Whenever he visited me in my Moroccan olive grove, he would wake up early and head out. My father lived by his morning walks, and my village on the outskirts of Marrakech offered the perfect opportunity. It was a traditional and humble village -- there was a grocery store of sorts, a place that sold hardware, a cobbler, a tea stall, and the workshops of craftsmen working with the most rudimentary tools. In the afternoon, children loitered and young men lingered.
I would walk with my father sometimes in the early evening when the air was cool, and I always found the village changed from the village I knew. The villagers would see him coming and they'd pause, their faces animated. A-Salaam-aleikum, Joel, they would cry, their hands patting their heart in that sweet Moroccan gesture. A-Salaam-aleikum my friend, he would reply, his hand patting his heart, too. My father would give me a running commentary as we walked through. Mohamed is the most remarkable teashop owner, he would say. And truly his tea is the very best. Or...Have you seen the lantern that Khalid is working on? The man is nothing short of extraordinary, he would exclaim. Or... Jamal fixed my shoe on the spot and he charged me only 10 dirhams. Really, he is undervaluing himself and so I gave him twice that, he'd say, shaking his head.
I arrived in Wellesley Massachusetts, that town outside of Boston where my parents had lived for 35 odd years. I needed a check cashed, and so my father took me to his bank. The bank manager was talking to a customer when he saw us walking in. He excused himself and grasped my father's outstretched right hand in both of his. Joel! Of course we can do that for your daughter! You just tell me what you need, he boomed. As we were walking out, the bank tellers leaned over the counter and waved. Joel, thank you for the cookies you brought us last week, they called out. My father waved back, and then he turned to me and said confidentially, Those girls are just so pretty, aren't they? And so smart! Rana is from Turkey, and she just won the employee of the month. I'm not surprised one bit, he added.
Image from here.
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