Where is my mommy?


Once upon a time, in a city called Sana’a lived a little girl of seven tender years of age. She was a beautiful little thin girl, dark locks, girlie yet tomboyish at the same time, with a cute smile and quick laughter. One day she was dressed up in her favorite dress and told she was going for a ride to the nearest Mall. There, she was told she could buy any toy she liked. Therefore, she gladly sat around her aunties all shrouded in black abayas, hijabs and niqab. One aunt sat in the front with her brother-in-law; the youngest of seven boys- the other three in the back with the little girl as she happily bounced on the seat- she was finally going to get the doll she had been pleading for months (days in seven year old talk).


The aunts all sat silently looking in various directions as the car sped to the Mall. Also with them was the little girl’s older brother who was ten. He, normal for his rambunctious age, would pull on his sister’s hair or dress according to how quick he could grab on to her as she bounced about. She couldn’t care less- she was getting her dolly!


In normal fashion, the women once the car was parked filed out of the car. One grabbing the hand of the boy, while the little girl skipping ahead free as the wind, unmindful of on-coming cars. Oblivious to the roaring call of her uncle- she was getting her dolly today!


The walked through the Mall what seemed like hours until they found the dolly the little girl had wanted. She was almost the same size as the doll; who was hard plastic covered in a beautiful dress of lace and gold appliqués- Finally she had gotten her dolly!


On the way, back the little girl played with her doll; escaping her brother’s insistence in trying to touch it…No one messes with my new dolly! The aunties would by turns tell the children to calm down whenever the yelling of the children got too loud to think…for there was a lot of thinking going on in that car.


The brother in law had already smoked about a pack of cigarettes as he navigated the busy streets and tried to keep his Qat bulge in place in his cheek; every now and then asking one of the women to pass him the bottle of soda pop in a bag. The eldest of the aunties was constantly answering her mobile; her answers curt confined to yes or no. The other two through the slits of their niqab would share furtive glances.


When they arrived at the house, walled high in Sana’a style cars could be seen leaving…streamers of a left over party could be seen floating in the air as the hot wind blew them eastward. However, the house itself was silent.


The little girl jumped out of the care with her new dolly- she was on a mission of triumph. She didn’t care to or want to listen to any one calling her to stop. She entered the house willy-nilly and headed for her room that she shared with her mommy.


“Mommy” she exclaimed triumphantly-“You see finally Amati bought my dolly- And you said I wouldn’t get it! See here, she is all beautiful and dressed up!” But the room was silent- no one was there. Her mother a fixture of that room was not there. Her brushes and perfumes were missing from the windowsill; even her abaya.


“Where’s my Mommy?” asked the little girl…no one answered as they all went about their ways in such a large household.


“Where’s my Mommy?” in a higher pitch asked the little girl as she say her grandmother fold some clothes in the hallway that connected the house in all directions…A living room of sorts; window less but with TV, sofa and other jalsas about the perimeter.


“Where’s my mommy,” screamed the child, as the seemingly delicate little hands tore off, the first row of the lace on the dolly. “Where is she?” she screamed louder as she tore the head of the dolly and it rolled harmlessly away to a corner.


“Where?” she screamed at her highest; when she felt the slap of her grandmother – Dead silence followed; no sob; no tear- it had been too hard, too sudden for a reaction.


“Your mother has been married and gone to Ibb- you should be happy!” said her grandmother.


“But what about me I wanted to show her my dolly?”


“Another time, habibti, when she comes back you can show her then,” answered her grandmother as she walked away.


Strangely the little girl did not cry; nor scream any longer; her smile disappeared as she purposely tore the once fancied and coveted dolly to pieces…everywhere where signs of what once was a gorgeous doll- pieces of hair clung to the fabrics of the jalsas; lace slippery under foot.


A few months later when I met this child; she was wild; unmindful of any danger- actually sought it like a moth to the flame…nothing in the house escaped her destructive little hands; and she was left to careen into everyone and everything- no one stopped her. Until the day I slapped her hand away from the ‘Asseed being cooked on the stove- she had wanted to pull in down on her…third degree burns and permanent torture of pain would have been her only solace. She slapped me back; and ran for her grandmother.



The other women of the house were scared of what I would be told- I said I didn’t care- she would have easily killed herself with such a huge pot of boiling ‘Asseed if it had poured on her… The silence in the house was sepulchral…but nothing happened.


The little girl came back to me later in the day when no one was about- and showed me the hairless head of her dolly…”She was my dolly, you know; but I cut her up in pieces, my mommy didn’t stay to see it…so why should she be here waiting for her?”


“Where’s my Mommy?” she looked at me with tired dead dark eyes-“Do you know where she is- they say Ibb; but that is not far away is it?”


To this day, my heart bleeds for the beautiful child whose only joy was taken away so tradition could be upheld.


Oh later on, slowly, as she found in me the attention she did not in the others she opened up. She would dance for me; would offer me the imaginary cup of chai; would braid my hair for hours; would paint with me in the courtyard or try to learn to follow as I would do crochet…But never again did she ask for her Mommy.


Years have passed, yet still she never asks for her mommy…The day she finally saw her mommy come back for a visit, she closed herself into her room and did not leave it until her mother left with her husband and her two other co-wives and five sons…



[Revised this to honor that beautiful child – Aisha- May Allah give you Mercy; hope and love in your life- from someone who has no rights over you to make it better]


2 Responses to “Where is my mommy?”

  1. April 30, 2009 at 4:42 am


    This is so powerfully sad and yet so beautiful.


    • 2 INAL
      April 30, 2009 at 4:54 am

      You know Suroor- If there ever have been people in your life that have left a lasting impression- Aisha is the one that has truly left one in mine- How I wish she she were “family” where some how I could take her pain away and make things better. Yemen is not a society that truly understands the implications of what certain actions (or any action) can have on a person- especially on such a young person…They think that everything will go back as usual, no matter what- but I still cry when I remember her and her story…In fact so powerful is the pull that I got up in the middle of the night to write it down, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and soul.

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