Today I just want to talk about Tata. Tata means grandmother in Arabic. It's pronounced "Ta" (like tablet) "tah." Most of this post won't mean anything to you all, that's ok, I just feel the need to put down memories of her somewhere. I've always said this blog is my outlet, where I hope to encourage others and glorify God all at the same time.
Tata is one of my first memories. When my parents divorced and we moved away, we visited my dad every summer. We always stayed at Tata's house. She lived about a quarter mile from the ocean in Massachusetts. Her house is one of my favorite places in the entire world. We moved a lot growing up, so I can't say "my childhood home" and mean one place in particular. Tata's house has always been my constant. It is a very small white cottage made up of two bedrooms, one tiny bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. That's it. I love every square inch of that place. My most favorite space in that house is actually not in the house, it's outside. You see Tata was born and raised in Lebanon. She is hands down the best cook I've ever known...more on that later. Anyway, a traditional Arabic dish is yubra - stuffed grape leaves. When Tata moved into her house in the 60s the first thing she did was plant her grape vine. Over 50 years later, it's beautiful and full and producing the most awful tasting grapes! That doesn't matter though, all she needed was the leaves.
She had two sheds out back stuffed to the gills with everything you can imagine. She had two freezers in one, completely packed with food and Lebanese bread! In the event of a snow storm, she wouldn't have to go anywhere for weeks.
A few years ago I thought it would be very important to learn to cook some of her Arabic dishes. She measured nothing! I carefully watched and wrote down ingredients, steps, and eyeballed measurements to ensure I could at least make the simple things that I grew up eating. I thank God for those sweet hours I got to spend with her, talking about how she learned to cook and where she grew up. I learned that she married at 13 years old! She had my dad at age 16 and my uncle at 20. She didn't have any more children after him and I could see in her face that it pained her. She never spoke of being unable to conceive, but at the time Eric and I were going through the same thing and my heart broke over our unspoken infertility bonds.
I learned to make hummus, sfiha (spinach/meat pies), yubra (stuffed grape leaves), mujadara (lentils and rice), tabouleh (parsley salad) and many more dishes. I hope one day they turn out as good as hers.
While Dad was working, Tata did her best to fill our days. We went to the beach and collected snails. She loved to put her feet in the water. We walked on the sea wall. We visited family. Most of all, we shopped! Tata loved to shop. She would shop and buy and the next day she'd return everything! She loved to grocery shop too. She went nearly every day. It was amazing to see her cart filled with $100 worth of groceries, and she'd spend $7.62. I am not kidding, the woman was the original Extreme Couponer.
Dad took us to Disney World one time, and Tata came too! At almost 70 years old, she rode Space Mountain!!! Coolest grandmother ever. When she passed away and I went to MA to help dad go through some of her things, I found a very important envelope. It contained the original deed to her house, her marriage certificate, Dad's birth certificate, and all of our tickets from Disney World. Of course, I lost it. She kept everything important to her in that envelope.
Though she lived in the States for over 50 years, she still liked English as her second language. The sounds of Arabenglish permeated her house as she spoke fast and fluent with her sisters and brother. I will never forget certain phrases that rang out loud when she was excited, or angry!
When she saw us for the first time - "Ya budna!!!"
When she was angry with dad - "Haram."
When she called me on the phone - "Hi Nino!" (Nino was a nickname, no one knows how it got started but she is the only one to ever give me one that actually stuck.)
When asked how she was doing - "Hangin' there!" (She meant "hanging in there.")
I know my Tata loved the Lord. I know she is with with Jesus and she feels no more pain. I'm thankful that when God decided it was time it was fairly quick and relatively painless. There is so much more I could type, so much more I could say about her. I could write a novel on the many hilarious experiences we had, the funny conversations on the phone...
The last voicemail she left me was during Hurricane Irene: Hi Nino! How are you Tata? Be careful from the hurricane Tata. Stay with your sister and brother. I'll talk to you later einey, bye. I love you. Bye.
She could never say bye just one time.
Bye Tata, I love you too. Bye.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. - 2 Corinthians 5:6-8