A career, friends, family, and place to call home–I gave up life as I knew it for the possibility of life as it could become. Five years later as a seasoned and serial expatriate, I've lived in four countries on three continents and currently reside in Singapore. So far, it's been a wonderful ride!
My mother-in-law arrived in Singapore last Thursday, and I couldn’t be more delighted.
No, really. I love my mother-in-law.
I wanted to start this post with a sweet and sentimental quote about mother-in-laws, but my Internet search didn’t turn up any positive words on the topic. I guess that’s because Google never met my husband’s mother, one of the finest women I have ever met.
My admiration for her began long before we even laid eyes on each other. Years ago, her only son traveled from the United States, where he was living, to his home in Cairo, Egypt in order to confess a secret: While living abroad, he had met a woman, whom he hoped to marry some day.
Ordinarily the news of an impending nuptial would be a source of joy to any Egyptian mother, but the son worried about the possibility that his parents would not be pleased because his Western girlfriend was neither Egyptian nor Muslim. No one in the family had ever married a non-believer before, and he was uncertain about how the news would be received. So, he decided to wait for an appropriate time to share the announcement with his family.
Mothers, however, tend to have a sixth sense when it comes to their children. This important secret would not wait for a convenient occasion. In the wee hours of his very first night home, the mother woke her son up from his slumber to make a confession of her own.
“I want you to know that if you have met someone, even a foreign woman, it’s alright with me,” she said.
Her open heart paved the way for her son to spill his happy secret. Her blessing made it all the more joyful for the son to ask me to marry a few months later. And when I traveled to Egypt to meet his mother for the first time in 2007 as the new daughter-in-law, our introduction was even sweeter. She made it known from the outset that even though I was born in a different land, culture, and religion, I was still a daughter to her. And through the years, she has shown me nothing but the utmost respect and kindness. I am delighted to have to next few weeks to show her my appreciation in return through daily actions as opposed to mere words that are spoken over the telephone.
Even though she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, this has not been difficult. She has simple needs. To sit together, to dine together, to watch events unfolding in her country and lament together–I find the time passing quicker than I expected. Before I know it, she will be heading back to the uncertainty of Egypt–a prospect that brings me worry and not joy. I’d be happy if she could remain with us here in safe, secure Singapore. Even if this were possible, she would not stay. Despite the political chaos, Egypt is her home. Her quiet, unassuming presence there and her constant example of love and tolerance makes that desperate country a better place.
I wish the world were different. I wish the religiously fervent and political ideologues all over the globe could learn the value in humility, tolerance, and respect. I wish people could see each other’s similarities before their differences. I wish governments chose peace over conflict. Basically, I wish the world could be more like my mother-in-law–and these are words Google can quote me on.