Memoirs of Boston: The Time A Muslim Woman Stood Me Up

I have been thinking for a while that I want to pen my experiences in the greater Boston area. There are far too many. But I think there are a few that I would love to look back on fondly and feel grateful that I can remember it the way it happened.

You know how sometimes you forget important details about significant events in your life? I just don’t want to do that.

This one was one of my favorites, in a kind of frustrating way.

The city that we lived in for this last year was Arlington. More specifically, though, we lived in East Arlington. We were fortunate, nay, BLESSED (if you believe in that kind of stuff) to live in East Arlington and not be shoveling cash out of our ears to live there. The Red Line train- which made Adrian’s commute ONLY an hour- was just a 15 minute walk from our apartment (we were one of the few tiny complexes in the area), and there are many restaurants (mostly Italian, go figure), a kid-friendly library, barber shops, boutiques, a grocery store, and a theater that was built in the 1920’s. It was a magical place and all of it was in walking distance. It’s one of those places that has small community festivals, a funky African drum shop, and a DIY pottery spot.IMG_1409.JPG

A beautiful church door down the street from our complex. It always made me smile.

But the setting you need to imagine at this point is the library. It was called the Fox library for it’s history of being saved by a woman called Edith M. Fox from it’s imminent destruction. It is not a typical, run of the mill library. It’s small, has a small adult section, and a HUGE children’s section with fun puppets, bean bag chairs, and other toys. They hold all kinds of exciting weekly events. We made it one day during the weekly, well-attended singing time, but Ollie wasn’t interested. There were so many kids and adults, I think he was intimidated. Anyway, we left early and went to the play section of the library where kids could check out toys. Ollie was interested in a play kitchen set that some young girls were playing with.

I generally let Oliver play with the other children if they were willing to let him. I usually instruct him to approach them and ask nicely if he can have a turn or play with them. This wasn’t an exceptional situation and the girls were kind enough to let him. As is the case with the parental interaction, if it’s more than one mom, I politely stand by and watch my son. But, if it’s just one mom, I will try to start a conversation. Accompanying these young girls were two moms talking, and in another language. I’m not a language guru, but I would guess that they were speaking Arabic. I sat next to Ollie and watched him play.

Then, one of the moms started talking to me, small talk. I was grateful that she was willing to pull away from her conversation to talk with me. The wonderful thing about being a mom is that you always have some common ground with the other mom- kids. All you need to do is say or ask a few uncontroversial things about kids and you can have a pleasant interaction. In this case, I didn’t want to talk about how kids are terrible at sharing, or how some kids are shy, while others will just get right in your face. No, I wanted to tell her that I had taken a course in college about Islam. I wanted her to know that I thought her hijab was beautiful and that I’d love to ask her about her experiences in America. I didn’t, though; I just didn’t know if it would be too forward, too anything.

Well, when she and her friend and the kids got up to leave, she hung back to talk to me. She asked me if I typically come to this library. I said, “Yes, I come all of the time.” She said she hasn’t been in the area long and that her daughter has a hard time wanting to go out and play in public places. She thought that if her daughter knew another child that comes consistently, she may want to come more often. I said that I would be there again on Thursday afternoon the following week and we’d love to play with her

I went that next Thursday, and the next, and the next. She never came again. I never saw her. I saw and would smile and nod at other Muslim women, usually just on the street, but never the woman with the two beautiful girls. I waited around longer than I planned, hoping she may just come one day and I could show her that I remembered her.

You see, I do love getting to know other people. But what I really wanted was for her to know that she and I aren’t so different. Being Mormon can sometimes be very alienating in this world. Don’t get me wrong, I know I make that choice, but it’s nice to meet someone who is like you, just not exactly like you. Someone who can relate to your drug and alcohol abstinence or views on modesty, but not because they are Mormon. Someone who has had to flee her country just because others didn’t like her religion, culture, or politics. I really wanted to get to know that person.

Equally, I also just wanted her to know that I am happy she came to America. And I am sad I never got to say anything like that to her.