I could describe my childhood as very lonely and isolated due to the fact that my father preferred his family to be cut off from neighbors, friends and family alike. Most of the places I lived during my childhood were either very small towns or we lived on the outskirts of town...or in some cases we lived out in the middle of nowhere...no neighbors...no visitors. He was even known to build 6 foot tall fences around our property just to keep any would be friendly neighbors from making forays into our yard.
Like I said...very isolating.
At any rate...all this isolation resulted in me not really able to form friendships that went much deeper than what could develop during school hours...as that would generally be the only place I could see my friends. I wasn't allowed after school activities, parties, driving, part time work etc that most teens took part in...it was school and home...period.
Oh I had friends...don't get me wrong...some of them are still my friends to this day and I cherish those friendships...but Ive always felt I couldn't connect with them on a deeper level simply because I really hadn't had the experience. How well can u get to know someone that you see during lunch or the 10 min between classes etc?
School and home...remember.
My personality is somewhat of a conundrum really. I'm not very sociable. Period. I don't mix with people well...I don't start conversations if given the choice generally and I don't go out of my way to meet new people...its just not me. Once I know you that changes everything though...Ive been told I'm very funny with a sharp wit and an out of control laugh that leaves me breathless and hurting...but before that Ive been told I come off as cold and somewhat defensive. Blame it on my isolated childhood and 20 year marriage to an equally isolating husband...its deeply entrenched and not likely to change anytime soon no matter how I try to improve that (could try harder I know).
Anyhow, to make a long story probably longer, I want to talk about my best friend and the one person I love only slightly less than my own children. She recently visited me after not seeing her for two months (a lifetime it seems). She travelled from Bahrain just to see me and the kids...her "nieces and nephews" by love tho not by blood. 8 days of laughter and fun...and a chance for my kids to remember their Arab roots if even just for a short time.
I met her March 23, 2006 and its the one day I will remember forever. I walked in her sitting room and came face to face with a true Force of Nature. Life hasn't been the same since. (I would put her pic but she wears hijab and I don't have any with her wearing it just now)
Funny enough, my tendency to be unsociable nearly caused us never to meet in the first place. She was the guidance counsellor at my daughters school and from the time my daughter met her she just had a feeling she and I would be good friends...the trick was to get her reluctant Mom to actually agree to meet her.
She worked hard people...daily reminders for nearly a YEAR!!! Yes...you heard me right. It took me nearly a year to finally agree to meet my soon to be bestest best friend. When I think of the time I wasted procrastinating I could seriously hurt myself. Time wasted cant be reclaimed...*sigh*.
At any rate...I FINALLY agreed to meet her...reluctantly for sure. I practically dragged my feet to her house (which incidentally turned out to be barely a few hundred yards from my house in Hidd...how we lived nearly next to each other for 9 years without meeting prior is still a mystery to us).
I was literally dragged over to her house by my daughter who, by this time, had completely lost patience with me and was NOT taking no for an answer. She was expecting us...so imagine our dismay when her mother answered the door and told us she was sleeping and wasn't seeing visitors.
Vindication for me!!! This is why I'm not sociable people...so many irritating qualities that I hate...missing appointments or meetings or being late irks me to no end (ironic considering...well you'll see). I walked away somewhat miffed and determined not to come back. Later I learned she was pregnant and so forgave her missing our appointment...Ive been pregnant and so know how exhaustion can overwhelm you. When she called later that day to apologize and to invite me over again...I agreed (still reluctant but she sounded so inviting over the phone).
3 days later...March 23, 2006...I dropped my kids at their aunts house with promises that I would be back in about half an hour (as much as I was willing to give for a first meeting...lol) to have lunch with them. I drove to her house...sat in her sitting room for around 15 min (waiting for her would become a familiar feeling forever after that...shes lousy with the time) and grew increasingly irritated with the wait. I was nearly ready to head for the door when she FINALLY breezed in with a smile on her face that lights up a room...how can I stay mad at someone that smiles like that?
She was then, and still is, a force to be reckoned with...and I count myself lucky and blessed to have her in my life...and to be considered important and cared for in hers.
From that very first visit we clicked on so many levels it wasn't even funny. Its like we had known each other for years. My half hour visit turned into 2.5 hours and probably would have gone on longer if my children hadn't been calling me every 15 min wondering where I was. I dragged myself away RELUCTANTLY people!!! I'm usually the first one out the door and the sooner the better...but we were having such a good time...for once in my life I felt comfortable and welcomed and our instant connection was hard to believe. It had never happened to me before that I could so quickly dive into a friendship with no holds barred...no hesitating and full speed ahead. It was so unlike me...once I left I had to think really hard as to why SHE had such an affect on me? I had met plenty of people during my 20 years in Bahrain...many Bahraini women at that...but even after that many years I wasn't very close to any of them...I could take them or leave them...nothing in common and I preferred my own company to, what basically boiled down to, women who spent copious amounts of time gossiping...and ignoring me while I sat among them.
A Force of Nature people...I cant describe her any better than that.
From the moment we met our relationship has been chaotic...frenetic...we argue constantly...we laugh until we are gasping...we slam doors in each others faces (ok maybe that's just me) and we promise never to see each other again...and then are at the others house before the day is over. Even when we are so mad at each other we could spit nails...we are still impelled to call or stop by to make sure the other is ok. She is my most ardent supporter and defender, has helped me and my children in far too many ways to count, fights for me and them without hesitation and with the ferocity of a lioness over her cubs. I could mention how she has helped me financially in ways I could never count...but then when she reads this she will kick my ass for sure (sorry girl...it has to be said). She never hesitates to help me when I need it (and even when I don't but she thinks I do...reason for many arguments).
The ironic thing about our relationship is that we virtually have NOTHING in common. We argue about EVERYTHING!!! There are so many things about the Arab culture that I just cant wrap my head around (and don't want to) and she is Arab to the core.
She is late FOR EVERYTHING!!! Everything people. I have lost count of the times I have paced...sat in the car...banged on her door...dragged her out of bed or called numerous times on her phone just to get her moving.
I HATE PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSTANTLY LATE...AND SHE IS THE QUEEN OF LATE!!! Figure that one out cause I sure cant.
She irritates me in ways too numerous to mention. I'm more often mad at her than anything (I still cant figure out why or how she puts up with me and my temper)...she is a button pusher and not only pushes my buttons but jumps up and down on them until I want to pull hair out (preferably hers).
BUT...she makes me laugh until I cant breath...makes me feel cared for and loved...makes me feel like there is someone on MY side for once...no matter what...listens to me cry and berate myself over past mistakes...and either cries with me or kicks my ass and brings me back from the black. She supports me, defends me, depends on me (in ways I don't understand) and loves me unconditionally. She makes my children feel they still have family even though their blood family abandoned them wholesale. She is their connection to their past and to their Arab roots. She constantly reminds them that love is thicker than blood...and hers is constant and limitless. They get just as irritated with her constant lectures and demands to remember who they are and where they come from...but they miss her when shes gone and know she loves them...she is family.
She is everything that I am not. Sociable. Forthright. Loud. Commanding. A Leader. Open. Helpful. Honest (mostly...lol) and when she loves someone...she makes them feel it, experience it, bask in it, look forward to it, get comfortable with it, and expect more of it. She makes you feel important and needed...even when its the last thing you feel. People come to her with their problems...night and day...her phone never stops ringing...cause they know her ability to sort things out and make things right. Her own brothers turn to her for advice and leadership...very rare in the Arab world (yes they still try and "put her in her place" as a female...but that ship has sailed people) not to mention the "important" business, ministry and official type people in Bahrain that have her number and are forever calling her for some kind of help or another. (ironic considering they also want to put her in jail for having those exact qualities they depend on for help...her willingness to speak her mind and make things right)
To say I have a friend that has connections and knows people is an understatement. That can either be a blessing or a curse depending on time and place...lol.
Anyhow, she just came to visit us as I said for 8 short days. She reminded me how important she is to us. Reminded me of the sunshine she brings into our lives and the laughter and fun we have when she is around (when shes not busy pissing us off etc lol) Reminded me how she supports me, cares for me and loves me and the kids without limit or hesitation.
She is the ONLY hesitation I had about leaving Bahrain. I knew how much I would miss her...how the kids would miss her. I knew the move would be hard on her and on us. Its not easy finding a friend like her...especially for me...and I was leaving that behind. Yes of course we are still close and important to each other...distance doesn't change that...but its not the same as being together as everyone knows. Its been hard...very hard.....but....
She is still ours.
Our Force of Nature.
And I love her.
Dear Maryam Al Sherooqi...you are loved. Know that.