Fasting, Faith and Cantaloupe

My dad has a (don’t let him hear you say it) small Ford pickup truck.  Despite his affectionate name, “the Big Rig,” his Ford Ranger just couldn’t handle the big leagues. It’s used primarily for carrying salt bags in winter, and it sighs under the weight of mulch in the summer.  It was this faithful little truck that showed up halfway around the world yesterday, as comforting and hardworking as always!

Here’s the scene: I’m sitting in the back seat of this tiny, American-made pickup truck, sandwiched between two hijab-wearing women, driven by a man with a scarf wrapped around his head. I’m with a good friend and her aunt and uncle, driving to pick cantaloupe from a neighbor’s field. It’s an hour ’til sun down and during Ramadan this means my friends have abstained from food and water all day. We’re bumping across this field (the Big Rig doesn’t need roads) and the 180 year-old woman next to me sighs, “Yah Allah” with every jolt. 

After twenty minutes of ambling around this huge plot of land, we finally arrive at the place where we can pick. Cantaloupe picking is hard. Every single part of the plant has sticker-y things to keep you away. My attention is divided between defending myself against these thorns and keeping my balance–Iraqi soil is both loose and dry, and each step crumbles beneath me. My Steve Madden flats could not be more out of place. 

A fresh cantaloupe is split open to share, to break the Ramadan fast.

The sun sets and it’s time to break the fast. We break open a cantaloupe and pass pieces around as her uncle kneels to pray before his God—the simplest and most beautiful celebration of gratitude toward the Most High. With a truck bed full of fruit, we pile in and turn back toward home. I don’t know if it was the prayer, the shared meal or the father who had to make four U-turns before navigating his way out of this field, but today truly felt like “home.”