The wedding bouquet

Sheets of rain obliterated the Atlanta roadways yesterday as Dawami and I headed out to run down another job prospect. She had heard from a friend that the local Marshalls clothing distribution center hired new workers every Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Sheets of rain obliterated the Atlanta roadways yesterday as Dawami and I headed out to run down another job prospect. She had heard from a friend that the local Marshalls clothing distribution center hired new workers every Tuesday at 8 a.m. So in the 7 o'clock gray, we started off.

Traffic moved slowly in the rain. As we drove, we chatted. We were alone outside her home for the first time, and felt the difference. Dawami talked about her excitement for her friend Minnick Lenge, whose third child is due any minute. She didn't know what names Minnick and her husband Felix Mulamba are considering, or the sex of the baby. The parents don't have a preference, Dawami said: "Any baby. Too much year pray, pray. Any baby He give good."

She also pumped me for details of my wedding, taking place out of town this weekend. "How you feel for marriage?" she asked, and we talked about that, and about how she felt before marrying Hassan. "You need buy white dress?" she asked. I said I had. "Why you no call me?" she scolded, "I help!" Several times, she made me promise to bring back photos.

The sprawling Marshalls parking lot was packed with cars. We huddled under her umbrella on the trek to the door, but it hardly helped. Inside, the receptionist was friendly, but told Dawami to come back next Tuesday; the company had decided not to hire this week, but still had spots. "See you next week!" she called, as we started back into the rain.

On the drive home, the windows steamed. Dawami shelved her disappointment, and turned her attention to other things. "I want buy you flower for marriage," she said. I thanked her, but begged off. She insisted. And on balance, it seemed worse to refuse.

So we drove to the grocery store. In the flower section, Dawami opened her arms. "What you like?" she said magnanimously. Worried about her food budget, I steered us toward the three-for-$10 bouquets, and picked out a pretty one. Dawami turned up her nose. She wanted something grand. After assessing all the roses ($30 a dozen), the arrangements in glass vases ($25), and a giant mixed bouquet Dawami loved ($20), we compromised on three bundles of white, pink, and yellow chrysanthemums.

After four months with her family, I have some idea what that $10.71 cost her. As I walked through the airport this morning I cradled those mums like something precious.

Note: I'll be away for the next two weeks, returning September 15. Meantime, the stories of Bill, his family, and ICS will continue to unfold on this blog with the help of Monitor correspondent Lee Lawrence, and guest bloggers from the greater ICS community.

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