{ام العريس / mother of the groom}

A year, ten months and thirteen days have passed.

And your youngest son has decided to marry.

Jokingly they call me ‘ام العريس / mother of the groom’, and while I keep smiling I grimace inside because there is no way I can ever replace you.

As we sat in the brides living room, pleasantries & small talk being exchanged, although surrounded by the support of your sisters, I felt utterly alone.

Umi your absence is crushing.

It wasn’t till I came back that I finally got a bearing of just how big of a gaping hole you’ve left in me. Never have these seats in wedding halls been emptier knowing you’d never sit beside me.

I’d look at mothers and daughters with envy, smiling at how they’d pester them to fix their posture, & I’d remember you telling me not to have my hair too straight because I looked like ‘a wet chicken’, which dress looked better & that lipstick I wore at my cousins was pretty. I miss your guidance on who I should greet, and what relation they are to me. I can now only offer a fixed smile to faces that I vaguely recall as being distant relatives. But what I miss most is your physical presence, your warmth pressed to my side, reminding me to eat while you were discreetly trying to steal my basta.

Now I feel only a void beside me.

And I keep wondering, thinking, worrying… Am I doing this right? Mama… is this how you would have wanted it?

No matter how much one receives advice, good intentioned and all, there really isn’t a handbook to all of this. These are things you do not realize at first, the additional roles that are automatically added, and ones you have to let go. I am no longer the sister, nor the daughter, but a hybrid of a wife/mother. No longer can I be the spectator, just offering flippant words and having the luxury of being absent whenever. I’ve had to learn painfully to quell my temper, realized that my words bear a great weight & that everything I do has great consequence, always mindful of the ripple effects to the future.

You were the balance, the calm, the clarity that bound this family.

I am chaos, & have yet to confront my arrogance & ignorance to reach your level of wisdom & humility.

You left me shoes that I have no way of filling.

There is no replacing you.

I’m doing my best umi.

From every look, to every gesture, to every embrace I hoped, I prayed that from their warmth that somehow, in some way, he’d feel you through me. And as I stepped back from our hug, about to zagharit, it died in my throat & tears blinded me.

You were supposed to be here.

It was you who was supposed to be giving away your ‘baby’.

It was you who was supposed to have chosen the brides gold, the perfumes, the wrappings.

It was you who was supposed to have kissed the brides forehead & passed on your blessings.

Instead I lowered my head, took a deep breath, and smiled.

Because the whole night you were there with us.

Right there, standing beside baba with that soft smile as each guest congratulates you. Right there in the middle of the dance floor, never much of a dancer, keeping it simple with clapping and two stepping but mostly just stopping to fix your ever slipping toub. And right there, standing & beaming at your youngest son & his bride, filling the hall with zaghareet.

I hope that you are content with what has passed.

I hope we have made you proud.

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