An American Family

at 12:35 AM

St. Louis was covered in blankets of heat this summer. I trekked home anyway to see my elderly Mom and Aunt Sally, my siblings and their families. I made the trip with my daughter, Lizzie, and Abdallah, my first grandson.

I love these visits but  I am stretched thin helping everyone cope. My mom and aunt need extra care and patience, but we are thrilled they have this chance to know Abdallah.

Lizzie, a Muslim for nine years, is dressed in layers of clothes. She has two layers of veil as a head covering and long pants underneath a floor-length synthetic dress called a "jilbab." She is prone to migraines and fatigue, and pregnant beneath her layers of clothes. Abdallah is the princely child with long brown curls and big smiles, full of bright "halloos."

We visit the zoo to see animals that Abdallah had only seen in books. Lizzie had no qualms getting her multi-layers soaking wet in the Big Maya, Arabic for water. She and Abdallah splashed and ran through the fountains. I took photos and got wet too.

We haggled over family meals. Mom and Aunt don't want to cook. Too hot to BBQ. Lizzie can eat Halal meat only. It's hard to find. We try veggie sandwiches one night, exotic pizzas another and a gourmet mac and cheese that everyone loved. We marveled at baby rabbits and chased lightning bugs and even found the fig tree my Dad planted years ago.

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Instead of the terrible fears we held tight in our chests as Lizzie converted to Islam, married an Egyptian, and raises a family amid prejudice and fear, our traditional Catholic family delighted in our diversity. Lizzie was serene in motherhood. Abdallah was radiant with laughter and kisses. Tarek, her husband, called each night.

Every summer we learn more about ourselves as a family. Perhaps like families always have, we are stretching and growing with the choices we make, laughing with a toddler who loves us back, and learning how to make the most of our time together.

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With a perspective, I'm Sally Mahe.

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