Plain City, Ohio, Planet Earth
The Momarchy
Canine + 3 men
Happy childhood in Indianapolis; Raced Hobie 16 with my Dad for 7 years; World record holding National Catapult Champion; Graduated from Earlham College; Married my best friend; Junior high and high school Latin & English teacher; Wife of handicapable husband (11 surgeries related to rheumatoid arthritis); Stay-at-home mom; Author; Photographer; Lived too briefly in Minnesota north country (snow, dog sledding, wolves, and wilderness); Quaker activist; Environmentalist; Dog lover; Curious traveler; Men's volleyball enabler; Discriminating romantic film buff; Eclectic music lover; Friend of the world

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 20, 2008 7:05PM

The year we had Roman Rooster for Thanksgiving

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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.

Al-masoud family Thanksgiving placecards James and Andrew created homemade Thanksgiving placecards for the Al-masouds, a tradition in our family.

Sexiest man living can cook too!

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.

M's childhood turkey

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.

M mashing potatoes

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.

Steve carving the beast

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?

Andrew's drawing

Here’s one of Andrew’s elementary school drawings. We served four of the six foods depicted, skipping the carrots and apples.

Andrew w/4 Al-masouds and Ross

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.

Tareq with women at table

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' Red Fox necklace

James made this colorful necklace as part of his 2nd grade school Thanksgiving celebration. We occasionally see red foxes in our yard.

James at table with guys

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.

James playing guitar

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).

Gaming in family room

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 with Legos

Samia shows off her Lego animal enclosure and transportation system in front of the kitchen bay seat.

Samia & Amnah licking the beaters

Samia & Amnah help prepare dessert by licking whipped cream off the beaters. Maha made all the jewelry they are wearing.

Mary & Maha with pies

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 with sheep

Abdulwahab gets in the holiday spirit as he models the tea cozy on his head!

Amnah with tea cosy

Amnah outdoes her brother by becoming the sheep, a beautiful and peaceful one.

Maria portrait

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!

Red Sox turkeys

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.

Turkey with sucker tail

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!

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What a lovely story! Thanks for sharing it!
Enjoyed this from start to finish, DogWoman - the warmth and love in your families really comes through, and the pictures are great. I would *love* a piece of that rhubarb pie ;) Hope you have a wonderful holiday too -
Great story about a friendly and harmonious cultural meeting point. I'm sure the Al-Massouds were grateful for your friendly welcome. Friendliness, openness and acceptance is the true way to win hearts and minds--on both sides of the ocean. They sound like a wonderful, warm family.
Always glad to have one of my favorite gadflys weigh in! Think about it--you take a large orange pulpy vegetable filled with slime and serve it to friends for dessert. It does seem a bit barbaric.

I must have acted properly affronted, though, since the entire family moved away, leaving the house in front of us vacant and lonely once more. ;)
Your family is beautiful in and out. The pictures are great.
Great post. How lovely and enriching for both your families- hope you all meet again one day. Happy Thanksgiving!
I wish you were my neighbor! That's quite a gathering that you hosted. It's interesting to learn about your Muslim neighbors. Your childrens' school art projects were a sweet accompaniment to your text. Thanks for sharing your lovely family with all of us.
This is so cool DW. One of the best things in life is making friends from different cultures.
Now this would be a Thanksgiving to remember. The pictures accompanying your post add to it warmth.
This memory is one to cherish and I am sure that your children cherish it as well.

I am glad you commented on my Thanksgiving post and sent me to view yours. They are opposite experiences as of course mine was not pleasant and has stuck with me there 30+ years for a different reason. It along with so many problems during holidays has taken away the pleasure of looking forward to them. This would have been a holiday worth sharing.

This morning Cindy and I are off to “Run for the Hungry” in Sacramento. We will walk as her knee injury will not allow her to run and I am no longer in the shape I was when I ran consistently a couple of decades ago. This may become an annual thing for us. To give is something I find I enjoy far more than receiving.

As we are nearly out the door I will also wish all a wonderful holiday and please remember those less fortunate than we.
This is nice. Lots of warmth and fun! Thank you for sharing! :)
Beautiful post! No wonder you miss your Kuwaiti friends! I look forward to more posts on this valuable friendship.
Beautiful Thanksgiving sentiment as well!
Beautifully done Mary! What a great photo showcase and loving story.
I dare say I could that entire vat of mashed potatoes too!

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful Thanksgiving with us! Gorgeous pies and what a happy family gathered around your festive table! Cheers!
Yes, really miss the Al-Masouds. Sitting down at the table eating yesterday was great as just the family, but last year with these dear friends was something quite special.
The whipped cream beater picture is my favorite of the many good pictures in this post. I remember doing that in my mom's kitchen.
Very nice...this was obviously a Thanksgiving to remember. So good of you to be able to make the effor to know your neighbors and treat them well. Many would have done all they could to avoid them. What an enriching experience it must have been.
Thanks for sharing. Your post reminded me of a trip I took to Kuwait in 1999. The people were amazing--quite articulate and appreciative of all Americans. It is wonderful to learn about other cultures through sharing meals.
The tradition of hospitality is stong in Islam and also in other religions. Thanks for helping to bring it back to life.
Thank you for opening your hearts to those that have different backgrounds. Your acceptance of your foreign friends is true to the Thanksgiving spirit.
I wish the last Neighbors I had who I'd invited to enjoy a Thanksgiving Feast had been such well mannered Muslims!
As it was, they were Catholics and Federal Spies - out to get me for my Political Opinions, My (ex-Catholic) Buddhism, my choice of an 'Alt' Herbal Medicine (I'm Disabled, I suffer from Chronic Pain and I quit Methadone - voluntarily; though that means nothing to 'The Church' - or the Feds), and - apparently - some of the 'Comming Of Age' type Love Stories thaty they'd downloaded from my Hard Drive.
That's why His Daughter - all of 12 years old - tried to 'you know what' me, after she came over to learn - from me, a retired Chef - how to Cook a Proper Thanksgiving Meal; which I invited her to do, as she had no Mother - sweet and shy, or any otherwise.
Then her Daddy tried to get me hooked on Crack!
I'd say "For the Love of Jesus", People - just what are you trying to do to me (other than to get me thrown out of my home; which they eventually succeeded in doing); but they've betrayed that Good Prophet too many times for me to believe that they know what 'Love' is.
Be glad for these Good Muslims; they need all the Love they can get here in the land of the Great Satan.
And remember - I said I'm an ex-Catholic BUDDHIST; so what's all of this say about so-called Christianity? It's still the same old Small-pox Infested Blankets stuff, that's what!
I want some Change for (next) Christmas; how about you?
How wonderful it is to see cultural integration at Thanksgiving. (Was the very first Thanksgiving not a cultural integration of Native Americans and Pilgrims?) This is particularly true in post-September 11th America, where the word "Muslim" has become a politically-charged excuse for xenophobia.
An addendum to my previous comment: there is a fantastic poem entitled "Gate A-4" by Naomi Shihab Nye, in her book of poems, "Honeybee." This short but beautifully-crafted piece speaks volumes about how Americans view Arabs, and how there there is indeed reason to hope for a brighter future. I saw her read it live at the Dodge Poetry Festival, and the audience simply went wild when she finished.
Thank you each for your comments. You're all so kind!

Jordan, the Naomi Shihab Nye story made me cry, which doesn't happen often. I recommend highly this brief account of a communion of souls at an airport:

Gate A-4 from Naomi Shihab Nye's book Honeybee

Thanks, Jordan, for pointing it out to me!