My baby just came home from a school trip – he wasn’t a baby when he left. But he’s come back a young man. Alhamdulillah. He just unpacked his suitcase as I sat on his bed watching him. Everything came out neatly folded up, compact. He knew which clothes needed washing and which were okay to be used again. He packed his shoes into plastic bags, just as I had shown him to, before he put them between the layers of clothes. The last to come out was his swim towel. He said he used it to pray on, the few times he managed to. I am so thankful to Allah.
His hair is longer and messier than it has been, ever, I think. I’m definitely having it shorn off tomorrow I have told him. He made minimal protest because he promised to let me when he returned. His voice is scratched, too many activities that began with songs of bravado chanted at the start, he tells me. Plus a night or two of singing around a camp fire, at the top of their voices. He tells me the breakfast was ‘unvaried’, the bread untoasted, not much more than butter provided with it. On the days that they got cooked breakfast, he says toast qualified as ‘cooked’, but he was lucky to get hash browns. He doesn’t seem to have missed the sausages. He is happy with the vegetarian food choices he was given, though he has decided basmati rice is best. He says he didn’t much want the hot chocolate their groups were offered each night, though he had it once or twice. The only meat he had, he tells me, was fish, when they were given fish and chips.
Of course the burning question that had been preying on my mind was whether or not he was able to hold on to the bottle I gave him to wash himself with in the toilet. Throughout the week he was away, I agonised secretly over whether he would be too embarrassed to use the bottle, whether he was keeping himself clean, whether he was able to follow all that I have taught him over the last ten years. Because a Muslim mother doesn’t just hope that her child is happy and leave it at that – she also hopes fervently that amidst all the hullabaloo of children from varied backgrounds and belief systems thrown together on a school trip, her child will be able to plod solidly on the path she has shown him. She hopes he will make an effort to pray, at least at the two ends of each day. She hopes he will not eat anything that is not halal. And, perhaps as a consequence of all these idiosyncrasies, she hopes her baby will not stand out as an anomaly, an easy target for the viciousness that young boys are perfectly capable of inflicting upon one another.
But Zazi has returned happy, confident, yearning to tell us everything he did, all the jokes they had, show us the thigh-slapping, hand-clapping dance the Y6s prepared to show the parents upon their arrival at the airport. I am so grateful ya Allah. So grateful.