Sunday, February 3, 2008

Family Life

Driving through downtown, whizzing by a million sights and sounds in our silver minivan. The finger points, and then the question.

“Marhadha?” “Whatsthat?”

I try to follow her gaze, see where her finger is pointing, as the car sails across an overpass so high I don't look down. Billboards, parking lots, dilapidated buildings, glitzy blinking signs, towering overpasses, crisscrosses of telephone wires and poles, gaping highways. All of the unplanned miscellanea that make Houston so unsightly and distracting.

“Skyscrapers? That’s the city. Look at all of those tall buildings.”


“What? Where?”

“Whatsthat? Therethat. WHATSTHAAAAAT?”

Turning around, I only see her gazing intently at something. “Buildings. They are buildings.”


“I’m not sure what you…buildings.”

I don’t want to frustrate her attempts to discover more about the world, to ask questions, articulate her observations in a jumbled, mispronounced vocabulary. I hope she is never afraid to ask and never feels discouraged that we don’t understand her.

But sometimes I really don’t understand and can’t figure out what her little head is thinking. I try to hide it.

* * * *

Plastic cups with water for the girls, warm tea for me. Blankets. Moona makes sure everyone has a pillow, fetching them one by one from the different rooms in the house.

"Can you close the door, Moona?"

"This door closes by itself." She pauses, mesmerized, as the open door slowly, eerily, drifts closed. The only door in the house with a loose hinge, and she knows it.

Curling up in bed with the whole family. There used to be a time when Moona would watch the show in silence. Taking it all in, occasionally making an observation.

“Camel?” “Mountain?” “Bear wants her mama?”

Our peaceful Planet Earth sessions are done for good, however. Buru, delighted that we are all smooshed together in one place in a dim room, squeals, pulls Moona’s hair, sticks her fingers into our noses, nosedives into our laps and screams when she can’t wiggle out. And Moona asks questions.

“Marhadha? Ew. Marhadha?”

A glowworm excretes drops of mucus onto a thread of silk that dangles to catch insects hypnotized by the light on the worm’s tail.

“Uhhh.” I grope for the right words in Arabic. “It’s a worm. He’s hanging the string to …”

Blink. Glowworm is gone.

“Marhadha? Marhadha, Umee? Marhadha? MARHADHA?”

Now it’s a swarm of bats and a mountain of cockroaches eating... you don’t want to know. Gross. Why am I watching this? Oh right, family time. I look at my husband. He’s lost in action, snoring, and Buru is reaching for his eyeglasses.