I miss my sittoo – part one

I was thinking about my sittoo today. My friend’s grandma died and it got me to thinking about Sittoo Wadia. She was an awesome and sweet lady, like a grandma’s supposed to be. She died when I was 19. I felt lucky at the time to have a grandma make it  past my nineteenth birthday. All my other grandparents had passed before I was born.

I wish I knew enough about computers to upload her picture and post it here. Also, I wish I had organized my one gazillion pictures, so I could find one of her to upload. I’ll try to describe her as best I can, but it’s hard. Here goes:

She was tall. Maybe 5′ 10”, maybe shorter, but just seemed tall from when I was a little girl. No, I’m pretty sure she was that tall. She had stringy white and gray hair, mostly white. It was not short or long, kind of in the middle. It was all one length and ended around the bottom of her ear. I guess it would be called a short bob if she had ever styled it. She was very big. Quite large. A big-bosomed woman. She wore house dresses.  Do you know about those? They’re cotton, and they have floral prints and they have front patch pockets, and they’re very comfortable. Middle aged housewives used to wear them around the house, and then change into something “nice” to go out. Old women used to wear them all day long, wherever they went. My sittoo used to wear the stockings that go with garters. But she used elastic bands to hold them up above her knees. And the elastic bands always showed when she sat down. I thought it was hilarious! Her face looked like my dad’s. I don’t ever remember seeing her as a young woman, but I’m thinking she wasn’t a raving beauty. But who knows? She had a big, triangular nose, and thick eyebrows. Typical in the Yacoub family.

She was sweet, sweet, sweet. I don’t know if she was a gentle mother, or quiet wife or whatever, I only knew her as a grandma. To me, she was so sweet. She would kiss me on both cheeks over and over whenever she saw me. And really kind of slobber all over me. I would try to surreptitiously wipe my face when she wasn’t looking. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but it was kinda gross to have my face be all wet like that. But she loved me so much!

She had an apartment in Allentown in the 2nd Ward. She lived on a street with a bunch of other old, Syrian ladies. She could sit on the stoop and visit with them every day, Auntie Audla, Aunt Rashidi, and Sittoo Hasibi were people she’d known for many years. They were all old and lived alone, and they’d hang out every day and shoot the breeze. Well, later on, Sittoo Hasibi was stuck in the house because they had to amputate her legs from the diabetes.

If I went to her apartment to visit her, which I always did when I was in Allentown, I had to be hungry when I went. Because I had to eat. Had to. Luckily, her food was delicious. There was always something I wanted to eat, because she had like six or seven choices available.

First, I’d say hi to Auntie Audla, whose thinning hair, by the way, came down way past her shoulders, and was BRIGHT ORANGE, except for her white roots. Sometimes she’d invite me in and I’d sit on the couch and talk to her for a while. Then she’d offer me a piece of stale candy from the crystal candy dish. I usually picked butterscotch. They’re tasty even when they’re stale. After that I could say goodbye and go on up to my Sittoo’s apartment. It always amazed me that my sittoo could walk up that steep, narrow flight of stairs all the time. I think one time she fell and broke her hip.

Anyway, after all the kisses and surreptitious wiping, Sittoo and I would sit and watch “All My Children,” and although she never spoke a word of English, she pretty much understood it, and so as we watched her show, she would occasionally say, “ach, ya Erica,” because Susan Lucci was always such a trouble maker.

Then she’d bring the food out. Maybe something like sleeq, kibbee, chicken, spinach with onions, lubee, imjadra. And of course, big sheets of Arabic bread (please don’t call it “pita”). And I’d eat. Until she was satisfied that I’d eaten enough.

I miss my sittoo.


About LeilaPiazza

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. I am a also a yoga teacher and freelance writer. I recently described myself in a job pitch as "a person who's lived in Portland, Oregon for over 20 years with a passion for writing and a passion for all things Portland. I'm a foodie, knitter, wine and beer lover, bee-keeper (yep, I said it), mead and fruit-liqueur maker, organic gardener, home-canner, hiker, biker, runner, and occasional skinny-dipper. I’ve camped all over the state, I sail a sailboat that’s moored on the Columbia (o.k., I'm the first mate), and I spend a large percentage of my time at our beach house in Seaside." That about sums it up.
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