Thursday, December 26, 2013


My mom just took my younger brother to Houston (they're still there, I think until tomorrow or the next day) to meet some members of his father's side of the family.

I think I'm the only one in the family who truly knows what my brother is feeling right now. I can relate completely, and I remember every minute of the first time I met people on my dad's side of the family.
It's all pretty parallel - John's dad's family speaks Spanish (they’re from Mexico), and John doesn’t understand.  My dad’s family speaks Arabic (they’re from Saudi Arabia) and I don’t understand. Both families (my dad's and John's dad's) are very warm, loving, hospitable and are loyal and connected to each other.

Another parallel: I knew John's family pretty well when I was a child and my mom was married to John’s father. John was a baby, so he doesn't remember any of it, but because I am 9 years older, I very clearly remember our trips to Mexico, and I remember his uncles Juan and Ariel, and his aunt Mika.
I remember John’s dad very well and he doesn't know him at all.
I relate to John when it comes to this, because my sister on my father's side, Sara (who lives in England) lived with our dad when she was a kid, and she remembers him very well and knows so much about him. For me, he is all just a myth and just a story, basically, but for Sara, he's really real. That's how John feels - I know a lot about his dad, but to John, his dad is this mysterious figure who doesn't seem to actually exist.

Anyway, it's hard to express in words what any of this feels like. Bottom line: I'm glad John has at least one person (me) who knows what he's going through right now. There are a lot of mixed feelings that come with the reunion of the family of our fathers - that part is so positive and so amazing; however, the fact that neither of our fathers make an effort to know us (unlike the fact that their relatives do make the effort) is something that is tough to swallow, and we are especially reminded of that during times like these.

John and I are both very lucky to have Mom and our family on her side, and we are both lucky to have relatives on our fathers’ sides who exemplify the qualities that are not present in our fathers themselves.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Happy Birthday

Today is my grandmother's birthday, and it's the first one I, and everyone in her life who is still alive, have experienced without her.  Marian Thomson Scheirman died on January 28 of this year and it's extremely weird not to call her today.  Because she was such a lover of words, I felt like I should write something on her birthday, but I don't really know what to write.  So, instead of writing something new, I want to post one of the last letters she got from me (I sent more after this one but I don't have any of them saved on a computer.)

December 20, 2012

Dear Grandmama,

As promised, here is a letter to remind you that I am thinking of you all the time, and that I miss you every day!

A memory that recently came to mind was when just the two of us were walking around in the field of flowers outside our apartment; we eventually ended up at a mound and stood on top of it looking at Mount Fuji in the distance.  I remember asking you why it looked so close when it was, in reality, far away.  You said that special things like Mount Fuji and the moon were easy to see from any distance.  Then, you started telling me about the moon, and that you could see the same moon from America that I saw from Japan.

Something else I remember was the summer visits to Overland Park, when you warned me about the chiggers and told me about the cicadas being “summer music.”  You also came outside with me sometimes at night to try and catch fireflies.  We would catch them in a jar and let them go after a few minutes.  That’s something that I will always remember about Kansas summers; that’s such a unique thing about the heart of America that I feel lucky to have experienced with you.

In 1994, my mom was about to have a baby, so you and Granddaddy took me, alone, to Oklahoma for our Scheirman family reunion.  That was such a special trip for me; it was so thrilling to ride cross-country in your blue Buick with you and have both of you to myself!  I remember feeling so independent because we weren’t traveling with Mom.  When we got to Oklahoma, we stayed in a cabin with a few relatives.  For years after that trip, I had a pencil made out of tree bark and a dream catcher necklace that you generously got me to have as souvenirs.

After we drove back from Oklahoma to Iowa City, my brother was about to be born.  We didn’t know he would be a boy yet, though.  On July 8th, we woke up and Mom was already at the hospital (I’m not sure what day she went to the hospital – maybe the day before that.)  I had a stomachache, and you and Granddaddy told me it was because I was feeling nervous for my mom.  I was so upset at the idea that my mom would be in pain while she was having the baby.  You were very reassuring that she would be fine.  You took me to my summer day camp and dropped me off.  When I walked up to the park shelter with the camp counselors, they asked me how I was doing.  I remember answering, very casually, “Good.  Oh and my mom is having a baby today.”  At about 2 pm, you came back to pick me up, and the camp counselors asked you about the baby, and you said, “Yes, we’re going to go meet the baby right now!”  On the way to Mercy Hospital, I didn’t say a word because I was so anxious and nervous to hear the gender of the baby.  You broke the silence and said, “He looks like you.”  My heart sank because I was hoping for a girl, but I was feeling a little hopeful that by “he” you weren’t talking about the baby.  So, I asked you, “who are you talking about?”  You said, “Your mom had a baby boy.”  I was so sad the rest of the way to the hospital, but as soon as we walked into the room where my mom was, she was so happy.  A nurse handed John to me and my disappointment completely disappeared and was replaced with excitement.  From that moment, I was so happy about the idea of a little brother; I imagined climbing trees together and taking him in his stroller to the grocery store by myself (which, by the way, my mom allowed me to do later on when he was 1 or 2!)  I was so proud to be the older one, and from then on, you always instilled pride in me that I was the oldest.  Both you and Granddaddy often told me that I had a special role as the oldest grandchild, and as an older sister.

In the summer of 2002, my sister Sara, her mother, my mom, and I drove to Fort Collins (stopping at Mount Rushmore on the way) to see you.  Carla and Sara were never close to Carla’s mother; after they met you, they both thought of you as the mother/grandmother that they had never really had.  You have always had and always will have a special place in their heart, and they care about you very much.  You told me that Granddaddy, shortly before he died earlier that same year, told a visiting chaplain about me recently meeting Sara.  It was one of the last things that he talked about before he died, and you said that he understood how happy I was and how important it was to me to know my sister.

In 2004 and 2005, I went to Fort Collins to stay with you for several months during those summers.  One of those summers, we practiced Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler every day until we performed it together at your church.  The same summer, you also taught me two pieces on the piano: Für Elise and a piece by Jules Massenet.  You were very patient with me, and by the end of the summer, I was able to play both pieces effortlessly because you reminded me several times a day to practice them, and you sat next to me as I learned each piece measure by measure.

The latest memory I have of us, of course, is from August of this year when you visited us in Minnesota.  It was right before I moved to Vermont for my new job.  The timing was so perfect; I was glad you came before I moved.  It was so fun seeing you every day!  And I really enjoyed the party we had with our friends and relatives in Minnesota. 

Now I will show you some pictures of my life in Vermont.  I love you very much, and I look forward to hearing from my mom how you are doing.  As I always say at the end when I write to you, “talk to you soon!” 

Love, Alia