Happy Eid!

It was a lucky day today, and my girls and I were the beneficiaries of an unexpected little blessing.

It’s very, very cold today: the coldest day yet this year. And yet, this was the day for the little one to get her flu shot. We don’t have a car in New Jersey, so that means walking a mile uphill into the wind for the shot, pushing the stroller, and then walking back downhill forty minutes later to drop her off at daycare. I walked back home, picking up some groceries on the way (another half mile or so), worked for an hour, and then walked back to school (that same half mile again) for a parent-teacher conference. Then, I walked downtown, had lunch, and took the train into the city, did some errands that needed doing today, got a cup of tea and worked a bit, and walked the half-mile back to school to pick up my kindergartener. I was cold and my feet were tired.

And there was Mrs. Z., a beloved after-school teacher, now transferred to work with the big kids. We both greeted her with love. She is, after all, the woman who painstakingly planned little crafts to amuse my daughter every day after school last year.

I complimented her headscarf. Today, it was a brilliant hot pink with sequins and hot pink lace detail.

Today is my holiday, she explained. And I have to work. So I thought, I’m just going to work with my pink and my new handbag. It’s a holiday but I have to work, and besides, my children are in college and they both have finals today. What am I going to do? Stay home and celebrate with my four walls?

She was practical, but sad, I could see. I remember when her mother died in Egypt last year. Although her children are grown, we are the same age, and I can imagine how it would feel to be far from home, motherless, and wanting to celebrate a holiday that few Americans know about.

We said our goodbyes and headed home.

A few moments later came a honk. There was Mrs. Z., in her huge gray minivan. Are you walking, mommy? Do you need a ride? It’s too cold to walk, mommy. Get in.

I protested that I had to get the baby. But she loves the baby. She would be happy to wait in the car. We got the baby. I put the stroller in the front seat and we drove off.

Do you have a special way to celebrate Eid? Is there a dish you’re going to make?

You mean in Egypt or here?

Well, both.

In Egypt, we go to the farm and get a sheep. They kill it and clean it for us and then we take it home. We keep a third of the lamb for ourselves, give a third to our friends and family, and give a third to the poor. We eat lamb. Lamb and rice. But we don’t keep it all: that’s part of our religion, to remember the poor. And we get new clothes, especially the kids. And we visit each other. And everywhere you go, the kids get money, even if it’s just a little bit, one dollar, five dollars.

Here, I went to the store and bought some lamb. I haven’t even cooked it yet!

We laughed.

She dropped us at home.

The children were thrilled: so happy to be spared the cold, to be spared that long walk. I was too. Best of all, I could see that we were the poor to Mrs. Z: the recipients of her good deed this Eid. I am very, very grateful.