Denise and I had a very unique experience Saturday when we participated in what I shall refer to as a family dinner. It occurred about one p.m., thus coinciding with the meal we referred to as dinner when I grew up. Being more sophisticated now, we have dinner in the evening and no longer refer to any meal as supper. Thus, dinner seems an appropriate description of the meal we enjoyed.
Family requires a much more inclusive interpretation. It is true that one nuclear family did participate. Our former bookstore employee, Felaki, his wife and three children were there. Indeed, the event transpired in their home, and the mother and two daughters prepared the exquisite dishes we enjoyed. Also in attendance besides Denise and myself, were three teachers from the Amicitia American School in Fes.
Felaki’s wife, Naima, also works at the school as a teacher’s aide, and there were a number of other existing threads contributing to the network of relationships between and among the attendees. Naima serves as the aide to Collette, one of the teachers; their direct supervisor is Ginger, principal of the elementary school, who was also there. Kirsten, a full-time teacher at Amicitia last year, works only part-time now because she is attempting to start a school for deaf children and felt she did not have the time to devote to full-time teaching. She is therefore serving this year as an enrichment teacher at the school, providing drama and music education.
Kirsten’s parents are living in Scotland at the present time, but in the late seventies and early eighties her father and Felaki actually worked together in the Oasis Bookstore. That shop closed in 1984, and was the forerunner to the store Denise and I operated in the eighties. It opened in 1987 with Felaki as the manager. I might mention that Kirsten, although born in Morocco, grew up in Saudi Arabia where her father worked for more than 20 years as an employee of British Telecom, teaching English to airline pilots and air traffic controllers.
Obviously this unusual mix of personalities and past experiences led to an incredible potpourri of interesting and unusual stories. For example, Ginger grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama but spent most of her adult life in Texas. She is single but has grandchildren there. Collette grew up in California and most of her family still lives there, but she attended college in Wisconsin. Now in her sixties, she traveled to Vietnam during the school’s winter break this year, but unfortunately suffered a bicycle accident on January 4th, resulting in a broken hip. The accident led to a complete hip replacement in a local hospital in Vietnam, but on January 17th she flew to Morocco and did not miss a day of work. She has continued her physical therapy here in Fes.
Felaki and Naima both grew up in quite isolated villages in the extreme southern part of Morocco. They became acquainted in the early eighties after Felaki had moved to Fes and they married in 1982. When we arrived in 1986, their daughter Sanae had not yet reached her second birthday. We recounted the memory of her second birthday party in December 1986 that we attended at the home of an American friend. In August, just five months before the party, we had visited their home for the first time. I commented on the memory of that occasion and we compared the tagine we had that day, beef and quince, with the one Naima prepared Satuday with beef, almonds and boiled eggs. All tagines come with copious amounts of delicious sauce (more likely called gravy in Alabama) that can only be best enjoyed if “sopped” with the marvelous homemade bread she bakes.
Sanae is now 28 years old, her brother Ayoub is maybe 25 and Samia is 22. They are an incredibly attractive family in appearance, but even more importantly possessed of a kind and gentle spirit and committed to finding a way to be successful, both professionally and relationally. Of course, we have a more than passing interest in these young adults, having seen them every year for the past twenty or so as they grew up. It is always a priority when visiting here to spend time with them. We have seen them emerge as mature, contributing members of their family and think of them as part of our own extended family.
The ten people there belong to a spiritual family as well, and we often use the language of being brothers and sisters. In that context, it seemed only natural to consider the event a family dinner. There was much talking, much laughter, a lot of translating since not all understood all of the languages being spoken at one time or the other. Denise and I left knowing that we had been part of a very special time together, experienced with a part of our family, all looking to our Father for guidance.