After another longer-than-anticipated absence, I return to my News and Notes section, humbled by the well-known line from Burns’s “To a Mouse.”
… The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley …
Is it “essay” or is it “story?”
Many have concluded that “essay” is more widely used than “story” with respect to my type of nonfiction, memoir-style writing. While I understand the importance of following the convention, it’s difficult for me to think of what I write as essays. When I write, I always imagine that I’m telling the story to “listeners.” I have this same feeling when reading at the table during one or another of the Red Oak Writing critique groups, which I have belonged to for several years. So, please indulge me while I struggle with the transition from “story” to “essay.” This might take forever.
Three new stories…or essays.
“The Other Side of the Screen Door” has been rewritten several times, the most recent of which (several days ago) is the result of outstanding suggestions from current and former members of the critique group.
“But One Mournful Chord” was published in the Jewish Literary Journal. (News and Notes, 1/19/2017). The slightly revised version on this website includes a short paragraph concerning an unpleasant incident with a tray of gauze-wrapped capsules.
“Exodus Redux” was published in the anthology, Family Stories from the Attic(Hidden Timber Books, 2017.) With the permission of the publisher, I’ve posted the story exactly as it appears in the published anthology (News and Notes, 1/20/2017).
One more thing.
Last March, I posted a News and Notes item about our friend Taif Jany and his website, http://wethehabibis.com On International Women’s Day, Taif sent me a copy of the following “celebration” that he wrote to and about his mother. With his permission, it’s reprinted here in its entirety, with minor revisions.
What he wrote is moving and important, especially in today’s destructive political climate. This week, Taif is also celebrating his ten-year anniversary of being in the United States, on his path to citizenship.
“THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING”
I was browsing through some of my old pictures from Iraq, and I came across this picture of my mom: a beautiful, elegant, fashionable, and most importantly, fierce Iraqi woman.
This International Women’s Day, and as we all celebrate the amazing women in our lives, I want to celebrate and thank my mom: a woman who did the impossible to help me get to where I am today. She truly defines what it means to be the best mom anyone could ask for.
I want to share one story about her. In 2008, I was a refugee living with my mother and one of my brothers in Damascus, Syria. We had been living there for nearly two years after we had left Iraq in late 2006. And one day, I received the happiest news of my life: that I was going to the United States.
I had just received my acceptance letter to attend Union College in Schenectady, New York and also my student visa. I could not believe it at first, and I was so excited to go home and tell mom about it.
As I was climbing up the stairs to our fourth-floor apartment, with an acceptance letter in one hand and a visa in the other, it suddenly hit me: how am I supposed to leave mom alone in Syria?
My brother at that time was working in France, and so it was just mom and I for a few months. She was my best friend and support system. Her health wasn’t the best, and I knew it would be difficult for her to wave goodbye to her youngest child.
But I didn’t want to let these thoughts overtake my excitement, and I was so eager to tell mom about the great news I got.
It’s hard to put into words and describe the happiness I saw on mom’s face once I told her that I was going to finish my education in America. She saw her youngest child with an opportunity to receive the best education of his life. She was proud—and that made me even happier.
However, as we sat down to talk about it, I was starting to feel guilty that I might leave Mom alone. So I asked her a very blunt question: “What do I do? Whatever you decide, Mom, I will happily do it.”
And here is why I said earlier that she is the best mother anyone could ask for. My mom, with teary eyes, answered my question this way:
“Throughout my entire life, I have worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, for you and your siblings to be successful. All I want for all of you is to finish your education and have a prosperous future. I give you my full blessings to go to America.”
Today, after more than 10 years since the day I had that conversation with Mom in our little apartment in Damascus, I am proud to say that I have made it in America.
But none of my successes in life would have been possible without you, Mom, and for that, I say, “THANK YOU!”
After 4 years of separation, Mom came to my graduation from Union College in 2012.