The large house in front of us has been empty for years. In August 2007, I noticed a family had moved in and one of the women was wearing a hijab. I baked chocolate chip cookies and we went over to introduce ourselves. Thus began one of the most memorable years of our lives. Tareq Al-masoud, a professor of education & educational media in Kuwait City, was here for a year on sabbatical researching his next book at his alma mater, Ohio State University. He brought with him his beautiful, sweet, shy wife Maha, mother extraordinaire to seven children when they arrived and eight by the time they went home. Early in our relationship, Tareq took us out to eat at Olive Garden with his entire family. Years ago, Steve and I spent a memorably miserable meal at a restaurant with two hellion sons of a cousin, so we were dubious about a public dining experience with 7 children, ranging in age from 6 to 17. We needn’t have worried--the children got along well with each other, were polite, quiet, and friendly. Our Sunni Muslim neighbors became close and dear friends, whom we sorely miss. We immensely enjoyed sharing American traditions and holidays with the Al-masouds during the year they lived in Ohio while we learned from them about Islam, Muslim customs, the Arabic language, and Kuwait. We invited the entire family to spend Thanksgiving Day 2007 with the four of us plus James' college roommate Ross from Seattle.
James and Andrew created homemade Thanksgiving placecards for the Al-masouds, a tradition in our family.
My Sexiest Man Living can cook too! Steve multi-tasks, keeping the homemade creamed corn hot (or is that “hawt”?) while finalizing the turkey gravy.
Mary made the turkey with the yellow speckled legs in an elementary school art class. Neighboring turkey, Native American, and corn were created by James and Andrew.
Here’s DogWoman (note canine earrings!) whipping up a vat of mashed potatoes. We bought this workhorse mixer used from a family friend before we got married 27 years ago and it’s still going strong.
Andrew and Abdulwahab look on with interest as Steve carves the beast. In Kuwait, chicken is a common meat, but turkey is rare. Tareq informed us that the Arabic expression for “turkey” translates to English as “Roman rooster.” Who knew?
Here’s one of Andrew’s elementary school drawings. We served four of the six foods depicted, skipping the carrots and apples.
You can tell which one is the photographer’s son! From far left to right: Mohammed, Ebraheem, Andrew, Abdulwahab, and Steve. On the near side of the table, James’ delightful college roommate Ross and Yousif.
We used the kitchen table to add an “L” to the dining room table. Left to right: Mary, Maria, Amnah, Tareq, Maha, and Samia. In accordance with moderate Muslim custom, females over the age of about 14 wear a hijab. Amnah and Samia are exempt from the head covering until they are older. After sampling a little of everything, Tareq offered this prayer and benediction, “May Allah protect your hands, Mary, so that you may always prepare such wonderful food for your family and friends.”
James made this colorful necklace as part of his 2nd grade school Thanksgiving celebration. We occasionally see red foxes in our yard.
We were so happy to have James home from his first semester in college that we allowed him to preside over one head of the table. Clockwise from left: handsome and quiet Yousif, Ross doing his pretentious look, our beloved firstborn James, kind and thoughtful Mohammed, Andrew’s close friend and fellow serious student Ebraheem, my green-eyed golden-haired baby Andrew, and athletic soccer star Abdulwahab.
After dinner, Tareq held court in front of a cozy fire in the living room, while James demonstrated his acoustic guitar. Tareq’s brothers all play the oud, a traditional Arabic stringed instrument. Fascinated by James’ guitar, Tareq bought his own acoustic to learn and take home with him. Maha and Yousif enjoy the concert. Tareq is flipping a set of prayer beads, much like Greeks with their komboloi (worry beads).
Meanwhile in the family room, Sasha “The Weasel” tries to get someone to pick up her orange Frisbee and throw it over the couch in the foreground into the foyer (allowed in our home). From right to left, Mohammed and Abdulwahab are playing Soul Calibur on the PS2 as Amnah, Maria and Ebraheem look on. In the Frisbee flight path, Andrew and Ross concentrate on a Game Boy and PSP respectively. I don’t know about you, but there weren’t any electronics involved in my childhood Thanksgivings! We played Flinch or Pit, Chinese checkers, cribbage, euchre, or solved puzzles lying around in front of a fire. In the background, Samia is playing with Legos.
Samia shows off her Lego animal enclosure and transportation system in front of the kitchen bay seat.
Samia & Amnah help prepare dessert by licking whipped cream off the beaters. Maha made all the jewelry they are wearing.
Mary & Maha with the pie buffet, left to right: apple, pecan, and rhubarb. None of Al-masouds wanted to try family favorite pumpkin, which our English friends also consider uncivilized. The Kuwaitis voted pecan #1, rhubarb #2, and apple (which Maha thought would be her first choice) #3.
Abdulwahab gets in the holiday spirit as he models the tea cozy on his head!
Amnah outdoes her brother by becoming the sheep, a beautiful and peaceful one.
Maria allows me to photograph her lovely outfit. A gifted student, keen listener, devoted daughter and sister, Maria also maintained their 5 acres of grass driving a huge commercial mower with a 61” deck. Muslim women may accept more traditional roles than we are used to here in the states, but the women I was privileged to get to know are tough, bright, hard working, and not to be underestimated. Our year with the Al-masoud family was one of our greatest ever and will be featured in future posts about their first American birthday celebration with party hats and horns, first time trick-or-treating, first snow wheel and igloo, first snow woman, first snow football, first time sledding, and the birth of their eighth child, lovely girl Anwar. We love you and miss you, dear friends!
Gratuitous Red Sox turkeys for CCC. Made in 2nd grade by fourth generation BoSox fans James (top turkey) and Andrew (Snorlax turkey). Our entire family misses vivacious Jacquie Daughenbaugh, 2nd grade teacher extraordinaire for both boys, who lost her battle with breast cancer in October 2007.
Here’s a sweet ending to this Thanksgiving tale.
We hope you have a relaxing, joyous, and wonderful holiday weekend. Here’s hoping we can deep six the stress, enjoy the moment, smile & nod to those we love whose politics we hate, and concentrate on all that we have to be thankful for including hope, our loved ones, a home, enough to eat, friends, stable health or at least better than the alternative, our animal friends, safe neighborhoods and schools, opportunity, starlight and the comforting call of great horned owls, a chance to make a difference, and the OS community. Happy Thanksgiving!