Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Mom was volunteering at an outreach center for teens and barely older than Nora when they first met nearly 20 years ago. The girl was malnourished, homeless, and pregnant. Unable to get her out of her thoughts mom brought her home to live with us. My aunt Nora stayed with us for five years and always says that those were the happiest years of her life. Eventually she would reunite with her family, marry, and move out of our home. The bond between her and my parents never waivered and in time our two separate families became one.

Aunt Nora called mom crying hysterically last week from Egypt with the news. Business circumstances are forcing my Uncle Hassan to move back to Egypt. Several days later she arrived in NY to pack the house up for the move. In a matter of days they’ll be gone. Naturally our families are taking it hard especially mom and Nora. With the exception of the occasional trip to Egypt they’ve never been apart for more than a couple of days in the last twenty years.

This past Sunday we were at Aunt Nora’s saying goodbye. Even though it was left unsaid we all knew that due to work, school, and financial constraints the chances of us all ever being together at the same time were slim to none.This was our last family dinner. Every now then someone would burst into tears and mom would joke, “Cut it out I’m not sure if this mascara is waterproof.” Even the paragon of Arab machismo himself Nora’s husband Hassan broke down a few times. For the first time in my life when my uncle Hassan asked me to make him tea I actually did as I was told and brought it out to him without joking about his chauvinistic ways, “you little piece of shit” he joked in his thick Egyptian accent before pulling me in for a hug,” it took me saying I was leaving country before you finally make me cup of tea with no hustle! “Hassle” I corrected. He choked up and he hugged me, “Habibi, he whispered, “you are my first daughter and more precious to me than my life.”

My favorite memories of mom and Nora have always revolved around the kitchen and this Sunday was no different. The kitchen is where I first learned about the tooth fairy, waxing, sex, and make- up. It’s where important decisions about my future were made in between bites of mom’s arroz con pollo, Aunt Leila cookies, or Aunt Nora’s Kusherie. Then of course there’s the music, mom has a beautiful voice but Nora oh man her voice is truly a gift from God and when they sing together it really is a thing of beauty. The sound of the two of them singing in English, Spanish, and Arabic when they clean the kitchen never fails to make me smile and sometimes just makes me straight out laugh. Trust me you have not truly lived unless you’ve heard Nora and mom’s Arabic/English version of Salt –n- Pepa’s “Push It”.

Nora, her mother Leila, and mom were in the kitchen preparing dinner.“Just because Nora’s moving away doesn’t mean you forget all about your aunty Leila Mia . I expect you to drive up and visit. I’m only an hour away.” She’d said as she hugged me. Nora stopped chopping vegetables and stared at her mother, “Ma go inside and keep the men company. I can hear Hassan crying all over Willie again. Me and Mags got this under control. You too baby go and torture your uncle a little.” I flashed a mischievous smile at her, “I think I’ll tell him I’m joining Jews for Jesus.” Nora burst out laughing. “Oh my god you’re going to give Hassan a heart attack!” Leila groaned. Mom looked up from the potatoes she was peeling and shook her head. “It’s on your head if she ends up killing him Nora.” “Want to take a picture while I make him turn purple Leila?” I asked as we left the kitchen. After a few minutes we heard the sound of someone washing dishes. Then suddenly Nora began to sing an acapella version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough after few seconds my mother joined in.

If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far
Just call my name
I'll be there in a hurry
You don't have to worry
'Cause baby,
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you

The sound of their singing traveled into the living room and stunned everyone into silence. It was a bittersweet moment. Their combined voices had never sounded better. Every vocal inflection was saturated with their pain and the lyrics were sung with heart felt conviction. It was obvious to all listening that they weren’t just singing. They were reaffirming a vow made to each other 20 years ago.

Labels: , ,

Posted by @ 8:27 AM
2 comment from: Anonymous Darla, Blogger Mia,