By Mary Sayad

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  • Middle Eastern Granny
    AKA Si-tho or The-ta
    and Her Enchanted Stroller

    Everyone was out, shopping, taking casual walks or chatting with their neighbors. During the past month, it rained heavily, drizzled or it was cloudy and overcast almost daily.

    It would appear that all the neighbors were mutually water-logged and heavy with cabin fever. Like catapillars instinctively slipping out of their caccoons, everyone emerged from their homes to feel the soothing warmth of the sun. It was a glorious clear sunny day with a perfect temperature of 73 degrees.

    Some mothers sat at their doorsteps watching their children at play. Some folks buisied themselves with their gardens. Grandmothers proudly pushed their grand-babies' strollers or carriages along the sidewalk.

    There is something inexplanably special about grandmothers and baby strollers. Grandmothers know exactly how far to walk, how long it's safe to chat with their neighbor and should that precious little stroller occupant become distraught with tears, Grandmothers nonchalantly soothe his/her temper. Grandmother's don't miss a trick. They come well equipped with binkies, baby bottles, lollipops and rattles, to name a few. They instinctively know how much to rock their precious ones - they have an inborn knowledge of rocking softly or furiously. You can accurately say that they have a built-in radar that is always in active mode. They're perpetually ready for smiling faces, teary eyes, sticky hands, hungry stomachs and dessert deprived perfect, can-do-no wrong urchins.

    Indeed Grandma's have their bad hair days and a litany of personal complaints with not-enough-time to do this or that, but somehow they have a depository of time available for emergency baby-sitting.

    Most Middle Eastern Grannies have a pantry full of wonderful homemade pastries. By any bakery standards, these sweets rival any reknowned gourmet bakery. Sit-thos (Te-tas) are always concerned about their grandkids' education. They provide training classes for their little ones' taste buds. The variety and quality of their cooking insure that their little tykes develop discerning taste buds at an early age. Indeed, these privileged grandkids get an education in fine foods before they learn how to walk and talk.

    Lest we become too obsessed with the delightes and flavors of Middle Eastern foods, we'll resume with the title of this engrossing story.

    One particular Sit-tho was especially innovative and passionate about her grandkids' contentment and comfort. So much so that she was the envy of her neighborhood, indeed, her reputation was the talk of the next town. News travels fast in small towns.

    This Sit-tho, known as Adele, was the proud owner of a unique and rare item. Not only was it rare, it was also practical, yet impossible to reproduce. In other words, it was a one-of-a-kind enviable treasure! It brought peace and tranquility to all who came in contact with it. Yes, my dear young mothers and fathers, we're talking about that elusive enchanted stroller. That unprecedented stroller that quieted the most unconsoling crying baby, that unique gotta-have stroller which is every parent's paradise especially during baby's teething season. Night after night it would bring restful sleep to parents and babies.

    But how could this be? Where did Adele find this stroller? It wasn't even a designer's stroller. There was nothing extravagant about it, indeed, it was quite a humble looking stroller. Did she manipulate it with some strange incantation? Did she sprinkle it with holy water personally delivered by Heaven's cherubs?

    What was her secret and why wouldn't she share it with others? Let's depart from this cliff hanger for a moment as I briefly describe Adele.

    Adele was the oldest of four children. She was born in Aleppo, Syria of a struggling middle class family. They survived wars and oppression. Although they learned to live without many comforts, they never forgot their lesser brethren. Accordingly, Adele's family was generous with the poor and shared their food and humble clothing with the orphanages. Her family offered their prayers and their works for the good of their Christian community. They willingly sacrificed but daily thanked Our Heavenly Father for the love they were able to share. They were never financially wealthy yet they were generous with their charitable works and the Lord blessed them with health, long life, a loving family and many friends.

    At a very young age, Adele learned to trust Jesus and Mary for all her needs. Altlhough she did not receive a formal education, she was very resourceful and she assisted her parents by selling her beautiful hand made linens and fine crocheted table scarves. Her cheerful demeanor and simple attitude filled her with joy and peace. In keeping with tradition, she married according to her parents' choice.

    Newly married, she and her husband, Abraham travelled to America and started their family. Adele never waivered from her simplicity and remained open to the Holy Spirit. She and Abraham would pray together and they based all their decisions, the basic as well as the significant, on the Will of the Lord. They were blessed with three children who in turn married and would bring their rambunctious sons and daughters to Sit-tho and Gido for babysitting. From colicy to downright stubborn, their grandkids were a challenge in every sense of the word.

    Adele, was a real cool Sit-tho. She would walk and sing to soothe her little grand-darlings in a stroller she acquired at a local white elephant sale. Her grandchildren soon learned that Sit-tho showered them with much love and attention and they were very content to be with her. As time passed, and more grandchildren were added to the family, the stroller took on a very special meaning. Indeed, as unique as each individual baby that sat in it's soft confines, the stroller developed an eclectic character. It's wheels chimed with each gentle push and each new baby added a new aura of joy and expectation.

    And Sit-tho's soft melodious songs of prayers and praise filled the air with thanks and gladness. She loved Jesus and Mary with all her heart and she was thankful for the blessings of her family. Her demeanor of joy was contagious. Her grandchildren loved to be with her. Everyone who knew Adele enjoyed her company!

    If Adele ever felt discouragement, she never revealed it. Instead, she chose to remain calm and positive.

    Their grandchildren grew to be responsible and caring adults. They were fine upstanding citizens with strong spiritual convictions. Their Christianity was based on the example and guidance they received from the Catholic Church and their family life during their formidable growing years.

    Was the stroller really enchanted? What do you think?!

    Mary Sayad 2004

    **************

    Beloved Friends,

    The above is a story mixed with wonder and simplicity. After learning about Adele's disposition, the mystery of the enchanted stroller is easily solved. Adele's piety and humility are remnants of days gone by. Immediate and extended families were defined by a strong sense of committment towards their young generation.

    It was not uncommon for parents and grandparents to sacrifice their time, energies and finances for the benefit of their children. Mostly, it was important to instill them with spiritual devotion and wise counseling.

    Sadly, families with their extended families today are scattered across the world depriving themselves of deep and meaningful relationships. Many Grandparents today enjoy healthier lifestyles, insured financial retirements and freedom to seek their personal objectives. It is not unusual for some grandparents to frequently travel, enjoy their golf outings and other agendas leaving them little or no time for their grandchildren. Indeed, they've almost completely lost the art of communicating with their grandchildren.

    These grandchildren are deprived of the companionship and a reserve of memories shared with their grandparents that would otherwise carry them through the difficult times of their lives. No wonder our youth experience problems of various addictions and crimes.

    Equally culpable are some young parents. Ambitious and confident they have excluded the importance of spiritual upbringing of their children. Some have intentionally eliminated and discouraged the respect for grandparents. Determined to "do it alone" these parents deprive their children of the love and respect that will spiritually impact their children's future welfare. Their acqusition of material comforts outweigh the knowledge of Jesus and Mary through the Sacred Scriptures. Instead of learning compassion, consideration and sensitivity towards others, greed, selfishness and defiance become the norm for these kids.

    Our youth is the future of the world. Build a better world by training the children to practice their faith. Our Blessed Mother is calling the youth to prayer, obedience to the commandments and a life based on the strength of Christianity. Teaching them to develop the habit of daily rosary recitals is teaching them the Gospels. The meditations of the rosary are based on the life of Jesus and Mary according to the Gospels. There is nothing in life that is more profound or meaningful than knowledge of Our Heavenly Father through Jesus and Mary and the Sacred Scriptures.

    Our Holy Mother the Church is a mystical body and the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Live a life in union with God by sharing your gift of faith with all levels of your family and then be generous and extend this gift to your friends and acquaintances. Thank you.

    Your companion in prayer,
    Mary