Reminiscing Ramadan

When I was younger and lived with my family Ramadan was so much fun, now that I have my own family I hope that I can also make Ramadan memories with my kids. My mom made Ramadan an incredibly happy month for us. She was the glue that held the family and our Ramadan traditions together, she would spare no detail when it came to both  the sehri and iftaar table spread and much to her dismay would even tolerate our cravings for  french fries, doughnuts, Mcflurries, and other things over her freshly cooked food.

The mornings were the hardest (still are) My sisters and I would wake up to find my mom fully awake and frying shami kababs and eggs. There were always fresh parathas but  we much preferred eating cereal or even a frozen waffle. Mom would be chirping along enjoying her breakfast while my sisters and our dad would be eating like zombies. Somehow no matter how early we would wake up we would always be running late on our sehri, Dad would be updating us on the time  and would give us a 5 minute and a 2 minute warning. The 5-minute warning went something like this:

The 5-minute warning:

Dad: 5 minutes left, where’s the water?

Mom: oh no I haven’t even finished my food.  Kids drink lots of water

Kids: ok mom

The 2-minute warning:

Dad: okay lets go, only 2 minutes left

Mom: okay let me drink my water

Dad: there’s very little time left

Mom: I have to drink my really large glass of water no matter what

Kids: Mom were going to brush our teeth

Mom: drink all of your water before you go!

Mom: OK stop drinking your water and go brush your teeth we have no time left!!

 After the 2-minute warning:

Mom: still finishing her water

Dad: thats it, your fast is not valid! its past time!

Mom: Nothings going to happen, im okay, just about done

There was a lot of water gulping and pushing as my sisters and I  made it to the bathroom to brush our teeth and make wudu. After Fajr we would be fully awake but would still attempt in vain to snuggle back in our beds to get a few minutes of sleep before waking up for school. The day would pass in school activites and when we would come back home, we would rest  for a  bit until iftaar time. Is it bad if food is the thing that keep coming to mind, when I think back on spending Ramadan with my family? The warm samosas, the tangy cholay (chickpeas), and the cold dahi baray (yogurt dumplings). What’s funny is that at that time none of those things were a big deal. Around iftaar time I would start hovering around the kitchen and would help prepare the Rooh Afzah while filling my mom in on what happened at school that day.

During Ramadan we would go to many iftaari’s and frequently visit  the Mosque, this was fun for me because I would get to catch up with all my friends. As the days of Ramadan progressed we would start thinking about Eid. Eid was HUGE, I mean there was nothing better than Eid, and its funny because on the actual Eid Day we didn’t do much but there was so much anticipation that half the fun was preparing for Eid. Eid preparations for us consisted of two things our annual Eid party and our eid outfits.

The Eid party was something we really enjoyed and it seemed like everyone in the community would be there! My mom would make a slew of different traditional Eid foods and then ask all three of her daughters to make either a dessert or an appetizer, I would be the slacker when it came to cooking and would rather clean than cook and I somehow got away with it. Our eid clothes were of the utmost importance to us. We would either save a shalwar kameez outfit from the ones our family in Karachi would send us, or we would make our own! Our mother would make it a project and take us to JoAnn’s to pick out the fabric we liked, then the buttons, etc. She would guide us and then eventually we would lose interest or would get bogged down with school work and she would finish them up for us. After the shalwar kameez was ready we would  pick out shoes and jewelry to complete our outfits.

One of my favorite memories is on eid morning  when our mom would wake us up and she would look at our mehndi and comment on how great the color came out, she would be wearing her Eid Shalwar, an oversized t-shirt and bangles. She would always change into her kurta at the very end so that the ironing doesn’t get ruined. Once we were all in the car we would all recite the Eid Tasbih which is one of my most favorite things to do. After Eid Prayers we would start hugging everyone around us with a 3 embrace rule – while saying  Eid Mubarak all three of those times!

We would seek out our mom and she would be so happy to see us in our full eid outfits. After that we would meet all of the aunties in our community, who would be genuinely pleased to see us looking our best. I would hang out with my friends and we would be inseparable, Aleya, Kiren, Tahirah these were a few of my friends that I grew up with and we would make our way around the Mosque meeting our families and other community members. Our family was among the last ones to leave the Mosque because my dad would always help to count the Fitra money that the Mosque had collected.

We would then go to my friend Kiren’s house for an Eid breakfast, from there on, we would hop from house to house and eat all kinds of food. My friends and I would always try to stay together or plan out the day to see whose house we would meet up at next. It wasn’t that we were ever doing something very special but I remember having a blast. One of the uncles that we knew would be standing at the door with a stack of bills.  As children entered in the house he would give them a dollar. At about 5:00 after a full day of party hopping, we would make the long trek from Jacksonville  back to Orange Park and would immediately start preparing for the big dinner at our place.

We would do a Bollywood style outfit change and get ready to start hugging and greeting our guests with the traditional three time Eid Mubarak! Over the years we’ve had many different versions of Eid, but with the same pattern I described above, as we got older and my friends started driving we began going out in the evenings and meeting up our friends to get ice cream or go to a movie. One year Eid coincided with the release of the animated movie” The Last Messenger”  and the entire community was found at the movies.

Ramadan and Eid have definitely changed maybe because I’m older and I have my own family now,  but one thing is for certain that at the start of every Ramadan I become nostalgic for the Ramadan I spent as a child. I reminice about the days when I would go to the  Islamic Center of Northeast Florida and recognize every single person at the Mosque, of the times when our Dad would lead us in prayers and when I would wake up to my Mom’s excited exclamation of, “Eid Mubarak, today is Eid!”