The Household, Amman

As the twins fall asleep at four AM to the lull of the Imam, the rest of the house awakens. My father in law is called to his duties and prayers at the Mosque. A recently retired economics professor, he now devotes his final chapter to God and the community. He his in his eighties, a hunched, quiet man who shuffles slowly about the home. He is Sedo-grandpa. He smiles and says Sabelkher to the twins but is underwhelmed by them. He is the father of eight and grandsire to nearly 20.
My mother in law awakens shortly after but her duties are to the household and her guests. She is in the kitchen at 5 am to make the Iftar, breakfast. Today she makes dough for pies and begins to create the fillings. She makes 4 kinds, one egg, one cheese, one zataar and one sweet with nuts and sugar. Then the accouterments of hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, chai and coffee. Other mornings is falafel, foul (a dip of fava beans), hobiz (bread). Iftar is a big meal here. “Coolie Danielle, eat more” she says. A mother of eight, she loves having all the kids in her home. The twins bang around the kitchen as my older girls clean up Iftar as is expected of them in this culture. My ten-year-old Emma is excited to wash the floors. Tata shows her how to dump the water and soap and then sweep it all down the drain in the floor. She shows her how to hang the clothes outside to dry. This is a middle-class household but we are in a third world country. Everything is utilitarian and lacks the frills of home. They got a washing machine a few years ago but in this climate the sun is more efficient than any dryer.
I take Shelley into the bathroom to show her how to bathe. They have a shower but the water is a trickle and tepid at best. I have to help her wash her hair, she is complaining about the water, why is it cold, why can’t they get a better water heater. As I wash her hair we talk about the world. This is how most of the world lives. We live in a tiny bubble where expectations thrive and multiply like a virus. She says “now I know why they take such long showers when they visit.” We take our luxuries for granted.
The house is divided in two parts. There is the main living area and bedrooms. Then there is a formal room with its own entrance. This is where guests are greeted and entertained. When a gentleman was interested in marrying one of the daughters, this is the room his family would be shown too. Here they would be served coffee and discuss a dowry and the character of his family would be judged. Rarely does anyone outside of the family see beyond this room.


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