Forty years ago, an Irish Catholic woman from Lynn, Mass, took the hands of a Muslim man from Lahore, Pakistan, and swore to be his woman for all her life. And he swore to be her man.
This wasn’t a match made in Heaven (Or Jannat). It was an Earthly union of two Wild souls. Untamed by the restrictions of their upbringing. These two came together because of a force greater than culture and religion. They came together because their minds flickered with a challenge and their hearts burned with a calling for one another.
I couldn’t be more grateful that they fed each other’s flame.
This was the marriage of my parents.
While I believe love often works like a magnet, with two polarizing forces connecting, you may be surprised to learn that the polarizing factors for this union had less to do with their background and much more to do with their individuality.
Growing up, the heart of our home was a brick fireplace topped by a wooden mantle. On this mantle sat the framed image of the Laughing Christ beside a silk enshrouded Koran. While those sacred objects were centerpieces to our home, they in no way dictated our way of life. They only served as gentle reminders of from where our parents were born. The lessons learned beside that fireplace, the ones that would carry me throughout my life, were motivated by who my parents were, and not from where they came.
My father, being an engineer, has mind set by reason and logic. He taught us each, in turn, to build our fire. He instructed us to take the time to understand cause and effect. How the shift of a log, the fan of a flame, the stoking of the coals could nurture a blaze that would warm our lives.
And as the blaze burned we turned to our mother.
She, being an English teacher, has a heart led by imagination and abstraction. Once the glow began to rise, she bade us to allow the fire to become our Muse. We’d take turns spinning stories inspired by the flames. From the shadows cast off the walls, to the images brought to life in the glittering embers, we indulged in the creativity she ignited.
Nightly, beside this fireplace, we, five children, learned to build a fire to live beside, and a flame to grow within. And when the fire burned out, we headed to bed inspired by both logic and fancy.
Today, you could bring any one of us before a stack of wood, and we’d turn it into a fire you’d want to sit around all night for the warmth, and we’d know how to keep you by that fireside for conversation.
Sure, my parents came from different worlds. That’s easy to see. But it wasn’t about what lay on our mantle… That was just the surface. It was all about kindling the flame that grew below. All influences from the outside had little to do with the influence that lay beneath. The combination of intellect and imagination. The coming together of hard work and gratitude is what makes our family great.
My father and mother taught in very different ways. Each effective. Each important. And each aware and respectful of the necessity of each other.
All come together for the need of warmth, for the inspiration of conversation, and for the comfort of Love.
Thank you Abu & Mumma for teaching us how to raise our flame together. I Glove you Like a Rock.