Mum! Life’s full of potholes and dead dogs
It was raining. Gloomy grey clouds hung heavily over the house and garden. Even the birds had ceased their usual twittering and returned to some cosy space to escape from the rain and the cold. The streets were empty, except for a few people hurrying along, covering their heads with a newspaper or anything to protect themselves from the harshness of the elements.
From a window on the second floor, a rosy face stared at the garden. Rain pelted against the window and his warm breath formed clouds of mist on the glass. The rain had brought the garden to new life. The grass and leaves looked shiny and green. The flowers were a glory of colour as they soaked in the life-giving water. Sadly however, Samy only saw the puddles forming between rocks and on low ground. The falling rain formed ripples across the surface of muddy brown water.
“What ya’ doin’, son?” asked Mum.
“The garden’s so beautiful,” she added, as she came and stood next to him, staring out the window.
“You look as gloomy as those clouds over there! What’s the matter?”
Samy didn’t say anything. He was trying to push back tears that were rising. He could feel them coming and he tried so hard to hold them back. One more word and he knew he would have to let go.
Mum saw the expression on his face and took him by the arm and sat down next to him on the bed. She gave him a big hug and took his chubby cheeks in her hands and squeezed him until he smiled. That was it, the tears started to fall and he fell into convulsive bursts of weeping. She didn’t say any more but held him and rocked him until he was quiet.
After a few minutes, he stopped crying and wiped his red-rimmed eyes. “What happened?” she asked gently, “And don’t say ‘nothin’’,” she warned with a smile.
“I just don’t feel good.”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you feel exactly? Try to describe it for me.”
Samy put his head down for a minute. He really looked depressed. Mum looked at him and was thinking about what she must have done that he was so messed up.
“Mum, I feel like I’m on an island and I’m all by myself. I feel alone.”
That was it! She hadn’t been spending enough time with him. She started to feel nervous.
“Can I come and join you?” she tried to smile. “This house gets pretty noisy. It must be nice to be alone for a bit.”
“It’s not so nice, Mum.”
“Do you want to go and play with your friends?”
“I don’t have any friends!” he said loudly.
“You have a lot of friends,” she insisted.
“No, I don’t. They only want me when I have something they need. I don’t have a real, true friend.” His eyes filled up with tears again.
“Listen, Samy, I think you’re being negative.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
She cupped his face in her hands and spoke quietly but firmly to him. “You trust me, don’t you?”
“Well, trust me now. It’s not like what you think. Sometimes we see things as really dark and hopeless but the reality is different. You’re nearly 14 years old. You’re growing up.”
“Yeah. I don’t really like it, Mum.”
“I want to be a kid. Sometimes I really want people to take me seriously and I like to do things to help, then I want to play with my cars. Everything’s a mess.”
“There’s nothing wrong if you play with your cars. One day, in sha’ Allah, you’ll have your own car! How’s that?”
“Yeah, that’d be good.”
“And I take you seriously—well, most of the time. But sometimes you act like a little kid, don’t you?”
“That’s what I mean. And nobody likes me.”
“Now, there you go again, you’re being negative! How do you know nobody likes you?”
“They just don’t.”
Samy started to go through the list of all the people he knew. With each person he found something they hadn’t done for him.
“I think I know your problem, Samy,” she said.
“Do you? What is it?” His face brightened.
“You want everyone to be perfect.”
“Perfect? No one’s perfect.”
“Exactly. You want to take a little advice from someone who has made and lost a lot of friends?”
“Take the good that people are able to give and forgive the rest. No one will ever be exactly the way you want them to be.”
Samy looked at his mother seriously. He was thinking.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Mum. “Come with me.”
They got up and dressed to go outside.
“Where are we going, Mum?”
“For a little drive.”
She took her car keys and off they went. They entered the freeway, which was very quiet at that time of day.
“Here you go.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take the steering wheel.”
Samy happily leaned over and took hold of the steering wheel and tried to manoeuvre around piles of sand, holes in the road, and dead dogs.
“This isn’t as easy as it looks,” commented Samy. He went over a hole in the road and the car bumped and lurched forward.
“Here take the wheel, Mum. I can’t do it.”
“Yes, you can. Go on, Samy! One little bump and you give up? Just like that!”
“But the car keeps going that way,” replied Samy, who hesitatingly held the steering wheel.
“The car doesn’t do it. You do it. You’re the one who’s telling the car where to go.”
“Ok, I’ll try again.”
“Keep your eyes on the place where you want to go and your hands will follow.”
Samy started to smile confidently. He was doing well.
“What does this remind you of?” asked his mum.
“Remind me of what?” he asked staring straight ahead as he guided the car along the freeway.
“You could think of this road as life. And here you are driving down it—that means, living your life. Everyone has their own road they’re traveling on. Sometimes we go over potholes and some people will shout and swear, blaming the others for what happens. But it’s up to us to keep ourselves away from the dangers and then not to blame others if we carelessly drive through a mound of sand and puncture a tire! Get what I mean?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Samy. “But,” he continued, “life’s hard, Mum. It’s really full of potholes and dead dogs,” he said, as he swerved around one lying on the road.
“Son, you’re able to understand that because you’re growing up and that in itself is a blessing. How many people grow old and die and never get to understand what you do right now?”
Samy looked relaxed now and was steering well.
“You told me before that you feel alone,” said Mum.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Well, you’re exactly right. We’re all alone.”
“What? Really?” he asked worriedly.
“We have people around us who sometimes help us, like family and friends and others who just bug us, but in the end, we’re on our own.”
Mother and son drove along quietly for some time, each busy with their own thoughts.
“So if we take the good from others, that’s really all we can do, isn’t it, Mum?”
“I believe so.”
“How did you get to know all this?” asked Samy. “Allah gave us guidance, and a mind to think, as well as experience. And if you can put all these things together, while trying to obey Him and the Prophet (peace be upon him), you’ll get to understand things more clearly and find your way. Life is confusing and difficult, but Islam makes it easier and gives us relief. You could think of life, as this road and the Qur’an as your map and guidebook. And if you follow it properly, you’ll never get lost.”
Mum took hold of the steering wheel and turned around to go home. When they were walking back to the house, Samy stopped.
“Look at the garden, Mum! Doesn’t it look beautiful after the rain?”
“It sure does.”
*By Selma Cook
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