It’s the end of May and the grass that was green and knee-high last month has all been dried by the sun and eaten by sheep. The sight is a little bleak, but everyone around here is smiling. May is almost over, the school-year is ending, and all around us people we love are coming home. Students all over the country are coming back for the summer, and here in Ramtha my landlady’s daughter is returning from a year in the US on a Fulbright. It’s all anybody’s been talking about upstairs for the last 3 months, and in a week she’ll be here. As for me, I’m smiling because tomorrow someone from home is coming to visit me too. I’ve been looking forward to it for months and tomorrow I’ll take a series of buses to Amman to pick her up from the airport… and somehow, preposterously, invite this person I love into this strange world that’s now my home.
We’ve all been a little crazy around here the last few weeks- I guess it’s something to do with the fact that pretty soon people we love will drop out of the sky into our arms. My landlady seems delighted and also very anxious about the whole thing, and I guess my feelings are about the same. Turns out, cultural differences or not, we express those feelings in the same way- by cleaning everything in sight. I guess it has to do with having all these huge, crazy feelings of joy and wanting to show them somehow. There’s no way Om Yazzim’s daughter would ever show up demanding freshly mopped floors and squeaky clean toilets, and maybe she won’t even notice. But my landlady and I can’t stop ourselves- we need to get our worlds ready in whatever way we can.
Today I went upstairs to return some dishes and found Om Yazzim on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floor of the hallway. Her hair was all frizzled and pushed up from her forehead, she was covered in dust and soapsuds, and she was wearing a nightdress that she clearly hadn’t bothered to change out of- probably because she’d been cleaning since she woke up. She told me she was tired from all the work but she still had the bathroom and kitchen to go. She said all of this with a giant grin. I came back up a few hours later (after cleaning my bathroom and kitchen) and we sat in the living room and ate watermelon on the floor in silence (all of the farshas, curtains, and rugs were in the laundry). I guess we both had a lot on our minds. For the past 5 months I’ve spent a lot of quiet meals glancing at Om Yazzim and wondering what she was thinking about. But tonight anybody who’d seen the two of us wouldn’t need to guess- you’ve never seen anyone look so happy while cleaning a toilet.