Grandma waved us through the crowd yelling, "Come, come, Elissa" (Grandma has decided to call me "Elissa," after a famous Lebanese singer). Amber and I hesitantly followed her, trying to discretely make our way through the rows of chairs and crowds. Of course, we weren't discrete at all and stood out like a sore thumb. Curious eyes watched us as we made our way closer and closer to the bride. Grandma went first, shaking the bride's hand, "Mabruke! Mabruke!" I followed after Grandma, awkwardly extending my hand and trying to pull of the pronunciation of "mabruke" like I've been saying it for years. The bride paused before accepting my hand then hastily went on to the next person in line.
After congratulating the bride, the three of us shuffled our way out of the crowd and went back to our place as observers of the wedding party. Everywhere we looked there was either a woman in a traditional dress or sky-high heels. Sometimes both. Granted, Amber and I had no idea what we were walking into but I definitely imaginedÂ us sitting in a living room as a few women drummed and sang. Not this. This was like a bridal shower on crack. Instead of shower games and triangle sandwiches, it was 200 of the bride's closest female family members and friends dancing, drumming, and making henna.
Once the bride was presented her gifts, sang to and blessed, we left.
Before we got to our street, Grandma stopped the car. "We'll be here for five minutes," she said. LOL. Right, Grandma.
We got out of the car and crossed the street. Then, before I knew it, I was following Grandma up a flight of stairs and then out onto the roof of a house. "Here, here, tien! Tien!" As I looked at the tree extending over the roof, I saw what she was talking about: figs!
Combing through the tree leaves and reaching to the top branches, feeling the wind in my skirt, I looked at Grandma. Here she was. Who knows how old, on a roof, searching for figs. She, too, was in a skirt and not giving a damn about the wind.
Amber and I ate our fill before going home.
Later that night, after dinner, Grandma got out her old pictures. I paused at a picture of her on her wedding day. Her face looked odd. "Were you nervous?" I asked. "No, look at me. I was sad. I didn't know him. I had never talked to him."
Grandma and Grandpa have surely been through so much together since that wedding day. They were married in 1963 and their lives, both separate and together, have included some of Palestine's most intense times. Grandma and Grandpa could be hardened by it all. They could be indifferent and hostile. But they aren't.
The Separation Wall is often described as a cage—a cage to keep the Palestinians in the space where they're allowed to exist. It's funny the things that can still thrive in a cage. Like freedom. And joy. Maybe even forgiveness for the gate-keeper.
Today, Osama, one of our taxi drivers, said this about loving your enemy: "If Jesus is King, nothing else matters. Nothing else." So then in the midst of incredible odds, like being confined to a cage, the cage becomes irrelevant to experiences and living in freedom and hope. On one hand, the cage really matters and finding freedom within the cage doesn't diminish the significance of the cage itself. And on the other, the cage doesn't matter. Life must go on. You have to find freedom in the midst of oppression.
I'm learning this from Grandma. She's intimidating, direct, and sassy, but man, when she smiles, the room feels lighter. She's pushing us outside our comfort zones and leading the way to find the best fruit.
I always want to be free enough to climb onto a roof for a fig.
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