Father’s Day 2014: A Father’s Welcome
Welcome to the Family
a welcome-to-the-wedding speech,
a welcome to the family,
and a toast to the newlyweds
by Basel Al-Aswad
upon the occasion of his daughter’s marriage, May 24, 2014
Family and friends, I welcome you all. We have guests and family here tonight from London, Canada, Puerto Rico, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, New York, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Washington DC, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Normal, Illinois. (Did I miss any place?) As well as Chicago and suburbs. I am thrilled and honored to have you all here, celebrating this joyful occasion. Thank you for coming, and I hope you enjoy this evening and have a great time.
Four years ago this month, less than a mile from this place, right here on Columbus Drive, Mandy and I were enjoying an evening walk. She had just come back from a business trip in Boston and she was excited to tell me about this young man she just met and how they got along so well. Even at that time she felt he was ‘ The One.’ As her Dad, I was skeptical about this swift long-distance relationship. Well, she proved me wrong. After hours of texting, talking and visits to Chicago, Thomas finally moved here to Chicago, and the rest is history.
Now I met Thomas, and I could see that he was a smart, successful, and handsome fella. But, like any cautious and protective father, I had a few doubts. First, there was this height differential…I am sure you all noticed by now. Even I had to strain my neck to talk to him, let alone embrace him. Next, he was into cars, technology, computers, his favorite pastime was playing real-time strategy online games. Unlike me, Mr. Low-tech. I enjoy reading & yoga; the most high-tech thing I do is go from book to Kindle.
Thomas is crazy about dogs…specifically Cooper. As for myself….not a pet person, and Mandy is into cats !!! But I was most concerned about his dietary habits..I want you to know I was a full-fledged vegetarian at that time, and the prospect of having a meat-n-potato son-in-law with distaste for any veggies…was alarming. But…I was wrong again. As I got to know him more, as well as his family, especially Brenda, his Mom, all these differences fell by the wayside…(well, not completely.) I discovered a loyal, kind, caring and honest person, with a witty and dry sense of humor, who fit very well into our large Iraqi family. He adopted Chicago and seemed to enjoy all it had to offer—museums, symphony, theater. But, most important, he loved and respected my daughter.
Thomas, I think you know that very recently George Clooney got engaged to a smart, classy, professionally successful and very beautiful woman of Arabic origin. But you just married one. You beat George Clooney! What you didn’t know was that NOW the size of your family will immediately grow a hundred times over. You will become a cousin to more individuals than you ever dreamt was possible. You will hold hands with men and dance in circles.* Thomas without making you feel overwhelmed …we welcome to our big Iraqi tribe. We ALL love you.
Mandy, they say precious gifts come in small packages. You were a bundle of joy as you came into this world on a cold December night, but you were also full of surprises, from the moment you were born. For those who do not know the story, I called my mom in Baghdad to tell her we were going to have a boy based on the amnio test. Well, she didn’t believe me, and she was right. Instead of a Brian we got a Mandy and, boy, am I grateful for that.
Our early years were full of joy and good times. At our home in Oakbrook, school activities, like plays—Alice of Oz, Kitty Cat, ballet, soccer, Lacrosse, graduation. Parties, trips to Europe, Michigan with Mom, Chris, and Susie. I took you to Baghdad when you were five, and you met all my family, many of whom are here today. Your favorite pastime with Christopher was counting pictures of Saddam Hussein ( ha ha). After the first 100 or 200, you gave up.
After the first Gulf War, my parents came here, and I am glad they became part of your life and shared our celebrations. We miss them today.
Your teenage years we can skip. Like most, you were silly, mischievous, and at times rebellious. However, in the 90’s you faced some difficulties as your mother’s illness progressed and you stepped in to help in her care. You finished high school and did relatively well, then onto college at Butler and did even better, but you really excelled, matured, and developed as you entered into the work place,and the real world.
Mandy, I am amazed at your professional success, your organizational talents, your acute sense of responsibility, and your hard work and diligence, but most of all I admire your courage, kindness, and generosity. You are a petite woman with a big heart.
Mandy, we have gone through a lot, with the loss of your mother and more recently of your brother, Chris. Tonight they are both here in spirit, watching over us.
Mandy, you have been the greatest joy in my life and have given me the motivation and inspiration to continue my journey for a while longer. I admire you and respect you and I LOVE YOU. You have chosen well in taking Thomas as a partner in life. I have no specific advice for you both except to be friends as well as lovers.
Please raise your glasses!
Mandy & Thomas: May you both be blessed with a life filled with Joy, Health & Abundance, and at least a couple of offspring.
Wedding report & pix:
*Basel is quoting from Arab American comedian Amer Zahr’s letter to George Clooney. See the full text of the letter at the link below.
Just for fun:
Amer Zahr’s Letter to George Clooney
“Dance Like an Arab” by Amer Zahr on YouTube
What a special night this was for Mandy, Thomas, Basil and all their families. I was so honored to be part of it. There was such joy in the room, and so much love for these two young people beginning their journey together. Through Mandy’s brother, Chris, i have come to know this wonderful family, and treasure our connection together. Blessing to all. Gretta