Browsing "albanyia"
Feb 26, 2010 - albanyia    4 Comments

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The houses on the block in which I live are quite close together. On our one block we have defeated the odds of random chance by having 3 houses in a row with professors. Next door lives a young professor of archaeology/sociology with his family and next door to him is an older professor of business/statistics and his wife (and dog), and of course the third is my father who is a professor of physics.

My room on the second floor overlooks the back of the house and across a few backyards. Sometimes I see the younger professor out playing with his kids in his yard or just sitting reading on his front porch. He seems an outside kind of guy who putters around and fixes the moldings, paints his porches and fixes up his deck and yard. He reminds me so much of my father maybe 30 years ago. I don’t see his wife as often. She seems to come home to immediately rush the kids into the house.  I rarely see her outside. The older professor I see only when he comes out to take his dog inside. His wife nods every so often when she walks said dog.

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My room has another window that directly looks into the window of the house adjacent. The space between these two portals must be less than a dozen feet. When I was younger I think the room across was used as an office for previous owners because the shades were always drawn. I only saw the top of a desk. I left my shades up in the daytime and enjoyed the light. When the younger professor moved in I started to hear a child crying at night and think that room is now used as a nursery.  My shades are now usually closed but I still hear the sense of movement, the lights turning on and off and noises of children. They seem to wake up very early and go to bed very early. Sometimes I wonder how we all live our lives within the space of a few hundred yards and remain almost complete strangers.

Down the street from us in a very big house surrounded by pine trees lives a middle-aged activist type woman with her one son and husband. They hold big parties every so often and I hear their swanky music making it’s way to the comfy porch chair I sit on outside in nice weather. Their son sometimes sells lemonade in the summers.  After a snowstorm, she always seems to be enthusiastically cleaning the sidewalks around her house in the afternoon, eager to greet others.

Across the street there are two houses that have been turned into apartments. Sometimes there are students that live there, sometimes young professionals, mostly single. They come and go. During the summer the parking spots in front of their houses tend to remain empty.

On the next block there is a little Church with a Montessori daycare. On Thursday evenings around 5 or 6pm from May until August,  you’ll hear the unusual sound of bagpipes coming from there, playing throughout the neighborhood. Once I saw an old couple set up twin lawn chairs near the Church just to listen.

Within walking distance we have a little post office, supermarket, library, bank, bagel and donut place, Chinese take-out, sandwich shop, park with playground, schools, dentists, dry cleaners, cafe, gas station, an independent movie theater, a pharmacy, and a liberal arts college! And yet this area is considered very residential with low crime.

One would be hard-pressed to find similar statistics anywhere. It really isn’t such a bad place. Even if it feels like we are surrounded by strangers, it is home.

tuscancourtyardbymariaserafina

Jan 15, 2010 - albanyia    3 Comments

Memories of Winters in Upstate New York

Winter FunWinter Fun

Memories of Winter in New York

Recently it snowed in Texas. This actually made the national news.

A ton of pictures and messages went up on every social network about how amazing it was. People were outside walking around instead of working, children were let outside of their schools. I saw tons of photo albums of little kids running around playing in the snow, people making snowmen, taking pictures happily standing in front of them, then taking pictures of their houses, their trees, their cars covered with snow. And the amazing thing is: I think it was three inches at most! :D Lol. We get that in ONE HOUR people!! And it snows all night here!

It’s like they never saw snow before or something :P

Ahhh, the beautiful thing is that it brought back to me how joyous snow could be. I have so many good memories of winter when we were growing up. I was thinking about this recently too as my young nephew and neice will be moving to (ironically) Texas and will probably never experience a real New England winter.

The first snow of the season usually falls before Thanksgiving here. The trees are all bare and when the whole town seems to be the blahest ugliest, all of a sudden one day we’ll be looking out the window in our high school and it will be snowing. Oh, the excitement!

All those kids in these pictures were dressed up in thick sweaters with hoods, poor things. They probably don’t even own jackets! Let alone what we call a “snow jacket and snow pants”. I remember when I was eight I used to have a pair of hot pink snow pants that I loved! Our usual outfits were thick jeans, a turtle-neck shirt with a sweater or thick sweatshirt, big fluffy socks (sometimes two), big boots, hat, gloves or mittens, ear-muffs, wool scarf, snow jacket and if we were little — snow pants! Then we’d go outside and maybe shovel the snow. We’d build forts on both sides of our house and we’d make up teams between my brothers, sister and I. We’d pelt each other with our arsenal of snowballs and sometimes passerbys too. (haha don’t tell our parents) We used to make snow angels in our backyard. We’d go sledding for hours and hours at the local park, or high school or local golf country club. We’d clean off the cars for money from our parents or my brothers would go clean off some neighbor’s sidewalks and we’d walk to the local store and buy the most unhealthiest foods we could find!

At our local Mosque they’d bulldoze the parking lot and there’d be this one long line of a huge mountain of snow and we’d all climb it and walk across throwing snowballs like it was some kind of trail across the Himalayas. Oh and snowdays were the best! We’d go to bed and pray and pray that it would snow all night. Then we’d wake up so early and turn on the radio or the TV and keep listening and if our school was called we’d start screaming and jumping up and down and be so ecstatic that we had a WHOLE DAY to do nothing except what we wanted. Sometimes we’d go to our friend’s house trudging through the snow, or we’d stay inside after our excursions and watch a ton of TV or play video games. The best feeling in the world was coming in after being all frozen, shaking off all our winter wear and placing it on the heaters. Then going in the kitchen and drinking some delicious soup or hot chocolate our Mom had made for us. Until today, for some reason I love to make brownies when it’s snowing! We loved going outside after midnight when we were teenagers. The streets sparkled with the glitter of thousands of diamonds and we would feel like we were living in the 1800s with all the cars and modern life covered up. We’d walk down the street and feel timeless… such are the happy memories of winter here.

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A City Fairyland 1886 by Hassam Childe


There is of course the downside of snow. Getting a cold or the flu, actually having to walk to school or wait at the bus stop even when it’s freezing and snowing, making up work for the day you missed. And of course as you get older, snow is more an annoyance, having to wake up early to see if you have to come in to work. Cleaning off the car at 7am in sub-below 0 temperatures after snow and freezing rain is the absolute worst. Have you ever felt so cold with the wind and snow that you had to cover your face or else you’d die and like your eyeballs start watering because they are so freezing, Texas? Yeah I thought not :)

It’s enough to make people leave and it’s true that so many people haven’t been able to bear it. It’s just hard to go out and clean off your car and move it every day during snow emergencies. How about shoveling an entire driveway! Have you ever gotten stuck in snow or not been able to get your car out. Yeah it’s happened so many times. Having to clean your sidewalk after two feet of snow. Dealing with bone-chilling cold and wet frozen feet and hands and ears. Can you imagine the fear that stops your heart and jumps into your throat when your car slides on an icy road and you can’t do anything. I remember one winter while driving to Jumah, my car spun a clear 270 degrees on an icy part of a highway on-ramp. I still thank Allah that there weren’t any cars coming or going at the time. Winters can be harsh and depressing times too, with no one going out, events being cancelled, nothing going on.

Despite all this, I still love my memories of winter. I look out the window at 1am and love seeing the snow falling under the street light. And I love when, after that last storm ends and all the snow melts, we wait for that first flower of spring with the excitement and satisfaction of putting a rough winter behind us :)

And I have miles to go...
And I have miles to go…
Mar 5, 2009 - albanyia    2 Comments

From Allah we come and to Him we Return.

I attended a funeral yesterday on a very very cold day in March. My car has been acting up by starting to smoke after exactly 25 minutes of driving. (Bad car doesn’t know smoking is bad for it’s health!) So my brother bought something in a can that I put in the radiator and voila it didn’t smoke all the way to work. InshaAllah it stays that way although the scary red “Check Engine” light is still on. So now that my car was fixed it was providence to attend this funeral.

The sister who passed away was old, probably in her 60s or 70s. She had come here with her husband and sons a number of years ago from let’s say Bakhome-istan. The family owned a local ‘quicki mart store’ in our community and she sometimes worked there along with her husband who was there everyday. Her gnarled old hands rung up the items one by one and she never spoke a word of English. He too unfortunately is in the hospital right now and probably won’t recover. Her sons are grown and one lived there above the store with his family and kids and I think they lived there as well. The store is not in the best part of town but it is across the street from our inner city Masjid so got brisk business. It was probably the first time in history that the windows were darkened and the shop was closed up.

The Janazah had maybe a little over 100 people who came. A handful of family, 2 grandkids, some ppl from their country, some kids who came over from the school who had the grandkids in their classes, some who got the email from the listserv about a Janazah today. The service after Asr was very short. They brought the body in a white glossy coffin. We prayed the 4 Takbeerat and then it was over. They lifted her up and took her back to the hearst and most of the men went out with it. They plan to send the body back to her home to be buried.

I wrapped up and went back to my car around 7 and drove home alone.

I found this to be the saddest saddest funeral I’ve ever attended. A woman who traveled so far from her homeland in the hopes of a better life for her children and her children’s children. Who still are struggling and visibly hovering above poverty. I mean what did they come here for? I see so many of these struggling immigrants especially nowadays up here and especially in places like New York city. Anonymous, androgynous, working working middle class, barely scraping a living, their kids half way cultural half way in the shadows. Friendless but trying so hard to stick with their cultural kind. Praying regularly in the inner-city mosque. And now she’s dead and being sent back to her country to be buried.

What does it all mean? What did her life mean?
I don’t know. May Allah have mercy upon her soul and enter her into Jannatul firdous. Ameen.

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