hai meri

reh jaaoun sab ke dil mein dil ko basaa kar - ik aisi niyyat hai meri


What an amazing Ramzan this turned out to be. Fulfilling and productive and clean. And late into the month, three magical mornings as I sank into the words and the voice and quivered and felt small and insignificant and wrung out my soul - sleepy teary burn-y eyes too early for contacts - and prayer so utterly magical until I cried so hard again that I was entirely too preoccupied by what I would do with all the snot.

Eid day and post Eid all I want is to go back. And it's scary as I get attached, and I wonder about what the future of my belief and my faith will be when I spend hours at the masjid at night strong and believing and yet my hair is the biggest fashion accessory I wear, bangs obscuring eyes as I float in oversize 80s t-shirts and (skinny) skinny jeans furtively flaunting Ramzan-assisted weight loss.

Ek pal jo mil jaaye phir woh chala jaaye door kaheen

duniya mein is dil ke jaisa koi majboor naheen

Friday, September 03, 2010

How strange is this?

(I would think, I can even drive on the interstate now. I remember to roll or not roll the Rs according to the situation most of the time. I can buy things online without having to try on a million different items of clothing because I know my sizes. I convert units quicker and think in quarts and gallons and miles and pounds. I can ask people at school to donate money for Pakistan without embarrassment or apology. I don't even have the number of daysmonthsyears I have been here on the tip of my tongue anymore. I would think, in my American-think I got this.)

But for the past few days, I have woken up every morning expecting to feel a little chilly when I get out of bed.

I knew August was ending but it hadn't registered that today was the 2nd of September until I looked at the calendar. My weeks are constructed according to day, not date. I suppose I'm still in the haze of dateless, dayless, timeless summer.

My body hunched of its own accord to block out the cold, relaxing little by little when it realized it wasn't. I walked around the house, my brain prepared for a slight difference in the temperature in the air between my clothes and my body, the air that enters my nose as I breathe.

It's 88 - or 31 - degrees outside (and it will be for another three months) but in my head it's autumn. Only because my body insists that according the rotation of seasons that it is used to, expects, wants, demands, it's time.

Oh, September.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So what do I name this feeling? Walking in the park at night with Ammi and Papa on either side, little drops of rain falling on the pavement in front of my feet, on my shawl over my head, there is a name for this. A frustration is ballooning inside me and soon, very soon there will be no way to stop talking, to turn away and say I don't want to go with you, to laugh at this balloon.

Collecting moments watching Jab We Met in Khala's lounge atop Khala's chatt at 3 a.m in the rain and in Roasters at a table by the window in a white shirt that billows in the bathroom mirror looking at my smile and making pulao as Ammi gives instructions and stealing them from Yumna's inbox a perfect sad little happy story making me perfectly sad and happy and in a Tuesday night in a flooded McDonald's wishing Elizeh wasn't there.

There is a rise and fall every day. I ask Ammi, what's going to be in the fridge? He's going to ask me what I did in London, if I'm tired, will he show me the house? And too soon after, bitter as I try to step only on the vertical bricks in the pavement, beginning or end?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

December 31, 2007

If I had to describe how it is, I have one night that does - all of it to perfection: feeling small in glass and steel, chinky-eyed girls and funny English, and fireworks outside, and inside, and watching his hands and lips and eyes as he talks and I smooth over my goosebumps and hide behind cushions and a quivering lip that no hugs, no biting down would still and a shower and a quiet, warm sunrise and a namaz on a towel on a balcony and a naashta with too much blueberry goo on my knife and hands and three cups of weak Twinings breakfast tea and a breeze in my crazy hair and a hand in my hand as I sway in the elevator, can't stand still in the room and I laugh and laugh and laugh and he laughs along, I think he watches and laughs uncomprehending, 8 a.m. and we fall asleep on the other bed arms and mumbles and wakeup calls and newness.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Last few:

Squeezing lemons into a water bottle at two a.m by myself in an empty kitchen, barefoot. Talking to Faiqa using impossible sign language while bleaching our teeth in the bathroom. Apya's laughter coming from Ammi's room where Ammi, Bhayya, and her are unwindin after yet another day of crises, two a.m again. A hysterical triangular tickling match on my bed with Yumna and Faiqa late at night. A drive to Mee Lee in the dazzling winter sunlight. Wearing yellow for eight days straight.

See you on the other side :)