I was sitting at the library on one of those cushy chairs with a wooden desk you could prop up in front of you. Perpetually distracted, I skimmed my newsfeed in the middle of studying for a test I had the next day. My girlfriends posted real-time photos of them at Eid Prayer. Then I saw more pictures of them posing with their pretty new outfits and everyone was smiling their Eid best. And when I saw pictures of them with my little sisters and me very much not there, I was sad. I shut down my laptop and walked out of the library, hoping a change of scenery would cheer up the dreary fact that I was studying hours away at my college instead of celebrating Eid with my family for the first time.
My first semester of college, like everyone’s first semester, entailed a lot of newness. Lots of first times. The eight minutes it took for me to walk back to my dorm was entirely too much to dwell on the festivities I was missing. I didn’t get to wear a new outfit, I didn’t get the first hug from my mom after the conclusion of prayer and I didn’t get to see all my friends. I missed my baby sister. There was so much delicious food I was not eating.
As I reached my dorm, I sat outside and called my parents. My dad picked up and wished me an Eid Mubarak and handed the phone to my mom and then my sister. I hung up after a few short words; there was too much chatter in the background. As I sat there, allowing tears to well up, I realized that I had traditions I cared about. It was a stark moment that made me realize I had to start my own traditions and celebrate holidays my way now.
Many girls passed by me but I just could not care at the moment about how I looked. One girl stopped and asked me if everything was okay. I kind of laughed and said, “Yeah, I think I just miss my family. And I’m missing Eid because I’m here, which is like our Christmas.” You always have to say “It’s like our Christmas” because eating during daytime for the first time in a month is better than a new iPad. And I knew she would get it, we all missed our families.
She sat down beside me and let me cry. She sat and stared out in front of her in silence for several minutes. As each minute passed, I thought less about Eid and more about community. I thought about how my current community was mostly comprised of traditional, southern Christians. I thought about how the values I grew up with are also her values. What we shared brought this girl and me together, at this moment and on this wooden bench.
I reconciled with the idea of traditions changing but values remaining. I felt welcome. So I thanked her for being with me and told her I was more than better.
Her name was Allison and her kindness consumed me that day instead.