A Father’s Wish by Heba El-Sherif
Mouard, like any father, always wanted better for his children. He might not
say it everyday, may routinely yell at them when asking for favors or scare them
into finishing up their chores, but behind the scolding, relentless veneer, he is
warmhearted, watchful and fearful for their future.
Doaa, the eldest of the girls still living under his roof, has long been a second
mother to this big, intricate family. Having been forced out of school, she turned
her attention home. At dawn, she’s the first up, bullying her brothers out of bed
to help Mourad collect garbage. By mid-day, she’s leading the younger girls as
they sort through heaps of sacs piled with garbage, often their new possessions.
Come lunch, she’s the best at chopping the salad and making sure the chicken sits
in a bowl of spices long enough. Among her younger siblings, she’s a dictator, a
title she rarely refutes, but says: “They’re just lazy.”
In the past four months, three different men have asked Doaa’s hand in marriage,
the last of whom is a pharmacist from Helwan, south of Maadi. Mourad will have
to ask around about him and his family before anything is set, he told me. In a
disquieted voice, he said: “Doaa has been burdened for many years in this house.
I want to make sure she marries someone who will not burden her.”
We wish her the best. With everything she is capable of, she’s destined to raise
a happy family.