Amira al Sadat does not plan to put up a Christmas tree this year for her two boys because money is tight. Plus, she doesn’t own any decorations.
But there’s little chance the true meaning of the holiday will be lost on her sons because al Sadat is the kind of mom who gave the pair, ages 2 and 4, a Bible to share last Christmas. The kind with big pictures.
It didn’t elicit screams of joy because neither could read at the time. But she reads it to them now, along with other books they bring home from their preschool and kindergarten programs.
Much of what Santa gave the boys last year came from Family Dollar. This year, al Sadat has turned to the Salvation Army for help, signing the boys up for a program that has promised to provide toys to nearly 12,000 kids.
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A quarter of those kids are ages 2 to 4, which also happens to be Santa’s biggest fan base.
Al Sadat, 26, hopes her boys will get educational toys, books and clothes, especially sweaters. The boys are begging Santa for bikes, a basketball and toy cars and trucks.
Such things are currently unaffordable while al Sadat attends job readiness classes at Goodwill, which have lately involved interning at a day care. Once al Sadat has completed the program, her plan is to attend classes at Central Piedmont Community College.
Al Sadat is an example of the broad range of international diversity taking root in Charlotte, which explains her sons’ unusual names: 2-year-old Neddal (her father’s name) and 4-year-old Draegon.
Her mother was born and raised in Charlotte, and her father was an Egyptian man with a German mother. That meant al Sadat grew up listening to relatives speak English, Arabic and German. It’s an upbringing that left her with a love of languages, and a dream to one day be a translator.
Her dad was only 45 when he died of a heart attack, al Sadat says, sending the family into a tailspin. She was 15 at the time and dealt with her grief by quitting high school in the 11th grade. It’s a mistake she’s working hard to rectify. In the meantime, al Sadat and her sons are living with an uncle, who is helping her with finances. Among her many needs is a car.
“The finances, the lack of sleep and being a mom sometimes gets so stressful, I’ll go into another room and cry,” al Sadat says. “I feel like I’m still learning how to be a mom. I don’t want anybody to see me in my weak moments. Not when I have little people looking up to me.”
Al Sadat, who is legally separated from her husband, says she didn’t register in time for the Salvation Army program last year. That’s what led to her last-minute Family Dollar toy spree, which included toy cars, piggy banks, and shoes and socks.
She says the idea of giving the boys a children’s Bible came to her in part because she recently became a Christian. That’s the religion of her mother, who still lives in Charlotte. Her father was Muslim, she says.
“I knew what I gave them wasn’t much, but we were really struggling at the time, and I wanted them to have something,” al Sadat says. “I know it’s not about the presents, but it’s important for me to know they have gifts. When they’re tiny like this, they probably won’t even remember what they got. But I’ll remember.”