When I was little, I thought my grandmother was an angel. If anyone was going to enter into heaven, it must have been my grandmother. All I could remember her doing was wearing her white scarf and praying. She would make me dolls out of old white pillow cases and put the make believe doll in a swing she set between two legs of the coffee table*. She would cook the most delicious food. She was like a big ball of cotton, puffy, white and soft.
As I kept growing up, I started seeing my grandma for who she was, human. Her flaws became apparent to my now more perceptive mind, I heard her say bad things about some people we knew. I was confused. How could an old lady whose main preoccupation in life was to feed her grandkids and perform daily prayers could sin?
The better I understood human nature, the easier it got coming to terms with my grandma’s humanity. After all everyone but God would ultimately disappoint. This was not a cynical way of viewing the world. In fact once I was able to grasp this better, my love for people in my life became a lot more real in a way. I loved my grandmother not because she was all around perfect but because she was pretty darn cool despite parts of her that were not.
My grandmother lost her father when she was five or six years old and by the time she was fourteen they sent her for to a distant unknown city to a man she now had to call husband. My grandfather was a thirty year-old widow with two young girls. My grandmother didn’t even realize when her first-born died after a couple months of being ill. She thought in her childish mind, the baby was having a long nap.
When I was fourteen, I was already loudly a woman, critiquing the way Shakespeare wrote the women in his plays in my 9th grade English class. In my own childish ways I thought I knew so much. And so much more than those that came before me in my line. All the women in my family that came before me never had any of this information about poetry, history or the biology of their own bodies. My grandmother who was never told about periods was scared to death when she had blood all over her outside in the snow.
Today I chatted with my grandma about Middle East politics, looked at her old photo albums, then we prayed together in a mosque. We carry the same blood and I feel like we are more alike than different and no degree of education or wealth can make us diverge. I have a newly found appreciation for her strength and intellect. It is common pitfall and extremely arrogant of us to imagine learning only through the vessel we have experienced it. True my grandmother is barely literate, only enough to do crossword puzzles over breakfast. She cannot reference Eastern or Western Canon Literature or Cinema. But she can hold so much pain and love in her big heart. She is flawed like all of us and sometimes she says things I wish she would not say, but still she is one of the most beautiful, the strongest and the smartest women I know.