Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020, the year of small joys

Was this year horrible? By all  measures it was.

And yet, we survived it. Only a few days and it would end. Of course, when one remembers it, maybe the most striking day would be that of the August 4th explosion, if you happen to be a Lebanese (I almost died twice that day). I previously have cautioned how to survive 2020 - the trick is simple - suspend all comparisons (here). But if I choose to remember a day of this wretched year, it would be September 11, the day of the Ethiopian new year.

You see, A., our househelp was invited to a sleepover. Her mother in Ethiopia firmly banned her from going because of all the Coronavirus cases popping up. To say the young girl was disappointed was an understatement. So I suggested she would host a party at our house. At first she thought I was joking, but I doubled down with "so, who do you want to invite?". Whereas she did not answer, I knew she was plotting it in her head.

And so indeed, on September 11, day of the new year, she went about cleaning the house and cooking and what not. Then early in the afternoon, I smelled something being baked. I went to the kitchen to check what the smell was, and A. put her finger on her mouth to indicate secrecy. It turned out to be a cake. 

So indeed, nuts were fried the Ethiopian way, leftover Lebanese roasted nuts and potato chips were assembled in small dishes, pop corn was popped, cola bottles manifested themselves (including a Mirinda which is the choice drink for celebration in Ethiopia), a small low table was decorated with flowers and an incense diffuser (with coffee cups for after the food and drink), and A. changed into a nice dress and high heels which she had ordered from an internet shop and which had arrived the day before. All this happened without my mother noticing as she was sitting in her Morris chair in the salon.

Two girls who worked in neighboring houses came by, and A. invited mother to preside on the celebrations. To be honest even I did the effort of actually wearing something that was not my usual house shorts. And there we were, eating cake and having cola drinks, mother was bestowing well wishes on the girls and they would repeat with "Amen" after each one in unison (health, wealth, prosperity, peace of mind and so on....). I made sure to take photos of everyone and send them to A. on whatsapp who immediately sent them to both the girls there but also to her parents in Ethiopia.

About three or four hours later, A. changed into jeans and trainers and went with the girls to the house where one of them worked for dinner. At about 8 in the evening she came back all smiling and giggling. I asked her if she had fun during the day. And she answered with a resounding "eehhh" (Lebanese for yes), and if she thought this was better than the sleepover - again she agreed.

Actually, we are a very low-key house in term of celebrations. Rarely do I invite people over (by choice mind you), and we do not hold extended family celebrations. Even Sunday lunches are a 15 minute thing. In case you did not know, Sunday lunches are Marathonic affairs in certain families that join lunch to dinner and go well into the night. So hosting a party was totally out of character.

But hey, 2020 was indeed a year of small joys. And the day of the Ethiopian new year was one of them.