There’s something truly peaceful about sitting on a back porch, staring off into silent, golden filelds — watching the sky turn from a dusty blue into bright shades of orange and red as the sun dives down into the earth. It’s grounding to stare into the face of your own history by returning to the place where your family settled, built their home and thrived. Life seems so fantastically whimsical and easy watching your child make fast friends with distant cousins — running from one end of the house to the other shrieking joyfully, trying to race the train that’s literally running through the backyard. The mind flows blank, when the blackness of night is interrupted by streaks of green luminescence – God’s own paintbrush forcing you to reflect upon your own universal insignificance and simultaneously marking how very important you are in the lives of others.
We arrived in Regina after a short and trouble-free flight. The Hubby wasn’t sent to secondary screening for fingerprinting. It was the first time EVER that my hijab didn’t require a pat down. We didn’t even have to take off our shoes. The ease of flying domestic was tinged with both sadness and annoyance — literally showing me how much we’ve lost in the last 11 years. Annoyance that Muslims are regularly chosen for additional security checks, and sadness that I’m forced to recognize the difference between a hassle-free trip and profiling.
But after an extremely warm welcome from my aunt, we made our first stop to the halal store. You can’t pull off a fantastic family reunion without halal lasagne, chicken strips and cabbage rolls! At least, this just shows you how truly amazing my family are. Not only have they accepted my conversion and the Hubby — but they will go the extra mile to make sure we’re accommodated. I could never thank them enough for this simple gesture of acceptance.
Central Convenience & Halal Meat has been in business for about three years. The staff were friendly, welcoming and didn’t bat an eye at my aunt’s tattooed arm. All-in-all, it’s your typical Desi halal bucher and grocery complete with an aisle dedicated to Shan spices.
So how does a non-Muslim go about finding halal meat in Regina? As the story goes, my aunt stalked a woman in hijab, walked up to her and point blank asked where she could find halal meat. Priceless.
After making all the Little Mosque on the Prairie jokes about small town Muslims, big city imams and the randomness that ensues when you put them together before we arrived, I really didn’t think I’d actually experience that very cliche at Jummah. But I did.
I was really looking forward to hearing a typical Prairie sermon at Regina’s Islamic Centre and Mosque — but was slightly disappointed when the guest khateeb ended up being a well known Imam from Toronto, who proceeded to fundraise for a new Islamic school in Saskatoon. Every five minutes he’d refer to the fact that he’s lived in Toronto for the past 30 years — and each time I shook my head. Polish may come from the cities, but wisdom comes from the
desert wheat fields. I was practically living a CBC script.
And then I met Zarqa Nawaz.
We’ve met on and off throughout the past decade — and in fact, she’s been around for several life changing events. I first met her the year I put on hijab when she was interviewing for her spectacular documentary, Me and the Mosque. Then five years ago she made dinner for me and my aunt after my aunt’s cancer surgery. And most recently, we both attended the el-Tawhid Juma Circle’s third anniversary Jummah — where I went into labor with Ivy.
So, with all of the universal spheres aligned it made perfect sense that we would randomly meet at the Run for the Cure, and she would have the opportunity to meet and push Ivy. We squealed like long lost friends and had a good chat for about a kilometer. It was pretty amazing seeing her, and to learn that she reads the blog! *waves*
We came to Regina because my aunt called us to her –and the family reunion with night after night of turtle family fun was an added bonus. Last Sunday marked her fifth anniversary surviving breast cancer. We came together by raising funds, honouring those lost, and cheering survivors. The overall atmosphere of the day was electric and emotional and run itself was fantastic. Ivy and I finished in 38 minutes — a time that included walking the first kilometer! I was pretty beat by the fourth kilometer, but got a surge of energy at the 600 meter mark. My legs felt light as I raced towards the finish. We could have gone on forever.
And sometimes I wish we had forever. Time seemed to pass so slowly in Regina. Perhaps because it only takes 20 minutes to get anywhere, or perhaps there was a special, divine blessing in this trip. We were only there for five days, but really made use of every second to reconnect with family — and time only began to slip away from us on the last day. While terribly sad with our departure, the day was made even more special with the arrival of twin babies!
I was blown away at how quickly Eryn became attached to her cousins. I hope they will become as good friends as I am with my cousins. I may not speak with them as often as I wish — but they are often on my mind. I love how we can just pick up where we’ve left off, as if we’re still eight-year-olds causing trouble during summer vacation Except now we’re parents, and can see just how much fun we had back then, reflected in the play of our children.
Having that closeness with family is something I’m surely going to miss.