Have you ever watched a series of events unfold before you and known, instinctively, how the story would end, if it were a fairy tale? True stories don’t follow the writers’ manual for creating a perfect tale. That’s why Hollywood often changes the ending or adds a few extra twists to someone’s true experience.
I have always preferred truth to fiction, and I love sharing true stories, no matter how they end. The wonderful thing about writing a true story is that the plot is set. The events really happened. However, that is also the most difficult thing, because you must tell the truth, passionately, but without embellishment.
Writing 46 true stories for Get a Bigger Wagon and Get an Even Bigger Wagon was good training for me. I had to get into my husband’s brain and travel back with him to his boyhood. Through this process, I realized that our experiences make us who we are, but our personalities lead us to those experiences. My personality would have prevented me from having some of the experiences my husband survived. I would have foreseen the ending, thereby, avoiding the predicament. However, I would also have missed the lesson that such an experience might have offered me.
I would never have embarked upon my current project without the experience I gained writing my husband’s childhood stories. I feel equipped, now, to write the true story of Maysoon and Wajid, a Saskatoon couple that immigrated to Canada in 2002, after a long and arduous journey. You first met Maysoon and Wajid in my February 2015 blog, Love and Entrepreneurism.
Wajid became my hair stylist in 2007. By then he owned his own salon and I noticed, at each visit, that his salon had become a metaphor for his happy ending. I wish I had taken photos each time I visited. Over the years, the shop has come to life with vibrant colour and greenery.
I knew Maysoon and Wajid when they were open seven days a week, twelve hours a day. I celebrated with them when they declared a day off for themselves each week. Now, they enjoy two days a week away from the salon, and have an occasional holiday. They are overflowing with gratitude and happiness and have celebrated every lifestyle improvement along the way.
Maysoon and Wajid have raised four children in the business. I watched their children grow into young adults. They did homework in the back of the salon. Nutrition was important for this busy family, so meals were prepared in a little kitchen that they created, in the back of the shop. One by one, the children took on more responsibility. Each of them took a turn sweeping up hair from the salon floor, and each moved up the task list, from answering the phone and booking appointments, to eventually offering salon services. Work and fun were woven together into their lives.
Just over two years ago, I began interviewing Wajid and Maysoon. I travelled, with them, back to their childhoods in Baghdad. They were children in a changing and dangerous Iraq, and, through our conversations, I have experienced their journey. I have finally found a voice to tell their story. I mirror the rather matter-of-fact way they have related their experiences to me. It has been very difficult to share their story calmly, because sometimes the drama of their experiences makes me want to scream from the page.
When I need to better understand the struggles faced by Maysoon and Wajid, I imagine myself, with my husband, before we were married, in the situations they faced. I hope we would have fared as well in these circumstances. Just as Wajid always found his Maysoon, when they were separated, I am sure my husband would have found me. I, too, would have made a home out of any little space we found, just as Maysoon did. The hardest part for them was the failed escapes. Time and again, they came close to getting to Canada, only to be taken back to Iraq. Disappointments didn’t cause them to lose faith. They believed in their happy ending.
Wajid and Maysoon, and their first three children, made it to Turkey, expecting to be on their way to Canada in a few weeks. Instead, they waited 28 months for Canadian immigration papers, wondering if they would ever have a country to call their home. I think this would have been very difficult for any couple. Anxiety runs through this part of their story but love, faith, and entrepreneurism kept them strong.
Wajid and Maysoon will be glad to share this story with their children and grandchildren. The three children who made the journey with them have little memory of the details. Of course, their fourth child will read this book and understand how fortunate she was to be born in Canada. I am asked often when the book will be finished.
Having missed my first self-imposed deadline, I have decided that this book will be out when I have done it justice. My journey has been 26 months so far, and, in my personal perfect ending, I would complete their story in 28 months, paralleling the time they took for their final escape. I am going to spend the first two weeks of 2016 working diligently toward that goal.
Although life’s little problems still occur for Maysoon and Wajid, as often as for anyone, they will always believe that Canada is everyone’s happy ending.
Here’s to Canada and a wonderful 2016 for all!
And here's to the art of styling hair.
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