“Heaven lies beneath your mother’s feet.” It’s a hadith that I’ve grown up reciting to myself. But fourteen or fifteen years ago, almost before I could even read, beneath my mother’s feet was a grooved aisle, matte brown in color. We were riding the #3 bus home from a long day at the library.
These are the moments that tug on my heart, the ones that make me so proud of mama.
Wearing a white hijab and sunglasses, mama would take me multiple times a week to the Harold Washington Library right off of Congress Ave. Still relatively new to America, she wore her identity proudly and never feared venturing off into the city of cold winds and tall sights.
Our routine was almost scripted. There used to be a very intriguing miniature house in the center of one of the floors. Nearby would be a librarian sitting by a small arrangement of empty chairs. At the head of every hour, the librarian would begin a small interactive program. I wanted to be an astronaut at the time so when the children’s section was designed with floating rocketships and round planets, mama made sure to take me to the library more often than usual. There I’d join the librarian as he’d flip through the pages of brilliant space books. He’d point to a planet.
“Saturn! The rings!”
Mama, standing near that miniature house, would flash me a smile.
One time, we looked at animal books. She would always bring a canvas bag of some sort to help carry the books home. We used to borrow fifteen or more books at a time and if I couldn’t read them myself, she read them to me. I never realized how heavy that bag must have been until just now but it never left her hands.
I found a book on pandas that I really liked. It was one of those DK books, the kind with the big font, the little font, and the colorful pictures. We checked it out.
As always, we walked a few blocks to the CTA bus stop. When the #3 bus came, mama took her usual seat right behind the driver. She propped me on her lap, the bag of books balanced neatly between her feet.
“Heaven lies beneath your mother’s feet.”
Mama pulled out the panda book for me. I was too preoccupied with the advertisement posted to the wood panel separating our seat from the driver’s seat. She handed me the book. A few pages later, I fell asleep. All I remember about that book is that I pointed to one particular image and told mama to look at it. I remember asking her a question about pandas too, or maybe sharing a fact. It was an exhausting library trip.
I don’t know when I woke up but mama sat still, one hand clutching the handles of the book-filled canvas bag, the other hand patiently wrapped around her only son. It is a moment that will forever be ingrained in my collage of appreciation for the one person who has done more for me than I can even fathom.
Happy mother’s day, mama!