Stories from Afar & Up Close

So many mothers

On the occasion of Mother’s Day, today in Lebanon. Although I was born and raised by one amazing woman, in the Netherlands, in the past 29 years I’ve had so many more mothers, all over the world… There was an Alsacienne, the mother who made me feel at home in my French host-family when I went to school in Paris and who taught me a gazillion tricks to save water; there was the Kenyan nurse who appointed herself my African mother, who let me stay at her house when the friend I came to visit was away from the hospital for a few days and who taught me how to eat with my hands; and there was the South African lady who called me her daughter and taught me about racism and occupation.

When I went to Lebanon, again I found myself in the welcome embrace of so many wonderful women, all being a mother for me in one way or another. They made me feel at home by treating me as one of their children, which meant I was taken up in the stream of endless comments about when to get married and to whom (what’s his background? where is he from?) and an equally endless stream of amazing food, always with enough leftovers to take home and feed me for another week. It also meant late-night conversations about what to do in life, shelter during the war, career advice and unexpected birthday cakes, and so much more.

However, having a Lebanese mother (or several) comes with a heavy responsibility, and I knew this from my Lebanese friends and their mothers: those who live abroad are expected to call their mother often, very often, and those who live in Lebanon are supposed to pop by regularly to say hello and eat some of the delicious food that is inevitably waiting. I, on the other hand, am used to one, long, weekly phone call with my parents in the Netherlands, and would feel incredibly obtrusive for passing by more than once every two or three weeks. And that’s where I continuously fail as a ‘Lebanese daughter’, and get messages from my friends along the lines of “my mom is disappointed in you, you don’t call often enough” and “you should pass by my parents some day soon, they would love to see you. No really, I mean it. SOON.”

Dear Lebanese mothers: I apologize for my modest Dutch behavior; I will try to pass by more often.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all!