Salma Hasan Ali

This was our original plan: my parents would come from NJ to our home in DC a few days before Eid so we could celebrate the last days of Ramadan together and have a family Eid with my in-laws, cousins and extended family. We would feast on my mom’s samosas, my mom-in-laws sewaii, Naz aunty’s patties, and Chachi’s dahi baray.

But sometimes Eid doesn’t happen as we imagine. God is the best of planners.

My dad was in the hospital last week with severe pneumonia; he’s now staying in a rehabilitation center that’s part of an Assisted Living facility so he can regain his strength. Allah ka shukr he’s doing better each day. I came to NJ to be with my parents – to cheer up Dad and to give mom, who has shown superhuman strength, a bit of support.

Mom and I went for Eid namaz this morning in an open field under a blue sky and the blazing sun. I had the chance to hear my dear friend Tarek el-Messidi, of Celebrate Mercy, give an inspiring khutbah (sermon) about Khadijah and Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful relationship, how the Prophet (pbuh) would turn to his wife during his most difficult times, how she would comfort him and stand by him. I see the example in my mom’s care for my dad, who is in a wheelchair now and agitated to not be home.

My Eid outfit has a story – it was my mother in law’s mother’s sari, more than 60 years old; it’s sprinkled with gold sequins that Nani Bibi had bought when she was a young woman on a trip to Paris; my mom in law kept these sequins in a plastic bag all these years, through civil wars and countless moves around the world. I asked a lovely Syrian woman who is starting a tailoring business to turn the sari and sequins into an Eid outfit. Her name is Maha, she’s a widow who left Syria when things got too hard to stay, and now lives with her daughter in Virginia. I wanted to wear something in keeping with the spirit of this blog – lace from Nani Bibi, sequins with memories, all sewn together by the loving hands of a woman from Syria trying to do what she can to reestablish her life.

We dressed dad in his favorite blue kurta and koti, and went to brunch at the dining hall in the Assisted Living facility. Dad had an omelette and french toast, cut in tiny pieces, and cake and a few sips of coffee – it’s Eid after all. He loved every bite; a respite from the pureed tuna sandwiches and spinach that is his diet at the moment; even his water and coffee have a thickening agent added to aid in swallowing. Oh, how much we take for granted.

We ate with all the other older folks at the facility, many in wheel chairs, others with walkers, some who needed help eating, a few who dined alone. (The agony of growing old in this country – but that’s for another blog).

Eid is not about biryani, after all. It’s about who you’re with. And there’s no other place I’d rather be.

Eid Mubarak, my dear friends. Thank you for joining me on this journey.