Friday, December 18, 2015


Asalamu Alaykom,

Waking for fajr has many benefits.  Today, there was a very surprising one.

After praying, my husband and I got to spend some quiet time together before he went back to bed.  I started the weekly wash and then El-Kid got up.  That's when we spent our time together watching one of those wonderful National Geographic Live! travel talks.  Author-Explorer Tim Cope is very inspirational and his story of crossing the trail of Genghis Khan made me feel so connected to what is real and true.

When the show was over, I went out to the kitchen to make us some tea.  Up until this point, every moment of my day had been fulfilling and worthwhile but totally normal.  Yet, through the kitchen window came change on the wind.  I stopped what I was doing.  I had to get quiet enough to hear that very small but very persistent sound.

It wasn't a bird.  It wasn't a kitten.  It was a mix between the two and suddenly it registered in my head what I was hearing.  I left the kitchen in a hurry and entered into the dark bedroom.

"Ahmed," I called trying to wake him up.  "Ahmed, is there a baby on the roof?


"Listen," and I unlatched the bedroom window.  The cold air rushed in.  At first, there was nothing.  Then there was a faint cry.  I lifted my finger and nodded.  Didn't he hear it?  I looked at his face and nothing was registering.  I waited.  There it was again and this time he jumped out of bed and out the door.

Up the stairs he ran.  He was only gone a moment before he ran down again.  He needed a cloth.  He started to run up again and then remembered, "Matches!  I need matches too!"

I searched around my rag bag and found an old, torn school uniform shirt.  I grabbed the matches too.  Because I was in a track suit, I threw on a more modest coat and a winter wrap.  It was going to be cold on the roof but that's where I was going to see the new baby goat.

Through the wooden gate, I entered into the animal's sheltered area.  Someone had just had a baby.  It was plainly the black goat who wailed in grief at being away from her newborn.  The sound was almost human in its anguish.  My husband was a short distance away amidst a pool of amniotic fluid and straw.  He was crouched down next to a tiny black figure.


I do love this aspect to my life here in Egypt.  In America, it is all about cats and dogs.  Here in Egypt, I am connected to so many more animals and to their cycle of life.  At our house alone, there are sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and geese.  On on street, there are horses, donkeys, and camels.  Yes, there are also the stray dogs and cats.  Often, the cats jump onto our roof and roam our stairs looking for food or mice (which they are welcome to).  Really, as an ecologist's daughter, I am enlivened by being a part of the web.

So, there was the baby goat and he or she (I wasn't sure) was wet.  You know that phrase "still wet behind the ears"?  That baby was still wet behind the ears, on top of the ears, along the sides, on every was a mess.  I felt that the mom really should be cleaning him or her up, but since she wasn't, it was my husband wiping off the mess with the old shirt.  He then told me to get his mother.

My mother-in-law loves taking care of the animals.  I've seen her happy when there is a new addition, yelling when a bird gets injured and crying when an animal dies.  Every Spring, I  call her "UmKakoot" for being a mom to the little chicks she holds in the valley of her long dresses.

The thing is that she and I haven't really talked much since there was trouble at the house.  It wasn't my trouble to being with but my involvement later on made me an expendable.  Since October, I have been marginalized and it's been OK with me because I'd rather be on the fringe than in the fray.

There I was, two months later, ringing her doorbell downstairs.  She's a little very hard of hearing.  Once she came to the door, I tried to greet her.

"Asalamu Alaykom."

She didn't understand that.  The first two years of marriage, she didn't even know I was trying to speak Arabic.  This was going to be a tough gig.  I had a mission and that was to get her upstairs to the roof.

It went something like this:

"There's a baby goat on the roof."

"You want something to eat?"

"No, there's a goat on the roof.  A baby."

"Who?  Mohammed?"

"No, an animal---a goat.  A mom had a little baby."

"Where's Ahmed?"

"On the roof."

We went.  Up and up we went.  She's older than when I first arrived.  That's dumb, I know, because NO ONE is getting any younger.  This week, I've been lamenting how my right knee has been acting up when I've been climbing the stairs.  However, I was now with a woman who had to stop and ask God for help to get her up another flight.  That gives a person a new perspective.  She probably still had no idea what awaited her on the roof.  I walked behind her.

Despite any problems we have had and (and there have been many), she is closer to me in many ways than I am to my own mother.  The decision was made last night that I will not be traveling to the U.S. to see my mother during my Winter Break.  I am here.  I will be here seeing my mother-in-law.  She would be the woman to accompany me to Hajj inshahallah.  At the end of our lives, she and I will share a grave inshahallah.

We climbed, united in our wish to be helpful and good in this world, we climbed together.  I let her take the lead.  When she stopped for a breath, I stopped.  I placed my hand gently on her back and encouraged her to wait a moment.  She would soon push on.

Eventually, the three of us were on the roof together:  my husband, his mother, and me.  They worked together to build a bed of straw.  I kept saying that the mom should be with the baby but she wasn't going anywhere near it.  There the new baby goat sat alone and cold.

I went to the little black goat, picked it up in my hands, and gave it warmth.  Its impossibly long legs and ears were especially cold.  Really, it wasn't all black; its muzzle had a wide white stripe.  I shifted the tiny body in my hands and realized that it actually fit completely into one hand.  I held it there in my left hand as it stopped bleating and felt some relief.  I helped.  It is a beautiful thing in this world to make a positive difference.  Alhumdulillah, I was given the chance today.

The dried corncobs were lit in a big pan so that the new mother and her kid could have a warm room on the roof.  We argued a bit about the placement.  I was concerned about the window pulling the smoke across the pair.  My husband listened to me and moved the location so they'd be smoke-free.

I had to leave.  Tears were running down my face from the smoke.  It was a relief to be back in our warm home.  No matter how appreciative you are in your home, you don't really appreciate it until you've been out and you come back.

The baby, by the way, is a boy.  I name all the animals here (mostly because no Egyptian would be so daft as to name animals we're going to eat later).  This one is "Tigon" in honor of Tim Cope's dog.  Here's a picture of him

I'll get a picture of our Tigon tomorrow inshahallah.  It's been a few days and I made my way back up to the roof this sunny morning.  I brought my camera.

Our days can be so stupendous.

When one of those days is given to you, remember to thank God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Assalaamu Alaikum sister, Quite interesting post.

Good part of the story (this post) : .... I will be here seeing my mother-in-law. She would be the woman to accompany me to Hajj inshahAllah. At the end of our lives, she and I will share a grave inshahAllah.

JazaakAllah Khair.