April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…
From The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

Being born smack dab in the middle of the cruelest month, I sit amidst it hoping for sunshine to visit the condo through its best feature: huge windows facing east. Yet I want the trees to stay bare a bit longer for purely selfish reasons: the starkness of gray-black lines against steel-blue skies never fails to revive the artist soul in me and never fails to nudge the servant soul in me to whisper Alhamdulillah (all praise is to God) in reverence of the True Artist.

I began my birthday weekend by gaining some new lines on my face thinking about aging. The shock that I was even thinking about it when for every previous birthday I couldn’t have cared less, gave me a couple of gray hairs as well.

In this scary state, I hosted a quickly put together sleepover for my daughter and her 2 best friends (her cousins) at my sun-less condo. As expected, no one was intent on going to sleep and they were requesting (no, jumping on the bed and demanding is more like it) their usual dose of the patented commonplacer bed-time story which always involves comedy, tragedy, mystery, pathos, suspense, opera (the quality of which has turned these 3 children off “High Culture” forever), ballads and a Big Baby all in one package. Oh yeah, there’s also sometimes a motorcycle transporting 3 niqabis from Mecca to Medina – across deserts strewn with excitement, adventure and no petrol. These 3 children are convinced that there’s nothing cooler than being a niqabi spy-adventeress who does not like, sniff, “High Culture”.

The 3 lay down, one clutching a blankie, the other clutching her pull-ups and the third clutching my gray hair and I began by telling them that tonight’s programing had been changed due to my b-day. Instead, as I wanted peace and quiet to worry about the year ahead, I was going to treat them to an account of what I had learned each year of my life. I figured they’d be snoring by my ninth year.

Surprisingly, they hung on beyond that – my daughter falling asleep first, at my twelfth year when I learned that friends who stand up to a huge boy named Jay Jay who pulls off your hijab every day in class, are friends for keeps; my littlest niece (pull ups) falling asleep at my thirteenth year when I learned that when you forget you have violin practice after school and decide to uncharacteristically and, for the first time, take part in teasing a bully in Gym class, and you’re walking home alone after violin practice, the bully will ALWAYS be there waiting with friends, BIG friends; my story-obsessed niece drifting off in my eighteenth year – when I learned that picking up your extremely cool Eid clothes (off-white wide pants, antique-rose wrap n’ tie shirt) from the dry cleaners while riding a bike beside a speeding van will result in a scar on your nose, an off-white bandage to go with the pants and a deep desire to stay home on Eid day.

The B-day itself was nothing fancy – my family and I are not into birthdays as a tradition. I did go out to lunch with a friend and my students gave me a little party at school the next day.

However, I did begin a few of my specific 43 things in this cruelest month and each of them have me relying on Allah’s help every step of the way. I’m hoping that, insha’Allah, next year during part 2 of my birthday account of All-That-I-Have-Learned, I will be able to get the 3 children caught up to my age and say this year, 2007, was the year I learned huge goals are achievable if you seek help solely from Allah. Then, only then, are they allowed to fall asleep.