When I was pregnant with my first child, I read stacks of parenting books. I wanted to be prepared. I learned lots about nutrition, discipline, and education. But I feel totally unprepared for the latest stage in my children's lives. My daughter got engaged 2 weeks ago today, and I am still recovering.
We had a "small" family party in our house for the engagement. "Small" in this family apparently means under 60 people. The week before was a rush of shop-'till-you-drop days and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Engagement parties are a big deal here, and even for a "small" party at home, Palestinians go all out. The custom is that the groom's family is to provide all the food, even the coffee. He also buys the bride's dress, shoes and 2 sets of jewelry, one fabulously fake and the other seriously expensive gold. She wears the costume jewelry at first, and then is presented with the gold later. The food is served to all the guests first, while the bride in all her finery sits separate. Then the Islamic marriage contract is signed, so they are technically married. Finally, it's time for the dancing. Most women here love dancing. All the ladies are in a room separate from the men, and they all dance with the bride. The groom comes during this time, and dances with her, and puts the gold jewelry on her. This gold is a gift, not the Islamic mahr. That is given at the wedding. The men are some place else drinking tea and coffee and eating fruits and sweets. In our case they were in the house next door, since our house was over flowing with women. After all the dancing, all the guests leave except the groom, and now he and the bride are allowed to spend as much time as they like together. Well, maybe not as much as they would like, but then when you are young and in love, there never is enough time together, right?
By the time the day of the party came, I was exhausted. My daughter looked like a princess in a Disney movie, with a flowing, sparkle-y ball gown and elaborate curls with more glinting sparkles. My 2 daughters had spent the morning in the salon, and were all glittered up as never before. In addition to all the family, I invited 3 of my friends, as my "family." I don't know how I would have gotten through the day without them. I woke up that morning with the song "Help" by the Beatles running through my head, and I certainly did need help to get through that day. I am ashamed to admit it, but I think I spent half the party crying. Maybe more. I couldn't help it. First I was thinking, "She's too young; this is too soon." Then I was missing my own family, Then I thought of her moving away. Every time I calmed down and tried to join the party, another thought would ambush me and send me back to my bedroom in tears. Alhamdulillah, my friends were there to help me through it emotionally, and my sisters-in-law did all the work. May Allah subhana wa ta'ala send his blessings and mercy on each of them. I should mention that none of my tears were because I didn't like the man my daughter is marrying. MashaAllah, he is a nice young man, and I know of nothing to say against him. A few of my tears may have been because I had to face the fact I am old enough to refer to my daughter's fiancé as "a nice young man."
It has taken me two full weeks until I could calmly write about that day, so that is why I haven't been posting. I have had other things to write about, but it somehow seemed wrong to pass over something as important as this without a mention.