Friday, December 27, 2013

In My Small House, a Holiday eCard

West Bay, Doha, Qatar, 2012
 
She is young, beautiful (ma sha allah), Qatari; an administrator.  She wears black abaya, sheyla and bright red lipstick around a white toothed, face lighting smile.  She sits in the corner of a windowless office tucked deep inside the women's area.
 
She stands, wraps me in a tight, two arm, belly hug, kisses my cheeks.  "I want to know what your house is like in America."
 
I am told that Qataris prefer large, tile floored, compound style homes over apartment living.  Construction is sand and wind resistant steel and concrete.  High walls shield flowering outdoor gardens where there might be chicken coops and children's play areas.  Inside there are marble countertops, crystal chandeliers, winding staircases, flat screen tvs.  Upstairs windows are covered to assure privacy.  There are independent quarters for maids, nannies and drivers; separate meeting spaces for men and women.  At mealtime some families sit in chairs around a table, while others prefer to gather cross-legged around a common platter placed on the floor.
 
random street, random home, Doha, 2013
 
"My house is small," I say.  "Wood frame, floors, siding, eaves.  A low wooden fence outlines the back garden.  Windows overlook the street and the front door opens to the living room and kitchen.  There are flowers and trees and in the Spring, beds full of purple phlox, daisies and daylilies.  We didn't have television when the children were small because we wanted them to read and play outside.  Now there's a single tv in a cozy basement family space."
 
She nods, smiles - and I know the description is not enough.
 
In My Small House
a Holiday eCard
 
 
In my small house, elbows bump.  The tv and radio are too loud.  There is clutter and a line for the bathroom.  There is straightening hair in the hallway, a crowd at the mirror and chairs wrapped like ribbon around the dinner table.  There is teasing over passed gas, stinky bathrooms, everyone-sick-at-the-same-time.
 
Like a small town – there are no secrets in my small house.  No sneaking out when you're grounded or cheating-on-your-diet-no-one-will-know.  No hiding Reese's Cups, saving the last bit of cheesecake for a solitary midnight snack.
 
There is noise and chatter and laughter in my small house.  There is talking after lights out in shared bedrooms.  There is arguing and there is making up.
 
November, 2013
 
Tinkling piano keys stream music into every corner of my small house.  Flour footprints trail into the hallway and the sweet aroma of warm sugar cookies tickles my nose.
 
In the spacious back garden my tow-headed 4-year old learned to swing.  Her legs caught the wind as she sailed into the sky.  For two exhilarating hours.  Without stopping.
 
On the street in front of my small house, my competitive 7-year old met his 6-year old sister's challenge to ride his bike "no hands!"  He did her one better, propping his feet on the handlebars: "No feet either!"  He hits a curb, tumbles, snaps his collar bone.  Three cozy days at home later, he returns to school with half his math book completed.
 
my kidz
 
Early attempts to teach homeschool PE involve giggling circles around a fat, white bark tree.  (Later, we play actual sports.)  We watch a mother butterfly lay eggs on a milkweed plant at the kitchen table.  We chart the progress of her babies from pupa to wet-winged Monarch.
 
In the living room of my small house I braid wire into my 10 year old's long hair for her lead role in the homeschool musical.  Her endearing, high cee voice sings light into the shadows.
 
We "do school" all over my small house until one by one my babies leave for high school, college and life.
 
my babies, 2008
 
Now, this very minute, wheels rattle across the hardwood floor in my small house.  A pony tailed cherub pushes Big Bird into my kitchen office in a little red stroller.  Her soft pillow cheeks puff into a smile.  "Nonnie!" she sings.
 
I lift my grandbaby into the air and kiss her perfect little face.
 
I love this snuggy little boy, 2013
 
Concrete or wood, tile or carpet; barrier walls or open gardens; a house is just a shell for living.  It's what's inside that matters.

We've enjoyed our cozy time together in America this holiday season. 
 
From my small house to wherever you are in the world today:
 
Our Family, 2013
 
In My Small House, copyright 2013, edited and reprinted from my blog, Tales from a Life.
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