“Are you nervous?” Amir looked at me in the mirror as he straightened his tie.
“Are you kidding? I don’t mean to brag but I’m a natural.” Amir chuckled as I moved over to the vanity drawer to search for the pearl necklace with the horse clasp mother gave me for my birthday. “I’m glad that Nadia and Nader decided to take part in entertaining the younger kids.”
“You’ve spent some time preparing for today, I’m sure everyone will have a good time” he turned around to face me, the glimmer in his viridescent eyes spoke volumes of pride. I could only smile and hand him the necklace.
“Would you mind helping me with this?”
He rolled his eyes, his fingers fastened the necklace with the grace of a master.
I inspected my black dress in the mirror before turning to face him.
“How do I look?”
“You are a vision.”
“Thank you” I pecked his cheek and brushed some hairs off his shoulder “Let’s go.”
I strutted down the hall towards the living room
“Nadia, Nader, are you ready? The guests will be here soon”
“There is no need to shout, I’m right here.” Youssef poked his head out of the living room door his floppy chocolate hair swayed with his head. He wore his usual red flannel shirt and jeans.
“Are you all set?” I raised my brow.
“Arts and crafts and fortnite are all set and ready to go” he gestured his hands indicating that everything is in order.
“Great! Does Nadia need any help?”
“Pictionary and riddles are all set and ready.” Nadia waltzed in with a huge grin on her face.
“You’re still not dressed!” my eyes widened seeing her in sweatpants and Harry Potter T-shirt.
“I’ll be ready in 10 minutes Mom. Relax! We got this.” expressed Nadia, giving me a thumbs up.
The butterflies in my stomach made summersaults.
“I’ll go check on Om Ramy.” I made my way to the kitchen.
“Do you need any help Om Ramy?” The aroma of the lamb meat and stuffed vine leaves made my mouth salivate.
“Everything is ready and beautiful, do you need me to do anything else?” she croaked as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.
“No bless you, Om Ramy. Here take this box for your family, and don’t forget to come back later to help me clean up.” I handed her a box of desserts as a huge smile made its way onto her plump face.
“Just send Mr. Nader to call me and I’ll be right up.” She walked past me and disappeared through the apartment door
“It all smells so good! I can’t wait to dig in.” Nadia popped behind me in her pale blue dress and perfectly blown hair.
“Well, since you are dressed and ready, you could help me set up the table then.”
The doorbell chimed, “I’ll get it.” Nader announced.
Moments later Amira, my older sister, walked into the kitchen.
“Nadine! Ramadan Kareem” She flung her arms around me. She unlocked her embrace and examined me. “You look great, just a few wrinkles here and there.” She noticed the necklace around my neck, “You still kept mother’s necklace, I see?”
“How have you been, Amira?” I answered, with a smile on my face.
“Well, The girls have exams these days, it’s hectic. But all is well.” She turned towards Nadia inspecting her from head to toe.
“Nadia you look … beautiful. We might need to look for a husband for you soon.” She laughed, Nadia grinned and shot a look my way.
I came out of the kitchen to be greeted by Amira’s twin daughters, Malak and Malika. Their matching dresses and pristine styled hair gave them years beyond their age.
They both greeted with me with cheerfully, their heads tilting in sync.
I planted a kiss on each of their cheeks as Nadia greeted them and ushered them towards the living room where Nader was waiting for them.
The call for Maghrib prayer rose from the masjid at the end of the street.
“You were not going to start without us, were you?” Sarah, my youngest sister, made her entrance with her husband Ramez, as we were serving the drinks. She waltzed in holding Mounir’s, her five-year-old son, hand.
“We brought Konafa.” said Ramez, handing me a box as he greeted me.
My heart ached at the bittersweet memory encased within the box, a sad smile manifested on my face. I ushered everyone to the dining room, making sure everyone was in their seat. The meal was delicious, compliments made their rounds around the table, and stories were told, the warmth seeped from every corner of the room. Smiles never left my family’s faces.
When everyone had their fill, the table was cleared and it was time for tea, desserts and entertainment. Nader took charge of entertaining the younger guests while Nadia entertained us. Game after game, laughs bursted all over the house. Memories revived of Nelly and Sherihan, new memories captured as Nadia photographed every candid moment.
At the stroke of midnight, hugs were exchanged as the guests left one after the other. Amira held back when everyone left. She hugged me a second time, tears in her eyes.
“Thank you, Nadine, you would have made mother proud, gathering everyone and showing them a wonderful time. I’ll be looking forward to our next family gathering.” I wiped the tears off her cheeks.
“It’s my pleasure, as long as you enjoyed your time.” She nodded and began her descent down the stairs. I gently closed the door behind her.
Needing some fresh air, I stepped onto the balcony, the cool breeze ruffling my hair. I felt the beads radiate warmth on my neck, I stroked them gently.
“You did a wonderful thing tonight, Nadia.”
“Mom?” I squinted at the wooden chair next to me.
“Who else, dear?” she shrugged her shoulders as she stood up and floated next to me in her silk nightgown.
My mouth turned dry, my eyes widened; seeing her…next to me.
“Did you get me my Konafa?” Her silver eyes glistened with excitement.
She softly laughed
“You do remember it was my favorite, right?”
A tear trembled down.
“I really miss you”, the only words I managed to utter.
She smiled faintly.
“I know,” she stared into the distance, “but you keep me alive doing what you do, gathering the family.”
“Nadine, who are you talking to?” Amir propped against the balcony door, his tie undone.
“No one.” I lie, quickly wiping the trace of tears from my face.
He inched towards me.
“Were you crying?” he placed a hand on my shoulder.
“It’s nothing. I just miss mother. She would have loved that Konafa”
“Yeah, I guess she would have.” He placed an arm around my waist and let my head rest on his chest.
“She would have been proud of you, you know” I stroked the beads around my neck, still warm.
“The kids did an amazing job too.” I looked up towards him
“Oh yeah, I haven’t laughed that hard since I can’t remember when.” He kissed my forehead. “Where did Nadia get all those ancient riddles?”
“You know Nadia, She is resourceful. And the internet always helps.” He nodded in agreement. We stared at the Crescent Moon as we greeted the second day of Ramadan.