Sunday, November 29, 2009


assalamu alaikum,

Eid Sa'eed! Eid Mubarak!

To tell the truth, I didn't do much for Eid. The holiday isn't as fascinating and fun for me this year; probably because I don't have the little kids to pull me into the enthusiasm. I wasn't at home either; my parents left for the weekend, so I came to my sister's house.

Last night I fell asleep on her couch; we'd had visitors earlier so I was wearing my hijab and had a big chador nearby, which I pulled over myself sometime in the night. The temperature on that floor of the house dropped to 65 degrees. (The thermostat was set higher, but that floor never reaches that temperature close to the ground, where I fell asleep.)
So when I awoke, I was cold, cranky, and stiff. My knees screamed in pain when I stretched them out. My feet and toes were icy. I was mad for a good minute.

Then I thought about that.

Y'all, I cannot imagine being homeless at this time of year. If it was 65 where I was sleeping, it was 30 degrees outside. Ya Rahman.

My sister and I just had a conversation about it. She said, "well, they have newspapers. They find a way to get through."

Seriously? SERIOUSLY!? Newspapers? At below freezing? How do you sleep? How do you keep up the will to live?

I don't remember there being many homeless in Puerto Rico, in part because of the nice climate. It can feel chilly at night because the temp drops 10-25 degrees from the daytime highs (so from a high of 90, if it got down to 72 you felt it), but I know there were people who slept on the beach, or on the streets. But for the most part, I never saw people without homes. They always had family, or friends, or just a nice person with a place to sleep. I'm sure the homeless problem exists there as any other place in the world; it wasn't as visible and is never as acute. There, the problem would be obtaining food, but not exposure.

There isn't the same kind of backup here, where people need it. It makes me wonder what is there. And I'd better be careful, because that's the first step to action.

Heh. And another conversation we had made me think about the difference between the concept of home and family as we get older.

Y'all know I spent some time in Puerto Rico right after I graduated college, and it changed my life. I want to get my nursing degree in part so I can go back to the island and know that I'll get a job- the VA always needs nurses, and that's a FEDERAL bureau that won't go broke- and live there. Yes, in Puerto Rico. (Don't get me started on the husband options there. That isn't a part of my plan. Allah is the point for that particular project.)

Lo these many years later, I still have friends from the islands calling me; their families ask about me. And this points to a major difference in families between there and here. Mainly, that as in most parts of the world, in Puerto Rico multigenerational families are a matter of course. I mean, I did have single friends who had their own rooms or apartments, but they were a rarity, and most of them lived in the same city or region as their parents, grandparents, etc.

I remember during Hurricane Jeanne going to Humacao with my then-roomate to visit her mom and grandmother; it was beautiful, wild country, and the whole family gathered to eat from the grill, since the electricity and gas were off. Beautiful.
So I knew when I came back that I definitely like that idea of multigenerational life, and that I don't mind living that way. Add to that, that I found that Islam supports parents and family life, and I could see myself eventually living that way forever.

My parents and sibs don't agree.

My sister made the remark during conversation that, "Our father exists so that we will leave the house. I cannot live in the same house as he does!" And that's true; I remember her saying when she bought her house that she could not live with our father. And then she said that the reason I could was probably because we don't talk much. And that's true as well. If I don't have something to say, then I... don't have anything to say, beyond courtesy. So yes, I guess that works. On the other hand, I know that my parents would prefer me to live on my own (but aren't going to pay for me to do so, which is why I live at home just now).

And I don't want to live on my own ever again. Been there, done that, hated the goody bag. Don't want to live with strangers, either. And I'm lucky in that I don't have to; my parents tolerate my living with them. Sometimes there's not much between toleration and enjoyment, and sometimes there's a gulf of understanding between the two.

I've had men who were wife-searching ask me, 'Would you mind if we lived with my parents? Or if my parents lived with us?' and the whole question blew my mind, because the LAST thing my parents would ever WANT to do is to live with my household, or one of my siblings'. This is clear in my mind. And I welcome the idea that they would do so. The difference in our attitudes is one I accept, but it makes me sad.

What do you think?