Always a bit too pragmatic, I would go so far as to say I often couldn't see the fantasy, the dreamwork, the creativity in things. And so, I'm ashamed to say I wasn't always flexible. In fact, I used to think the word "compromise" was a 'bad word'. I won't go into why I thought that, but let's just say it had a lot to do with my inflexible religious upbringing.
But the oft-used phrase "That's just how I was raised" cannot be one's lifelong excuse for lack of personal growth and evolution. No, it cannot. That's precisely how the gamut of issues we are all surrounded by to this day were passed down---because people are afraid to question the norm. And when that norm is held by everyone around you who you know and love so deeply; well, that's the hardest thing to break away from and stand up against. No one wants to be ostracized, you know? It's a powerful form of behavior modification; a powerful way to control people. But love is not control. Love is choice. Even in families---no, especially in families.
I'm telling you all this because after M and I had a couple more comfortable conversations after those initial mind-blowing ones...well, the only way I can describe it is that you come back around the bend. I feel like we weave between and betwixt reality. And it's not over yet. So we keep going, keep asking each other the difficult questions, keep getting to know each other. We have after all, 30 years to catch up on. And they weren't always easy years.
After my birthfather (Musallam---I realized I was spelling his name wrong) ditched her (well, his family made him go back to Saudi Arabia to marry a nice Muslim girl, whose purpose I suppose, was to help keep his pants on), M had me, as you know. I give her big kudos for that. She was completely disowned by her family and on the street and really could've just decided to watch out for herself---a completely understandable reaction, I might add. She could've just lied about an abortion, said she miscarried, and moved on with her life, staying close to her albeit, dysfunctional family. But she didn't do that.
When she tells me about that time in her life, how she just moved in with her party-scene friends, I kind of chuckle to myself. It's so not my scene! I was always a gal who got pretty uncomfortable around "party-ers". Too loud. Too obnoxious. Too many drunks. Too many drugs. Not enough conversation and too many people having sex without condoms, haha! Er, oh my. ;)
But she tells me about how people just hung out. How they all loved being around me. How I was a baby who rarely cried. How most of her friends were middle-eastern (ie, Khalid, would swing me and carry me around as if I were his own, singing to me in Arabic), how Musallam's uncle Hussein liked to visit and was very angry at his nephew for not 'owning up' to fathering a child. He kept denying and denying his paternity, even after friends took pictures to him, waving them in his face saying, Look at her! She looks nothing like M and completely like you! His uncle then asked if he could adopt me and take me back to Saudi Arabia. This is where I thanked M profusely for not agreeing to this. No burqas for me, please!
She goes on with the story; how I got my name.
"Oh ya, Marie! How did you pick the name Marie? It's so similar to yours, that is so interesting!" I tell her.
The phone goes silent for a moment.
That's not your name, she says.
"Huh? Well, it says right here on the social worker's document in quotes: "Marie" ".
M tells me that was my middle name. She gets very upset and thinks it has to do with prejudice against middle-easterners; that maybe it would've decreased my chances of getting adopted. I'm like, whooooaaaaa, back up the truck right there.
My first name wasn't Marie?!
She tells me my first name was an Arabic name.
I was named Reem. And it means 'little deer'. Hussein came up with it after meeting me, leaning down into my crib and saying, "she has little doe eyes".
And then she admits she's been having a hard time when we talk because sometimes it nearly slips out.
Of course it makes sense. That's who I was to her all those years. She said my nickname was "Reemer Dreamer". When I found her she called one of her oldest close friends up in Pittsburgh and yelled into the phone hysterically, "She found me, D! Reemer Dreamer found me!"
So I guess my dreams were there all these years, weren't they? Even as pragmatic as I became, as I viewed myself. Perhaps it'd become somewhat of a defense-mechanism--- I hid them under my pillow at night, only whispering them into the trees I trusted on the long walks I took in high school.
But this entire story---it all sounds so strange to me.
That was me? I ask. I admit it's been hard for me to take everything in; that it's all so surreal. Honestly, if I didn't know what I know (that she knows too much to not be) I'd have a hard time believing she's my birthmom. I'd have a hard time believing any of this.
I can tell my admitting this pangs her a bit. She tells me the next time we talk how she can understand why it might not seem very real to me, but how very real it is for her because "of course I remember you. Anytime I thought I couldn't remember your face, I just looked at your pictures I had. I know...[her voice trails off]... I knew you. So I can't help but think, maybe if you could just touch me, it might finally be real."
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside
you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made", said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you..."
"Does it hurt?"
"Sometimes." For he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't
often happen to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be
The Velveteen Rabbit