Halima was making her shopping list when the door bell started ringing wildly like there was a fire somewhere. She dropped the pen and went to the door. Yes, she guessed right! Her fist grader had returned from school. “What’s the matter, son? Is that the proper way to ring the bell? Your baby brother is sleeping. Your grandpa is performing the noon prayer. Do you want to disturb everybody?” she asked, frustrated that all the shopping items had fled her mind.
“Mom, Mom,” her son replied in great excitement as if he had not heard a word of her reproach, “Can you buy me a Change-former? Pleeeease?” he begged with urgency. “A what?” She was all ears now. “A change former is a robot machine. It flies like a plane, it floats like a boat and it goes like a car too. Gabriel has one and it’s so cool!” Halima could tell his fascination by his failure to take a breath.
“Oh, peer pressure and techno-mania,” complained Halima to herself. She took a deep breath knowing her words might throw her son into a fit. “Ahmed, listen dear. They are called transformers and you already have plenty of toys.” “But Mom,…” he tried to object. “No buts,” she insisted. “Now go to your room, change your clothes and sit with Grandpa until I come back from shopping.” “Can I come with you too?” He made one last attempt.
Perhaps he could sway her if only he could show her how cool the Change-formers were. “No,” Halima answered firmly. She knew better than to bring him along just to face a possible tantrum in public. She put on her beige jacket, adjusted her brown scarf in front of the mirror and turned toward him saying, “Now, be a good boy!” She kissed him on his cheek as she hurried to the door avoiding his angry eyes. The door slammed as if to reinforce the rejection. “Thank God,” she took a deep breath, “we didn’t face a storm this time.” The boy disappointedly went to his grandpa’s room.
Ahmed found him sitting in a crisscross position with his hands opened, palms up and his lips in gentle motion. Ahmed was immediately soothed by the serenity of the supplication, although he did not know what his grandpa was asking for. He sat in his lap and put his little pink hands over his grandfather’s large bony ones. He wished his grandpa would pray for his mom to miraculously change her mind and come home with a Changeformer in the shopping bag. Grandpa finished his supplication and rubbed the palms of his hands over his face, and then kissed Ahmed’s hands with great love. Ahmed turned toward his grandpa and poured out his heart, confident that Grandpa could fix any problem whatever it was. Grandpa listened carefully. “Ahmed, my dear, you already have many transformers.” “I do? Where?” he asked anxiously. “Look out of the window,” whispered Grandpa. Ahmed looked hard and in disappointment said, “There’s no transformer out there, just the apple tree.” “Exactly!” exclaimed Grandpa, challenging Ahmed to think harder. “I don’t understand.”
Ahmed was puzzled. “Don’t you remember? That tree in the winter was all naked and looked dead. Two weeks ago it was in full bloom; now it is covered with green leaves. Isn’t that a transformer?” Ahmed smiled at the analogy but he wasn’t ready to surrender. “Trees don’t move,” he replied. “Ok then, bring me the family album.” Ahmed got up and went to the bookshelf wishing he could read Grandpa’s mind. He got the big album and sat back in his Grandpa’s lap. They opened the album together. The first photo was a snapshot of Ahmed as a newborn in the hospital crib. “Who is this?” asked Grandpa, feigning surprise. “That’s me!” exclaimed Ahmed, thinking, “Grandpa looks so funny when he pretends he doesn’t know.”
“No way,” objected Grandpa, “He doesn’t look like you. He is too small. No hair, no teeth. Can’t walk. Can’t talk.” “Grandpa!” Ahmed was really amused. “That’s me as a baby. I grew up and changed a lot in six years.” “You did?! So you are a Change former! Or should I say a transformer?” Ahmed’s eyes brightened with the light of recognition. As he turned the pages of the album one by one, he understood what Grandpa meant. Everyone in the family had changed in those six years. Wow! Every human is a transformer! Yet, something still puzzled him. “Grandpa,” he objected one more time, “Humans can’t fly.” “Bring me that colorful book on the top shelf,” ordered Grandpa. Ahmed stood up swiftly to fetch it, filled with curiosity. “Look at this page. Can you read it?” challenged Grandpa.
“The life cy-cle of a but-ter-fly,” Ahmed read with the typical I–can–read–all–by–myself pride of a first-grader. He looked at the pictures and observed the eggs, the caterpillar, the cocoon and finally the pretty butterfly. He had studied butterflies earlier this year in school, but he had never looked at them this way. His grandpa smiled at him and caressed his head. “You know, Ahmed, every living being is an amazing transformer. In fact, nothing in creation is in perfect rest. But it’s important to see beyond the transformations.” “To see what?” asked Ahmed in excitement. “To see the Ultimate Artist behind every piece of artwork. The Qur’an tells us that God is Al-Musawwir. That’s an Arabic word meaning “the Perfect Giver of forms or colors.” “Al-Mu-saw-wir,” repeated Ahmed as if trying to make a mental note. “Come, let’s take your little brother and go outside,” Grandpa proposed all of a sudden. “I have one more exciting transformer to introduce to you who is fun and cool.” They could tell his seven-month-old baby brother had awakened because of the loud giggle coming from his room. Grandpa lifted the baby out of the crib. Ahmed tickled the baby’s chubby tummy, asking, “How is big brother’s cute transformer?” He received a big toothless smile as a reply. Grandpa dressed the baby and helped Ahmed fasten his shoes. Outside everything spoke of spring and powerful transformation. They started walking toward the lake. “This is the perfect time to hunt for transformers,” commented his grandpa while pushing the stroller. He had put a big jar and a small net in the stroller’s basket. Ahmed was very impatient to meet the mysterious creature. Meanwhile, Halima turned the key and opened the door. She had forgotten to take her purse on her way to the market and needed to come back home in rush hour traffic.
“Well, I will go tomorrow, God willing,” she con soled herself. “Maybe it’s better this way. At least I will have time to finish my shopping list before then.” The house was silent. “Where has everybody gone?” she wondered. “They must have gone for a walk around the lake,” she thought when she saw the stroller was missing. “Good thinking, Father. You are priceless!” Halima started preparing dinner. She was almost done when the doorbell rang again, this time gently. She hurried to open the door.
Ahmed stood there as happy as can be, holding a big jar half full of water with something swimming in it. “Welcome,” she greeted them, smiling at Grandpa with a look that said “Father, you are a gem.”
“What’s this?” she asked Ahmed. “Prepare to meet my transformers,” he said solemnly. Halima bent a little and through the glass she saw two little tadpoles swimming frenziedly. “They look like fish but they are not, and they will turn into frogs in six weeks. Mom, can we please keep them till then?” Halima didn’t want to break his heart a second time so she consented, “Ok, my son, but promise to take good care of them. They have a right to live and we don’t own them.” Ahmed put the jar on the kitchen counter and went to wash his hands. Dinner was ready and Daddy would be home soon. In fact, they could hear his car pulling up in the driveway. Halima set the table. At dinner her husband listened with great interest to his son talk about what he had learned during the day. “Daddy, you know, these creatures are the best, better than any robot. They are perfect and don’t need batteries to work. Besides, Grandpa told me that engineers use living creatures as models when they design robots. God surely is the best of designers. He is Al-….” He paused trying to remember.
“Al Musawwir,” Grandpa jumped in to help. Everyone around the table seemed to enjoy this conversation even more than the delicious food. Two hours later, after she had finished washing the dishes, Halima took the unfinished shopping list out of her bag. She added a couple of items. Ahmed was sitting close by looking at the tadpoles. “Ahmed,” she called.” I am finishing my shopping list. Is there anything you want me to buy for you?” “No, Mom, thanks,” he replied without looking at her.
“Are you sure?” she asked in a reminding tone. He turned his head this time, winked at her and replied, “Maybe I don’t need a transformer after all….”