It’s Sunday morning around 8:30, and I’m in bed playing possum; that means I’m awake but keep my eyes closed so my kids will not pester me. I feel tiny cold toes nudging the back of my leg. I turn around towards the agitator; it’s four-year-old Nelly, an inch from my face, smiling wide. She’s so proud to be the one to wake me up. Her puppy breath goes into my nose. Ah! Aroma therapy.
“Mama, can I have Rock Star Barbie for Eid?”
We celebrate two big religious holidays a year, Eid ul-fitr and Eid ul Adha. The next Eid is not until the end of summer, but my kids are always compiling a list. This question is familiar. I remember telling her nada the first time after she discovered this Barbie at the Wal-mart. I close my eyes to try possum, again, but I’ve already given up my position.
Time for another Mama Fatwa, I sigh to myself. A Mama Fatwa is when I single-handedly declare something haraam (forbidden), because I haven’t the energy or mental prowess to start a discussion behind the reasoning, or go find a real fatwa (Islamic legal ruling), to back up my edict. Muslims believe something is haraam because there is a reason why it’s bad for you (not just for kicks), so it’s important to have a discussion about that reason. Ordinarily… but in this instance, I haven’t had my coffee, and this child is asking me if she can spend her father’s hard-earned dollars on a grossly un-proportioned, skanky icon, who stands on her tip toes all the time.
Actually, Nelly does own a Barbie but that particular model is a doctor; a doctor who wears skin-tight capris, but at least General Hospital Barbie is trying to be respectable.
Here goes Mama Fatwa: “No, it’s haraam.”
“But, Mamaaaaaa, I waaaaaant it.”
Mama Fatwa, not surprisingly, has failed to silence dissent. I move on to the second line of defense: “Go ask your Ba-Ba,” which is what my Collard Green Muslim kids call their daddy. My husband doesn’t even have to give fatwas. He just says, “la,” which in Arabic means, no, and they give up. That’s his sparkly prize for being consistent most of the time.
I switch gears.
“What are you going to get Mama for Eid?”
She is quiet for a long time, so long that I almost fall back asleep for real.
“I’m gonna get you a chocolate hijab!,” she yells, amplifying her puppy breath.
Hijab is the name of the scarf I wear on my purty head which makes me kinda-sort-of resemble Biblical characters from the stories my Sunday school teacher read us at the Methodist church. I say kinda-sort-of, because I don’t recall any of them sporting loose khaki pants or jeans.
“What’s a chocolate hijab?” I would really like to know.
“It’s a hijab mixed with chocolate.” Nelly is wearing that wide smile again; she’s so proud to have thunk it.
I do my best cookie monster impersonation, “Mmmmmm, me like cho-co-late hijab….I’m going to eat it….ummmm-aam-um-aaam, yummy.”
“No, Mamaaaaa, don’t eat it!,” Nelly pleads.
There is another long silence.
“I’ll make you a vanilla hijab. But don’t eat it, o.k., Mama? Promise you won’t eat it. I want you to wear it.”
“O.K., I won’t eat it. I’ll wear it.”