Reflections on art, fitness, family, politics and literature that hit me like bricks as I chauffeur my children from place to place...
A pink taxi
November 24, 2010
Eid and Thanksgiving
"Thanksgiving!" My son cried out when I putted less than perfect, but close enough to the hole for him to have allowed a gimme. The Scottish instructor didn't understand. "Isn't that an American holiday?" He asked with his distinctive accent.
Eid al Adha and Thanksgiving are only a week apart this year. Eid fluctuates as the Islamic year rotates around the Gregorian calendar and the seasons. I have celebrated both holidays, with more festivity according to the continent I was on.
What I love about these holidays, and by Eid I refer to both the Ramadan Eid and the Eid of Hajj, is that in those instances (and to a certain extent Christmas, but that gets affected by Christmas shopping) the whole city sleeps, slows down and makes us all feel on holiday.
How can a huge consumer society like the United States come to a sudden halt on Thanksgiving? A country that is open 24 hours seven days a week just closes shop on Thanksgiving. Even supermarkets close early for those holidays. By principle, this historical celebration, turned traditional, is a time when Americans criss cross around the country to make sure they all reunite with their families. The airports and other airline industries fill to the intolerable brim and comical movies have been written about the family reunions that take place.
In the Middle East, and in Dubai in particular, where I reside, the sudden halt also occurs on Eids. It is the only time when Dubai which is also built on a 24h seven times a week sort of pace declares public holiday and sleeps in. Only the shops remain open. In fact the traffic to the mall on Eid nights is notoriously insane.
For me, I have no school drives, barely any scheduled activities and my family spends more time at home and on the golf course. Eid becomes a time for gift giving, family meals and a dash more of sleep. As a child, we used to travel to Lebanon, bond with family in scenes reminiscent of American comedies on Thanksgiving. I do remember the solemn moments also, namely when my uncles and aunts came back from Hajj, draped in white and greeted with much pride.
For Eid, it wasn't the traditional cash handouts children got from relatives or the new clothes parents dressed us in but the fireworks which were my favorite memories of Eid. As soon as it grew dark, with parental help and supervision, all the cousins used to light up bangers and other small firecrackers in front of our grandmother's house, like American kids do on the Fourth of July.
Norman Rockwell has painted Thanksgiving dinners. I have participated in many similar ones, one extra large maternal family, all united at my grandparents home in Salt Lake City, around an extra large dinner table, with turkey, stuffing, cranberry and all the trimmings. My favorite part of the meal were the pies. I had now grown accustomed to the pecan and especially pumpkin pies that I wished I could eat all year long and not just seasonally. The dinner always ended with the dishwasher being loaded and the pots and pans washed and dried in an assembly line of female relatives.
This Eid was splendid as Dubai became a slow paced city, with little traffic and had a calming vibe. I thought of Thanksgiving in the USA when Americans count their blessings for the short respite from the stress of work and consumerism. I thought of my family in New York which will travel to Washington DC, and the San Diego maternal gang gathering around a turkey, and the Afghan tribe also reuniting in the Bay area. Just as we get our school bags ready for a month of school before Christmas and its boisterous holiday, no matter where on the globe you are.
And for the record, I researched and asked my fellow golfers across the blackberry network, about the term Thanksgiving. It does not exist. Apparently it had infiltrated our golf lingo in a mysterious way, perhaps linked to those awesome American holidays......
The pink taxi runs from 7 am to 7pm. It picks and drops off my 3 kids at school, ballet,judo, aikido, violin, climbing, riding, squash, basketball, skiing, skating, swim team, friends, grandparents and teachers. The car, not pink, but a black SUV, drives to Carrefour and Coop. To Club stretch for pilates and Aviation club for weekly workouts. It is driven by a woman who navigates on the radio, gets DJed by her 4 year old or sometimes quietly reflects. The thoughts are about politics, family, humor, literature, art or fitness. Sometimes they are excruciatingly longwinded, other times they are gossipy and hot.
I hope you will all enjoy!