THIS IS CHAPTER ONE IN THE SERIES: THE BATTLE BENEATH
My favorite holiday growing up was Christmas.
Every year we went to my grandparents’ house and celebrated Christmas. We had dinner, there was a tree and we unwrapped gifts. Sometimes mom would convince grandpa to play the Handel’s Messiah on the record player and we'd all listen and sing and crack at the high notes.
I don't remember how old I was when my mom told me "we don't believe in Christmas and it isn't our holiday, but we celebrate with Grandma and Grandpa and the rest of the family because it's their holiday."
There were other things we didn't do. When we visited grandma and grandpa, they took turns going to church. One would go to early service and the other to late service so there would be someone watching my sister and me. Grandma called the meat we brought her "blessed meat" and when we started wearing the hijab she called it our headgear. We'd swim at night when no one was in the pool so men who weren’t related to us wouldn't see our hair. They’d pray before we ate. Sometimes they’d let my sister and me do the prayer. They’d have us read devotionals from “The Upper Room”. Grandma would jokingly complained that any more rules my mom told her about, she'd accuse my dad and ask "has he been reading more books?"
At some point in my childhood the story was told to me:
My father is Lebanese and came to the U.S when he was twenty for college where he met my mother at the school library where they both worked.
My mother was raised Methodist, but gradually became agnostic in college. My father was not a practicing Muslim at the time that he met my mother and together they began to explore faith, particularly in Islam and my mother converted six months before they got married. A year after that they told their families they had gotten married. My mother’s family who was all predominantly Methodist and Christian, accepted my mother’s conversion and welcomed my dad to the family. My dad’s mom didn’t talk to my dad for a year and my mom a year after that.
They established themselves in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Four years later had my sister and then four and half years later, had me.
I was born a Muslim (as all children are from Muslim parents) in Tulsa, OK as a half Lebanese half American girl with a loving Muslim family and a loving Christian family which resulted in the emerging of two faiths and cultures that were very present in my life.
It was rare for that time, but to me it was normal and all I had ever known.