The idea that inspired this blog was a simple one — I wanted to celebrate the women who shape and inspire us.
That was by and large because my life has been inextricably wrapped up in my love, admiration, and loyalty to one woman in particular: my mother.
Today, a day meant to celebrate the achievements and successes of women and to be grateful for the women we know and those we wish we knew, I’m going to write the post that made me want to begin this blog.
My mother was named Seham, a name whose meaning I didn’t know for most of my life. Arrows. A peculiar choice to name a child, no? When asked, my father explained that it was an expression of endearment. “The person with that name enters your heart, like a metaphorical arrow.”
That she most certainly did. I have yet to meet someone whose heart she hadn’t entered upon meeting them.
Her smile — so warm and genuine and guileless — made you eager to do any and everything to earn it. It started in her eyes, sparkling outward like Tyra Banks so frustratedly tried to teach countless would-be models.
And it wasn’t hard to earn. A friendly face, a nice greeting, the promise of pizza — all tickets to that grin. Babies? Forget about it. Smiles for hours if not days.
And then there was the laugh. Few things in this world make my heart warm and my eyes well up like the memory of that laugh. If she smiled with her whole face, then she laughed with her entire body. Unreserved, unavashed hysterical laughter until her pale face became red with tears streaming down. Musical until it got to be too much and she was silent-laughing because it was simply too funny to catch her breath. Before you knew it, the most mundane thing had the room crying with laughter. And no one made her laugh harder than my uncle.
But it wasn’t just the smile and the laugh and the hazel eyes so full of tenderness with a hint of mischief. Her warmth and love and relentless generosity made me want more than anything to be a better person, if only to be one-tenth the woman she was. And I certainly inherited characteristics — willfulness and impatience and an insistence on feeding everyone around me. Nevermind the habit of laying out my clothes at least one night before and avoiding mixed metals like the plague.
I’m hardly unbiased — the woman birthed, fed, clothed and loved me, after all. But when are we ever, really?
As a kid, I spent every waking hour in the pool. Any time my mother came out to water the plants while I swam, I’d eagerly run out and shout “Mama, ana zar3a!”
“I’m a plant, Mommy!”
Dutifully, she’d hose me down as I stood doing my best (unconvincing) plant impression, to my utter delight.
It’s easily to make that anecdote a banal allegory about how she similarly nurtured me so that I could grow and flourish like a flower. I’ll spare you the banalities and merely say she was indeed the gardener willing to indulge her little attention-seeking plant.
And oh, how she indulged me, getting me a full-length coat for my birthday as a middle-schooler with Joan Crawford aspirations and tolerating me as I watched her apply makeup each morning, rapt. Saving me the leftover béchamel and any pot to wipe clean with a rubber spatula that immediately entered my mouth. Showing me how she painstakingly painted samna on each layer of phyllo when making baklava. Making me a massive turkish coffee when I had to write a term paper in a day, then sitting with me to watch a Marilyn Monroe movie when the caffeine jitters meant I couldn’t type because my hands were shaking.
Ordering sweet potato fries at the hospital to give me when I got out of class and drove to spend the day with her. Giving me the little purple heart stone she got upon finishing radiation for her bravery because I was “the baby but here she is taking care of me.”
As we think about the amazing women we know and aspire to be, I hope you have someone who saves you the spoon and some special sweet potato fries. And I hope you are that person to the people who matter to you.
As I continue this project, I’m going to write about and talk to the people — mostly women, but not necessarily — who, in my life, represent that ideal. Whether I’ve known them for 10 years or our relationship is limited to a poster on my bedroom wall (Hi, Gwen Stefani!). And for those I talk to, I want to know who their people are.
You’ve heard about my number one. Now gear up for the rest.