I was so thrilled to skip school on Friday. It's nice to have to go for only three days of the five on the first week of school. But, I know that's not going to last long.
I tried to enjoy the moment as much as I could.
"Don't eat the cookies!" I yelled at Humza, who was leaning over to grab the special moon-shaped cookies I had baked for Eid.
"Then why'd you make them? So you could take pictures of it?" he asked, annoyed. He was dressed in light blue Shalwar Kameez with a white cotton topi. A pretty rare sight.
"You can eat only one after I'm done taking the picture," I replied, maneuvering my new Canon over the plate of cookies. I had the best uncle in the world, who gave me a special gift every Eid-ul-Fitr.
Satisfied with a couple of shots, which were soon to be uploaded on Facebook under my album "Delightful Cooking," I allowed Humza to take a cookie.
It was midday, and people were bound to be over. We had already prayed Eid Salaat at Holiday Inn earlier in the morning and I had said Eid Mubarak a thousand times to everyone I knew and didn't knew.
Abu came into the kitchen just as Humza savored his last crumbs, dressed in a similar hue of Shalwar Kameez. Humza wasn't at all appreciative of my idea for him and Abu to dress the same, but I thought it would be cute, and Abu liked the idea too.
"Where is your mother? Mahmoud's wife and children are over and you are all stuck here!" he exclaimed. My dad loved to entertain guests, and he got upset when we didn't live up to his expectations.
"Mom..." I started, realizing I didn't know where she was. Anyway, being the good daughter that I was, I took control and went to the living room to greet the guests.
Mahmoud's wife was petite and very friendly, and her daughter seemed to appear right out of a magazine. With her large blue eyes and light brown curls, she looked inevitably Caucasian, not Arab...and definitely not Muslim. But there I go with the categorization again.
"Eid Kareem!" I enthusiastically greeted them, giving both a warm embrace. During Eid, I can get very loving. I can hug complete strangers out of pure happiness, but that's also dangerous and I'm aware of my limits.
Ammi popped out of nowhere minutes later, rushing ahead of me to offer the guests plates of sweets and snacks. She motioned me later to retrieve the Eid candy bags we had made the night before to hand to the kids.
Towards evening, we all got in Mom's silver Toyota Camry and headed to my favorite uncle's house. House might be an understatement...no, I think I meant to say underword...wait that's not a word at all. Never mind. You get the picture.
He lives in Kenilworth, one of the richest suburbs in Chicago. And it makes sense, considering he's a neurologist and really one of the best. I hope his intelligence has passed down to me through Ammi.
It's the usual tradition for our family to gather at his house for Eid. For one thing, his mansion can actually accommodate our extremely large and expanding family. And he's rich so he can also provide food for us, which half the time is what we're really looking for.
Abu is relaxed, as usual, driving in between chatting with family and friends abroad on the phone.
"Look out! There'a a cop," I warned him. He slips the phone on his lap for a second before raising it to his ear again. I guess he really doesn't care if he gets a ticket, or thinks he'll get lucky and not get caught.
Speaking of luck, we really weren't feeling it while inching our way to get on the highway. There was not one complete road in Chicago that was left untouched and not closed to traffic. Almost every block, it seemed, was broken and under repair, or sectioned off to accommodate construction workers and trucks.
"We're going to be late again. I told you we should leave earlier," Ammi complained, drawing her dark green dupatta tighter around her face.
"How could we leave with guests over?" Abu asked innocently.
"We had over an hour in between the time Mahmoud left and the time we left." You couldn't fool Ammi, that's for sure.
But her frustration subsided quickly once we reached the house.
"Eid Mubarak!" I called out. The house was already crowded and more people streaming in. I wanted to place my heels in a safe spot before I went drastic at night to find them in the messy pile of hundreds of shoes. There is a shoe stealer in our family, I'm telling you. One of my favorite sandals went disappearing at one such gathering and Mumaani (my neurologist uncle's wife) was kind enough to let me go home with her own five inch bronze heels.
Honestly, I didn't want anything more than to dig right into the food. Mamu (my neurologist uncle...okay maybe I need to stop calling him that) has an exquisite taste for a variety of cuisines and I was a little eager to try it out. But, I couldn't jump right to the food because I had to greet everyone--give hugs, say Salaam, ask how they were doing, and so forth. Which of course I wouldn't mind if I hadn't already done that countless times earlier that day.
I can never be too tired of meeting Mamu though.
"Iman beta! Come here. Get some food!" he ordered sweetly.
Well, thank you. Just what I wanted.
"You like the gift?" he asked, tilting his hand. He was very tall and somewhat intimidating when I was younger. It only took a couple of treats and him calling me like his own daughter to realize he really wasn't intimidating at all. I mean, what do you expect a seven year old child to think of a person who cuts up people's brain? Scary, obviously.
"Mamu, it was a complete surprise! I tried calling you earlier to let you know I received it in the mail, but your phone was busy!"
He laughed, then pointed to the food. "Now after a month of fasting, I want you to eat all of this. As much as you can. And how is school coming along?"
"Alhamdulillah," I replied, before we were separated by a stream of chasing kids.
"You can't get me!" a little girl shrieked out of excitement. She ended up tripping over Jamal, who swiftly put her steady on her feet again before getting hurt.
"Iman," he said, giving a small nod of his head. I knew he acknowledged me only because we had already formed eye contact or else he really wouldn't.
"Jamal, how's your Eid?" I asked, knowing my attempt to make conversation would be futile. Jamal is one of those people who have everything but some good manners and a kind heart. I wish he'd learn something from his father or even his two other brothers who were much more sociable and sweet.
He shrugged, and I ended it there.
I could go on and list all the people I talked to, all the delicious food items I indulged in, and so forth but I really need to get going to my class now.
Lunch break is almost over and instead of occupying myself with some reading, I have been won over by the computer.
We shall meet again!
American Muslim Girl