I am a homegrown Muslim- ‘Merican mama of three kids – two boys, ages 14 and seven, and one sassy brown-eyed girl, age nine. Here I am, the soccer mom, patiently observing every second of the game. I’m a good mama.
I grew up in a small, citrus town in Florida, called Winter Garden. Out my front door, there was an orange grove to our left and a small creek to our right. From the creek we gathered crawdaddies, tadpoles, and an occasional Native American spearhead.
It doubled during the rainy season as a water rapid, which my mom never let us ride because, that was only for kids whose mamas did not give a dawn if they came home with a white-trash-case-a-ring worm!
Behind the sprawling grove sat Lulu Creek, home of arrow heads, rattlesnakes, abandoned sneakers and town drunks. During the day we roamed it freely, pushing our Kangaroo sneakers in the mud, making secret forts, and riding four wheelers- like pharaohs on chariots.
It was my whole wide world, which might as well have been flat because I did not know the contours of any other kingdom. There were several important landmarks; most notably, Jimmy’s Thriftway, a locally owned grocery store where my mom, a dental assistant, cashed her checks, and my dad, who fertilized orange groves, bought fat back for cooking our vegetables.
Next, was the Methodist church where I spent long hours picking my scabby knees and waiting for choir practice to end. Last, was my elementary school on Dillard Street, where most teachers knew my mom, dad, grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins – it was no use trying to get away with bad manners. My entire extended family grew up there; we survived on the mild winters which drove the citrus to market.
The trees produced an intoxicating perfume of orange blossoms; it glided through our inhalations like a shadowy mistress.
During my early college days, I did what any self-respecting small town, southern girl would do, I converted to Islam and even married a Muslim from Morocco!
Oh. my. Gawd!
Yes, for real.
Then, I became a mama, finished a heaping portion of law school for insanity sake, worked and eventually started driving a flashy mini-van.
I still eat collard greens, but instead of fat back, I throw in turkey necks. Muslims don’t eat the Piggly Wiggly. It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it’s pretty darn good, especially when served with fried chicken (sizzled in Crisco).
Here is my daughter, “Nelly” and me swinging during a trip home to Winter Garden some time back.
Growing up in Winter Garden, I never thought my life would turn out like this… but I’m sure glad it did. I want to share with you my journey of raising a bi-cultural, Muslim American family.
This blog is a dedication to my family and all who stop by. Come in ya’ll! Ahlan wa sahlan (in Arabic). We are pathetically normal, but never boring.