[Wardah] The big closet in the nursery room was my private play space. My mom had cleared the floor for the purpose. I liked to sit in there when I wanted to be alone. I would draw or make puzzles. Or I would play with dolls, absorbed in their stories, speaking their dialogue quietly to myself.
Ranged around the closet walls, like an audience, sat my stuffed animals. Teddy bears, alligators, martins, clowns. Kermit the Frog, Strawberry, Strawberry Shortcake. My friends – that’s what I called them. As in “Can I bring a friend to the Matam?” or “Mam, can you sew my friend’s eye back on?”
I was standing now in the closet doorway looking down at my friends. There were so many, dozen of them. I hated anyone who will take them away from me, even the old ones. I would usually look up at my mom with trembling lips and beg her “Oh, don’t throw my friend away, Mommy”. My mom would shake her head and murmur “what I am supposed to do to this silly girl”. “Get me a new one”, I would say. My mom wouldn’t count on my words because she knew I would never throw my old friends even if I get new ones and that was just a trick I used to get new friends. It really did seem as I’d kept every creature they’d ever gotten to me. Afroot – he’d been my favourite’s for almost six months when I was three. And Miss Sakeena, right up near the front – she’s shared my bed thought most of last Ramadan (the fasting month). And then there was Snow. Way toward the back of the closet. White snow.
“Wi no”, I said aloud.
He was a small teddy bear, grey now, even black in some places. He was missing one orange eye. His right paw was leaking foam. A patch purple stitching marred one side – it had been an emergency and purple thread was I’d had. Still, it was sad to see old Snow shunted to the back like that. Half buried under Poison Crab and Naughty Puppy. Supplanted by a dozen other characters I had seen on TV or at toys stores.
White Snow has been there first, been there before any of them. He was the very first, in fact. Our friend’s wife, Um Al-Sadah, had bought him to the hospital the day I was born. She’d tucked him under my mom’s arm where she lay in bed. She’d said “About time,” and she’d nodded once firmly.
Um Al-Sadah , a pretty woman, early to mid forties. Spoke with an Iraqi accent. She had the grin on a cheeky urchin face which seemed to run from one ear, laden with rings, to the other. The way she set the scarf (Hijab) around her face would make you feel how religious she was. She was my mom’s closest friend since the first day she came to Bahrain with her husband, Sayed Hadi Al-Madrasi, in 1972. Our relationship with them had begun years before they arrived here.
Our relationship with them started when my uncle, Sayed Mohamed Al-Alawi, met Sayed Mohamed Al-Shirazi, who was Sayed Hadi’s uncle, in a memorial gathering for Bahrainis in Kurbala in Iraq in 1967. My uncle shared the same passion of developing an Islamic movement with Al-Shirazi. Their relationship strengthened in a short period and my uncle visited Al-Shirazi several times when he was in Iraq. By time they decided to develop an Islamic movement in Bahrain. As Al-Shirazi was already heavily involved on the political situation in Iraq, he nominated his nephew, Sayed Hadi Al-Madrasi to go to Bahrain and work with my uncle side by side.
On arriving to Bahrain, Sayed Hadi Al-Madrasi stayed in my uncle’s house where my parents were introduced to him. Two weeks later, my uncle invited the whole family for a dinner to introduce Sayed Hadi. Among the guests was Sayed Mahmood Al-Alawi who was the financial ministry at the time. Sayed Hadi and Sayed Mahmood became friends and they exchanged regular visits. During these visits, Sayed Mahmood introduced Sayed Hadi to Bahraini leaders, among them, was the Crown Prince, Shiekh Hamad Bin Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa who asked Sayed Hadi later on to help him in establishing the Ministry of Defence. Sayed Hadi was the spiritual leader in the MoD.
My mom could only shook her head warily in response to Um Al-Sadah’s words.
A teddy bear. White snow.
Of course, I didn’t care about the bear in the beginning. That was what I was told. For more than a year and a half, the faithful creature just sat nameless and ignored in one corner of my playpen. But one Friday, just before Muhhram, when I was nineteen months old, his time arrived. My father was reading in the living room. My mom was lying on the sofa. I was on the floor, “cribbling” with a crayon on one of my mom’s drawing pads.
Suddenly, I looked up, my eyes opened wide and my jaw dropped. My finger hot out, pointing urgently at the balcony doors as my mom had always told me when she had to describe the scene.
“Dis is..? Dis is..?”, I cried. “Dis is..?”
My father glanced over at the doors. He grinned. “Hey! Dis is snow. Snow.”
“Noe!” I said. I spoke the word with amazement.
I lowered my hand and stared at the bug flake tumbling out of the sky. “Noe!”
“Noe!” I wrestled my way to my feet. Toddled over to the playpen as quickly as I could. My mom laughed. When I hurried like that, I looked, My father said, like a robot stumbling downhill. But I’d made it to the pen, reached inside, and plucked out my old teddy bear. I held it up to my father. My voice was strained with urgency. “Noe!”, I cried.
“Yeah, that’s right!” my father laughed. “Snow is white. White snow.”
“Wi noe!”,I cried out in triumph. “Wi noe!” And I clutched the bear to myself fiercely. Rocked it back and forth in tremendous hug. Cooed over and over in its ear, “Wi noe. Wi noe.”
From that time – oh, for at least a year – I had dragged that bear around with me everywhere. I had taught White Snow the new words I learned. Showed him the pictures in my books. Tucked him into bed for his naps. Held him under my arm when I went to sleep.
I moved to him now at the back of the closet. I knelt down in front of him. I wanted to straighten him a little. And just then, the doorbell rang.
My breath caught. I didn’t move at first.
The door rang again.
I raised my eyes, searched the closet ceiling for.. I didn’t know what I was searching for.
There was knocking now. Soft, but steady and insistent. The knocking paused a second. The doorbell ran again. Then there was more knocking.
“Come in, the door is open”. It was my mom’s voice, calling to the people who had been knocking the door.
Slowly, I rose to my feet. I moved out of the closet a. My feet drifted foreword as if I was being drawn on by come mysterious force.
“They must be Ward’s family coming for the dinner”. “Ward is here.. Ward is here in our house”. I murmured with great excitement. “My real friend is here”. Snow white would be forgotten now.