Islam's two holiest days -- Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha -- are about prayer, celebration and family. My Eids, starting at age 12, were about planning, logistics and subterfuge. I would do anything it took to accomplish my Eid goal: getting me and my two closest friends, Farin and Sajeela, in the same place in Silver Spring. Our families traveled in different social circles, so it was always a miracle when we three transportation-deprived friends finally saw one another together.
Flash back to the night before every Eid in the 1980s. Farin's family had two phone lines, so she'd conference in Sajeela and me. We'd compare notes on what mosque service our parents would attend the next day, and which of their friends they would visit afterward -- in which order, at which times, with what range of variables. At 12, we had little control over how we'd spend our Eids, which fell at the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting that Muslims observe) and at the end of hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca, required once in a lifetime).
On Eid morning, our machinations would shift into full gear. Farin, the earliest riser, initiated the morning round of calls. We'd compare additional notes accrued over the previous 12 hours. We'd then start harassing our parents to either speed up or slow down, so we could get to the right prayer service.
Should Plan A -- meeting inside the prayer hall at our Silver Spring mosque -- fail, we'd round one another up in the parking lot. Plan A was no easy task, given that a few thousand people around us were hugging one another. Plan B (the parking lot) frequently yielded results, though our get-togethers were short-lived because each set of parents was beckoning us to the car, so they could go see their friends. If we knew the chance of meeting up again was dismal, we swapped presents right from our car trunks. We did so as surreptitiously as possible, given that we were surrounded by other friends, with whom our junior high school budgets (and priorities) did not allow Eid gift exchanges.
If or when we triumphed, and ended up at the same place, we would huddle in a corner to admire one another's Eid clothes. Farin and Sajeela would make me put on some makeup. I'd notice how good Sajeela's older brother looked in his dress-up clothes, and they'd roll their eyes. We'd exclaim over one another's thoughtfully planned gifts and epic cards. We'd marvel at our sheer luck.
Fast-forward 20 years. In some ways, our Eid trials have become significantly easier: We've gotten driver's licenses. We've gotten cell phones. We've gotten old enough to have our own Eid parties. I married Sajeela's brother.
But they've also gotten harder: Our families still run in largely different social circles. Because we have cars and cell phones, we assume we'll get in touch, and don't always make plans in advance. Because I'm Sajeela's sister-in-law, I often just assume I'll run into her. When the three of us finally do see one another, we laughingly apologize for not buying gifts, because things have been so hectic. Instead of exchanging epic cards, we make epic promises to make more time for one another.
When we were kids, we had nothing but time to plot our get-togethers. Now there are too many other people -- parents, husbands and kids -- all competing for our attention. To me, the Eid miracle is not that we found a way to celebrate together when we were kids. It's that we find a way now.
Reshma Memon Yaqub is a contributing editor at Parents Magazine. She lives in Gaithersburg.