Mother's Day Special Series - Guest Posts
"My mother helped me develop into a confident and secure young woman who appreciates, loves and values all aspects of my Syrian-Irish, Muslim-Christian heritage. I will be forever grateful for the way she shaped my worldview, for that is the greatest gift of all!"
|Norah with her mother Mary|
Norah Arafeh is a University of California, Berkeley Fulbright Fellow in Jordan and Writer Intern at Al Marji’ Publications; Mary Lennon Arafeh is a volunteer at the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) and author of https://justbeingmary.wordpress.com
My mother is a strong, secure and confident woman who befriends everyone she meets. Her resilience and ability to flourish in difficult situations inspires me more than anything else. When my father found out that he was being transferred to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for his job, she took the news in stride and has made an entire life for herself there while also supporting my father and younger sister with the transition. She has immersed herself in the international school community, their local neighbourhood and has even managed to keep busy by volunteering with Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Malaysia (yes - there is a big community there!). She picked up driving on the left side of the road immediately as if it came naturally to her — something that I still have not been able to do myself! Everyone affectionately calls her the “Ambassador of Kuala Lumpur” because she seems to know every family (locals and expatriates), every local business and all the alleyways that line the streets of downtown KL.
My mother sees the good in everyone she meets and regards every experience as a positive learning lesson, a perspective that I have adopted in my own life (and one that serves me well)! She treats everyone with love and respect. She is exactly the kind of mother that I hope to be one day. Every time I follow her advice, I’m happy that I consulted her because she always knows the right thing to say.
My mother runs a blog in which she details both the joys and struggles of motherhood, life as an expatriate in Malaysia, memories of the past, and stories about family, friends and travel. She always had a wonderful way with words and expresses herself beautifully with every story. While she is a hilarious storyteller, most all of these blog posts end on a serious note with a positive lesson that she took away from every story, memory, encounter or experience.
My mother is strong, resilient, and independent in a way that is both nurturing and maternally ferocious. She is warm and affectionate and has the most beautiful and welcoming smile in the world — one that immediately makes you feel as if you’ve known her for years. She has a genuine love for life and is a joy to be around. Whenever she is in town, my friends enjoy her company as much as my own! She loves both her family and her Irish heritage and has dedicated so much time to tracing her family tree back in Ireland. She is the rock that keeps our family grounded and the link that keeps us all connected despite the long distances that have us scattered on almost every continent!
Since moving to Jordan, I’ve faced the typical difficulties of adjusting to a new life abroad, and my mother has been there for me every step of the way — sometimes offering advice, other times just lending a listening ear or sharing a laugh with me. Whenever I find myself in a sticky situation, I always ask myself, “What Would Mary Do?” and I always pull out just fine.
Moreover, my mother grew up in a small town in Rhode Island in a tight-knit Irish Catholic family. She married my father — a Syrian man from Damascus — almost 30 years ago and has since embraced many aspects of his background and adopted them into our own family. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been, but their relationship is based on a respect and love for each other that supersedes any cultural or religious differences. While supporting and raising an interfaith and mixed family couldn’t have been easy, she was understanding and open-minded about all of the challenges that came along the way, especially when I started to seriously question my identity as a teenager. When I was in high school, she both encouraged and supported my decision to spend time with my family in Syria and study Arabic because she knew how important it was that I explore and navigate my lineage. If anything, she has helped me develop into a confident and secure young woman who appreciates, loves and values all aspects of my Syrian-Irish, Muslim-Christian heritage. I will be forever grateful for the way she shaped my worldview, for that is the greatest gift of all!