Father on left holding my uncle.
Sometimes, I envy some of my friends who have open relationships with their fathers. They would pick up the phone and chat to their dads about personal issues such as friendships gone awry, bodily insecurities, and the like.
My father is traditional - in a cultural sense. He would come home from work, settle down in his comfortable mustard-colored chair, and pick at his salad while we flitted about, either joining his calm appetizer session or go on creating the necessary pre-lunch raucous. During our meal, the conversation is usually light and humorous.
When I think about it now, the only time I do bond with my father is primarily during weekends.
Thursday mornings. Dawn more like it. The sun hadn’t come out yet but I manage to stumble out of my warm bed and accompany my father to “Ma63am El Sharaf.” He would order a “fool” sandwich and I would munch on my scrumptious falafels. We would sit on the rickety, wooden benches outside the ageing restaurant, watching the few cars go by and the sun rise up before us.
Afterwards, we would head to the chalet. After a long Thursday night spent devouring my father’s delicious “riyash” and kabab, he would wake me up early Friday morning for our traditional stroll in the desert. Peeling tangerines in natural solitude, we would observe the sheep being herded. I sulked when we ran out of the fruit, but lo and behold! My father always manages to surprise me with a tangerine he savored in his dishdasha’s pocket.
When we return home at dusk, I would go with him to Soug il Sla7/Mbarkeya. I would wear my baggy jeans and long blouse, wrap my long hair in a bun and wash my face free of makeup. One of the things I treasure is our car rides en route. My father would talk about his days in school and university, advise me about college and managing my finances (I am still working on the latter), and recall amusing stories about his childhood and past. I love listening to his soothing voice. Whenever he tells a tale, he would end his sentences with “Ha?” and I would reply “Ee yoba” or “Mmm.” And then he would continue his story. Before we hop out of the car, he would ask, “Erzulie, 9obeelay may ma3ach” and I would reach for the heavy, metal thermos and promptly hand him a cup. I watched him as he gulped the water down before smacking his lips and motioning for me to follow.
With him, I become little Erzulie. He still holds my hand when we cross the street. When I gush over a costume-like Indian dress, he would buy it for me, knowing that I will don it in our house and strut around in it every now and then. He would introduce me as, “Erzulie, bintee il zqeera, my little daughter.” We would snag a bag of “yigi6” and enjoy it as we walk through the bustling crowd. My mother disapproves of “yigi6,” claiming that “people roll it with their feet” and that they are generally unclean. But I still love their sour milky taste.
Unlike some of my friends, I do not think I will ever discuss my disdain for my split ends with my father.
At times he seems a bit distant yet I know his affection is implicit.
And I would not trade that for anything.
Edith Piaf - Sous Le Ciel De Paris
George Brassens - Les Passantes
Del Amitri - Roll to Me (I love this song!) - FOOF!
at 5:03 AM