“What’s her name?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“What? Why not? Do I know her?”
“No, Mom. If I tell you her name, you’ll ask too many questions that I’m not ready to answer yet.”
“A son is sweetness and strength and mystery;”
Call it Mother’s intuition, but I could tell there was someone special in my son’s life. He’d been dropping by less frequently, and seemed to be smiling more. He’ll tell me when he’s ready, I told myself.
“Whoever she is, I’m happy for you.”
“…..knew the moment he first spoke the name Warsan he’d found love.”
We were cleaning the pool, and worked for a while in silence before he spoke again.
Not having anticipated the comment, I heard Serbian. “So she has dark eyes and hair?” I guessed.
“Yeah, and skin!”
It took me a moment before I realized my mistake. “Surely you didn’t think I’d be upset about her skin colour?”
“And she’s Muslim.”
“Jay, none of that matters if you love her.”
“Hold fast to one another in a world that will
challenge you, and know that I will be there
behind you, a rock to your storm….”
Three years later, to my delight, they married in a quiet, private ceremony. Immediate family on both sides got together for a small celebration.
“I’m going to have a Somali gathering,” Warsan announced this summer. “It is women only, and will involve lots of dancing, and noise. Do you think you can come?”
“We’ll make it happen!” I promised, looking forward to a new cultural experience.
Ten of us gathered the night before and were adorned with henna, then the day of, while I rested, the others set up the venue. Thanks to Warsan, my daughters and I had the proper attire to fit in, and when we arrived and I introduced us, everyone laughed and said they knew who we were – our skin colour gave us away.
Soon the festivities were underway, and differences were forgotten, and a hundred guests came together to welcome the bride. My breath caught at the sight of her and I felt myself tearing up.
“Warsan, truly good news, precious as the sunrise”
We feasted, and danced, and then the poetry segment of the evening began. Warsan had asked me to write a poem for the occasion, a feat I had stressed over. Googling buraanbur, as Warsan had suggested, I encountered a practice that combines poetry with rhythm and dance.
“I can’t do it!” I said to my husband.
“Just do what you can,” he reassured me. “Write from your heart.”
So I apologized for my lack of Somali, fumbled with the mike, and delivered my message to introduce my son, and welcome his bride to our family.
“….a child I can love as my own
a woman our family embraces with open arms”
My efforts were received with tears and hugs, and for the rest of the night, women approached and introduced themselves.
“Everyone is asking me if Jay has a brother,” Warsan laughed. “And they haven’t even met him yet.”
The groom arrived at the end of the evening, claimed his bride, danced, ate, and the night was over.
“What an amazing community of women,” my daughters and I exclaimed on the ride home. “You could really feel the strength of their bond, young and old alike.”
“You are part of the family now,” Warsan told us the next day. “My aunties said we are not to let you disappear into the woodwork – you will be included in all our events now.”
I cannot express how deeply this has warmed me. The simple union of two people has opened my life to new understanding, and community. I am so grateful that I did not let fear and ignorance grip me, when my son first told me about the love of his life.
(Photos are from my personal collection. To read the whole poem visit “A Wedding Blessing” )
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.