I read The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad today. It is required reading for one of the classes I am taking during the fall semester. I thought I would get a head start on it and ended up reading the whole thing in one day. The book examines the life of family in Afghanistan and gives readers a fascinating glimpse of what life is like in Muslim countries. It also portrays the oppressions inflicted on Afghans by the Taliban.

It seems like tradition is almost an impossible thing for these countries to overcome. The author is a woman who lived with this family for some time. I don’t know how she could have tolerated the sexism that is described in the story. It would have been maddening to me. I understand that these women don’t see life the way that we westerners do. In much the same way that men from the Middle East do not seem to understand our absolute horror at the brutal methods employed by their dictators, these women in the story do not seem to comprehend our indignation at their subjugation.

I wonder if it was the same for our grandmothers and their mothers when women in this country first started to step outside their prescribed roles as mothers and wives? Was the shortening hemline viewed with the same disgust and trepidation as the casting off of the burka is by many modern Muslim women?

I cannot help but recall the stories I heard of my great-grandmother’s iron willed edict that no daughter of hers was going to be running around in bloomers. She was absolutely appalled by the attire my grandmother donned when she played basketball for her high school in the 1910′s. She almost had a heart attack when a few years later my grandmother saved her teacher’s wages to buy a car of her own.  I know that one of the reasons for my grandparent’s elopement was the fact that my grandmother taught at a school where women were expected to “retire” when they married. Consequently she and my grandfather kept their marriage secret for quite some time because they needed the money that my grandmother earned.

Sometimes I wonder if she would be disappointed with my decision to stay-at-home with my children?  I have suffered almost as much discrimination in my life by second wave feminists as I have men.   In some ways , probably because I had a stay-at-home dad, I may have been more supported by the men in my life.

Some feminists seem to think that those of us who are mothers and wives have “sold out” the memory of the women who fought for equality in this country and that to be powerful, we need to be like men. I like to think that they were fighting more for the right to choose their own destiny rather than have it prescribed to them by society. I certainly appreciate the choices that are available to my daughters due to feminist efforts, but I also encourage them to explore their feminine and masculine sides.

I love the Dar Williams song  “When I Was a Boy”    I watch the way the prescribed gender roles we have in society damage both boys and girls.   I am fiercely protective of Trapolin for this reason.   I have a lot of hope for real change to occur in my daughters’ generation.  They are pretty cool kids.

I hope that someday the author of this book goes back to check in on the younger generations of this family. I enjoyed the book and I am glad I read it. It will be interesting to see what other people thought of it, once class gets started. Until then it gave me things to think about. I think I am going to watch the Olympics. There are women in the group of athletes representing Afghanistan for the first time ever.

Night all,

A Beginning

I really haven’t the slightest idea why I am doing this. I have always meant to keep a journal, maybe this will force me to be more consistent. I really don’t know but so many of my friends are “blogging” that I decided to try it for myself. I have been trying very hard to think of what to write for my first entry and I have yet to be visited by the muse but I am waiting patiently. Surely if I procrastinate long enough something will come to me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my son, who just turned three, play dough on a carpet that I just cleaned days ago. It doesn’t bother me though. I learned long ago to pick my battles. Watching the intensity with which he approaches his project, it occurs to me that whatever lesson he is learning at this particular moment is far more important than the inconvenience of a little mess.The days when a can of playdough can interest him this much will soon pass and I would hate for my little scientist to miss out on this lesson.

He catches me watching him and flashes me the same disarming grin that I sometimes get from my husband when he is being particularly naughty. They are so similar it is uncanny sometimes. I love them both passionately. It was not that long a go that this would have seemed impossible to me. I discovered later in life than most that I have this unending capacity for loving others.

When my first daughter was born, the magnitude of my feelings for her completely eclipsed the feelings I had for her father. I thought that this was a natural, maternal instinct. I didn’t see as what it was yet another indication of the horribly flawed relationship I had with my first husband. It was only after my second daughter was born that I began to realize that there was something wrong. I had worried terribly before I had her that by having another baby I would some how be shorting my oldest daughter; that the same transference of emotion would occur when my second child was born. Of course that wasn’t the case and it was shortly thereafter that I decided to end the disaster that was my first marriage.

It seems as though it was a lifetime ago. The new life growing inside me stirs and brings me back to the present. I don’t have those worries about this babe because I know that in all of us there is an endless reservoir of love to tap into. I will embrace the new life I am carrying as completely and totally as I do the beings already inhabiting my world. I will savor every moment with this child the way I do the time I spend with my other children. I intend on savoring every moment of their childhood and when they have grown and gone I know I have long luxurious days spent reveling in my husband’s undivided attention and lavishing him with mine to look forward to.