My Alma Matter

I miss my alma matter. Seeing the word ‘Ames’ evokes so many memories of my four years there;  some of which are shuffling on icy trodden paths, sometimes trudging through fresh snow, whooping for joy when classes were canceled due to blizzards, strolling through blossoming eastern redbuds, a triangular bed of many-colored tulips, budding trees, cheery yellow and white daffodils. Not to mention laying eyes on the most amazing sight to behold; hailstones glinting in the sunlight like diamonds, scattered generously in my humble patch of summer garden, crushing my annual blooms, yet adding unexpected beauty to it. A buffet for the poetic muse. Ahhh…  I wish we could go there again, but I don’t know when we’d realistically be able to.

I couldn’t help smiling as I looked at the area code. 515. I remember that. 50010. The zip code. I remember that too. I still yearn for our old apartment, in Hawthorne Court and University Village. I remember the old Student Health Center, at which I had my first prenatal check up, during which I clammed up when a male doctor came in, such that he had to bring in a female doctor because I was non responsive. I also remember the new Student Health Center, at which I spent time waiting for my glucose test during one of my many pregnancies. It’s a little city. Most people give me weird looks when I say I love Ames. They scoff at the size and liveliness of the city, but I love it. It’s safe, clean, and perfect for raising a family, except of course, for a Muslim family, you have to be a little more resourceful.

We had to undergo quite an adjustment when we moved to Columbus. Grocery shopping trips in Ames took about maybe an hour or less with more time to linger in each store, since it took only about half an hour at most, actually even less, to get from one side of town to the other. I remember hubby complaining of how far places are from each other here in Columbus. The price of gas, oh boy, the price of gas when we were in Ames, was I believe, about or less than a dollar per gallon, and look at the price of gas now! (Though of course that has nothing to do with location)

I love Ames. It was my first place of residence in the United States, the place where I had my first three children, the place where we established a family and a home (even if it was temporary physically) after our marriage. It was also a place where I was gradually introduced to the Muslim community comprising of more than just Muslim Malaysians. I met my first Arabs, who completely belied all stereotypes of Arabs I’ve heard from bitter Malays who probably had bad encounters with them. The Arabs I met implanted in me a love for them, not as a nation, but as fellow Muslims. That is a story in itself. Maybe for another time.

We truly mingled with the Muslim community, and I can still taste the sweetness of Muslim brother and sisterhood, our first. Throughout my stay here in the United States, I have been blessed with Muslim sister and brotherhood, and I really am grateful to Allah for that. Only Allah knows how much effect those experiences have made in my heart. May the sweetness never fade away, even when I am among my own people, if need be.

What triggered these reminiscences this cool and peaceful morning?

None other than a writing contest I have the gall to desire to enter, considering my almost overflowing plate.


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