Today in Jordan, it’s Mother’s Day. And I’m worried about Jordanian mothers and their families.
“Jordan doesn’t need a Mothers Day,” people would always start saying around this time of year. “Not like in America. In Jordan, we love our mothers every day!”
I agreed with their criticisms of the commercial nature of Mothers Day, which was a relatively new holiday in 2008 when I lived in Amman, so the commercial opportunism of it was especially obvious. Stationary stores everywhere were selling pink hearts and roses on everything for your mother, when just a few years earlier there had been nothing. It had been the same with Valentines Day in 2004 when I had arrived in Jordan the first time.
But when they said, “We love our mothers every day,” I would think of Umm Anis.
For the village of Faiha’ and I, understanding each other was an unending frustration and delight. “Why do you always wear socks?” asked Aaliya one afternoon.
Everyone looked up. They all regularly dashed back and forth across the shared lawn in plastic shower shoes, even in an early morning dusting of snow, and often a mismatched pair not their size that slipped off frequently on the uneven ground.
My thick wool L.L. Bean boot socks, by contrast, never left my feet all winter long, even in sleep. “My mother always says, when your feet are warm, the rest of you is warm.”
“Are you listening?” Umm Anis pointed out quickly to her five lounging children.
“When you ask Maryah a question, what does she say? How often does she start with, ‘My mother always says…’? Why can’t you be more like Maryah and listen to your mother?”
Like any well-loved child might, they rolled their eyes and pretended to ignore their mother.
I’ve been worrying about them over the last few days.
Like most of us, I’ve been pretty obsessed with the health and safety of my family and loved ones here in my own country in this time of COVID-19, especially as the illness become more widespread and the lockdowns more intense.
But as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I know that we are always connected to the rest of the world, we RPCVs a little more than everyone else. And while we’re struggling individually with our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are bigger pictures, too. The Peace Corps is evacuating 7,300 Volunteers from around the world back to the United States, on a shoestring, and with very limited support for those who can’t go back to their elderly or immuno-compromised family. I’m trying to lend what limited support I’m able through a Facebook group of RPCVs all trying to do whatever we can for these colleagues we’ve never met.
I also still get emails from the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan. They’re very seldom, just one every few months, but there’s been a series of them recently. First Jordan stopped all flights, ferries and border crossings in and out of the country. Then they started buttoning down travel in and out of Amman.
Yesterday’s email was even more extreme. Everyone in Jordan is confined to their homes for the next three days, on penalty of immediate imprisonment up to a year. Instructions will follow for who will be allowed to go out when for food and necessities.
It’s hard to imagine that my neighbors will stop going to jiddoh‘s house in the evening, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on their fershaat, sipping gahweh saadeh from shared cups — “The Prophet says, don’t blow on it to cool it, that spreads germs!” It’s hard to imagine the cousins will stop running back and forth across that rocky ground between each other’s homes. And maybe in the villages, they’ll be isolated enough to be okay.
I could inquire by Facebook Messenger, but I think I’m afraid to know. (Not to mention, this is well beyond my vocabulary in Arabic.) It’s hard enough to deal with my own isolation.
Some Mother’s Day it must have been today.