Friday, January 15, 2010

Ironing ~ Random Memory #1 ~ Bahrain

My aunt ("Udie") is one of my best friends and we can talk and laugh together for hours. She is my source for family lore and her stories give life to the personalities of those I never knew, but whose traits I have, in many cases, inherited....or so I'm told! On my last trip to Texas, she wanted me to have some of my great grandmother's embroidered napkins, pointing out that I and my daughter, JCB, are the only ones in the family who bother to iron. Once home, this treasure from my personal history was soaked, laundered and pressed and on a whim, I photographed the finished result.

The date is Dec. 31, 2008 and this is one of my earliest uploads to Flickr.

Random Memory #1 ~ Bahrain

I have been invited for coffee (gawa) and am sitting in a magnificent reception room at the home of a Bahraini Sheikha. The room is filled with many women swathed in black silk from head to toe and the conversation is lively as they discuss their children, husbands, extended family and friends. They compare jewelry and will not hesitate to tell you if you are wearing an inferior piece or if the stones are too small. They are very curious about me, particularly my relationship with a 'western' husband. No intimate topic is out of bounds in this society of women.

A small bowl of delicate flowers is on a nearby table and I ask what they are...the perfume is like a drug and I want to float away in those petals! Our hostess tells a servant to bring a needle and thread and a circlet of rare double jasmine is sewn, the scent of which I had never before, or since, experienced. The memory of those flowers haunts me still. "Put in your hair and wear this to bed", they said.

An older woman is sitting next to me. Despite the abaya she is wearing, her eyes and face are luminous and very beautiful, "I am a widow" she confides. "My parents arranged my marriage when I was thirteen, my husband was thirty five. When I came to live with him he got a child, not a wife. He had to teach me how to do everything and he braided my hair every morning like a doll's. He taught me how to iron."

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