The to-do-list includes a haircut for John and ingredients for potato salad. The winter sun glints our eyes as we clink our outside metal door closed. My two youngest keep in step as we head to the main street. A white fabric tent is at the end of the road, in the road. I comment to my son that these tents usually mean one of two things–a wedding or a funeral. He guesses a funeral and I see people parking their cars and entering the tent to greet the family. I agree with him. We pass the local high school and enter a cloud of cologne and hair spray. We cross the street and walk under the low hanging bare fig tree.
Conversation halts as we focus on our breathing up the hill and then take a left in front of the hamam. The little barbershop’s door is closed. Converted from a garage, a towel rack usually stands outside in the sun but today we see nothing. I knock and hear a faint, forgotten television buzz. Aah, I remember, I have already heard the noontime call to prayer. I muse, maybe he is lingering at the neighborhood mosque. We leave.
John’s pace quickens. Thankful for his luck and now set on the next assignment–vegetables. Not far ahead is our street selling wares. We turn. Passing a furniture builder on our left who’s stretching fabric to fit a frame, passing the little store that’s sold me liters and liters of milk, passing the man who found me hot water bottles that I requested and then finally spotting Omar and his fruit and vegetables. He greets us and throws small plastic bags my way. The potato crate is near the street and I load up over three kilos. The onions, zucchini, and carrots entice me as well as the small clementines.
“God gives us these in winter to keep us healthy with Vitamin C,” reminds the wise Moroccan. My daughter talks me into getting the first strawberries of the season. The produce colors look brilliant as the sun peeks through.I remember that my son’s camera is still in my purse and I try to capture on film the gratitude I feel. Omar sees me and I ask if he would like me to take his photo too. Yes of course, and he poses with my children. And could I please make him a copy to bring him next time?
I pay and Omar gives me a cabbage and some stalks for our “animals” as he calls them. (Once I described “guinea pigs” to him, but in a Muslim country any type of pig is hard to explain, so he thinks we have something resembling a bunny but not quite.) He makes sure that they are well fed.I’m thankful I brought my pull cart because I always overbuy at Omar’s stand.
“Why did he put on that necklace right before we took the picture?” my daughter wants to know as we return down that familiar street. I hadn’t noticed. “It was Fatima’s hand,” she said.
“Hmm, maybe it was for luck,” all the while wondering why he did it. Somedays I feel like I understand culture and other days not at all.
Pass the closed barber, down the hill, under the tree, pass the milling students, enjoying the conversation. The tent still buzzes with activity as I pull my cart up the shaded side road to our house. We return home with uncut hair, potatoes, and kilos of natural Vitamin C.