Saturday, October 26, 2013

على صفحتي حوار


على صفحتي حوار


أنا البحر، ظمآن أبدا
تسقونني شِعركم
وترقصون
على إيقاع شدو أمواجي
تتوهون
فيأعماق زرقتي 
تسكرون في عشقي
وتتلحفون زبدي

أنا البحر، جائع أبدا
أزيّن باطن أصدافي باللآلئ
وأحتفي بالأصاغر
أعثرَتهم بلادهم
وربطَتهم
بحجر رحى
ودكّت أعناقهم في لجّتي

أنا البحر، معطاء أبدا
للمنتهى
حدودي خيوط الأفق
عساكم تغزلون
قلادة من دمع
لذكرى غريق
وسجين
ومفقود
أمانة في رقابكم

أنا البحر
على صفحة وجهي
يكون الملتقى
حين تهبط النجوم
كل ليلة
تبحث
عمن يطفئ نارها
تهمس
فأسمع الصدى
ويطول الحوار
فالفجر سراب

على دروب اللاعودة
من مات محروقاً
ومن مات مخنوقاً
وأنا
ونحن
نموت أحياءً
فالبلد خراب
ويبقى البحر
مُبحرا أبدا
***

جميع الحقوق محفوظة لمدونة رهاميات
"إهداء لكل من ركبوا البحر بحثا عن الحرية والمستقبل، من وصل منهم ومن سُجن أو مات محاولاً"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

even grief becomes a luxury


as i worked on my BA and teaching diploma during my 5 years in college i used to imagine how things would be when i have my own children. i had a clear image in my mind of me as a mama, which was weird because rarely i pictured myself married!!! it neither meant that i'll have children out of wedlock nor that i'll be a single mother for some reason. it was just that i loved kids so much, much more than i loved romanticizing about having a love story and a perfect marriage. sitting in class i used to daydream, i had high hopes for my 5 children and certain parenting styles and psychology schools appealed to me more than others so i started adopting one "mama tool" after the other...

i had no guarantees what so ever that one day i'll meet a man, we'll be compatible, we'll fall in love, we'll get married, we'll have children (a boy then a girl to be exact, later on i added 3 more children). i didn't have a picture of our perfect family on my fridge as some people suggest one should do to attract positive energy from the universe to grant me my wish. i was more of a rational person who only unleashed my emotions after a full security scan of the situation because once my emotions kick in then things would start to get intense and out of control, and OMG how addicted i was to being in control.

just like any dream come true, mine was actualized many years later, almost exactly as i imagined it to be, yet there were a few shocking details in between the lines of this story. starting with my distant relationship with my love, a cross cultural one with my fiancee, moving to another country with my husband, and a lot more "surprises" with my children's father (by the way i'm talking about the same man, 4 in 1). one of these surprises was discovered recently when i realized that i've never thoroughly studied or thought about grief and motherhood, and how much a mother is allowed to grieve in terms of depth and duration while she's still nursing or looking after two children under the age of 5.

having kids like my P&Y makes it extremely difficult for me to grieve. on one hand i can't allow myself to open that door for fear of getting drifted away by sadness leaving my kids with nobody to look after them and provide them with their daily and sometimes hourly dose of fun and joy. on the other hand it's THEM who don't allow me to shed a tear: "mama smile, why are your crying?" my son says as he sticks his face right in front of my nose with a smile so big and authentic (sometimes he fakes it) ordering my tears never to dare stepping outside the boundaries of my eyelids.

but a mother in pain NEEDS to grieve, when i know that my country will never ever be the same spot of beauty on earth since war and evil took residence there, i need to grieve. when i'm at church and a worship song touches this specific wound forever open, i need to grieve. when i see mothers with kids like mine die in accidents or get killed in war, i need to grieve (on my kids' behalf), when pictures of little angels are all over facebook with the three awful letters R.I.P, i need to grieve.... every story i hear, every picture i see, every prayer i say makes me in need for grief. but i've never imagined that sometimes in mamaland grief can turn into a forbidden luxury that i crave, yet i'm not allowed access into that "steam room", i keep longing to get in, allow my hot tears to wash away my pain, shower me with cleansing falls so i can see my sadness disappear into the drains, to once again taste the cold wet deep breath i take after crying my eyes out, to be relieved of the brick stone lying on my chest, just for a short while until the weight starts accumulating once again...

God created our bodies in a way that enables it to dispose toxins through liquids like urine and sweat. one can't stop this process without getting seriously ill. God also created tears for the soul to get rid of emotional toxins, so if this stops then don't expect a result any different than serious illness. losing this specific kind of H2O mixed with a few other chemicals is essential for survival, our need for it varies from time to time but when this need is pressing and urgent, then denying myself of all forms of release is excruciatingly painful.

as long as my kids are with me, grief is a luxury. i hear about mothers hiring babysitters when they have a date night with their husbands, or an outing with girlfriends, or maybe she's going to her yoga class or therapy session, but i might be the first mother ever to hire a babysitter because: i have an appointment with grief for two hours, don't call me, i'll be right "back" when i'm done sobbing...

photo cutline: clouds can hide the sun as well as the moon, but when wind blows these clouds away we can see the moon so clearly, then the moonlight will keep us company during our short or long night as we wait for the sun to rise... and it definitely will...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

the magnitude of sharing


my morning didn't actually start on a happy note as i had anticipated and hoped for. it's easy to blame my kids or my hormones or the war in Syria or anything else for the anger outburst i've had at 10 am. instead, i decided to take full responsibility for this unpleasant reaction of mine, for the words i said to my son, for the volume of my voice, for the look on my face when i talked to my daughter.... from A to Z it was my responsibility to have or not have such a response for what my kids did, regardless of what it was that they did, i'm the adult and i have to be fully in charge of my reactions.

as i walked away, i stepped into another room to reduce my anger, i had an epiphany. i needed help, i needed a word of advise or inspiration, particularly from another woman, a woman who can understand what i'm going through and can identify with the struggles i face every single hour of every single day, i didn't need anybody to point out my mistakes or the downs of my parenting style, i'm pretty good at that, quite an expert at beating myself up for doing it wrong, messing up for the zillionth time.... instead i needed somebody who is a bit "older and wiser" but "kinder" at the same time to assure me that it happens, and i just should't dwell on my mistakes, that i should forgive myself and practice doing things differently the next time. my epiphany made me realized for the first time how important sharing can be, the magnitude of sharing, specially when we share words (encouraging and inspiring), ideas (creative and enlightening), struggles (tough and empowering), stories (delightful and enchanting), feelings (deep and real), experiences (diverse and enriching), thoughts (nurturing and reflective), dreams (exciting and energizing).

in my post seasons on facebook i talked about sharing, but the one in my epiphany is a completely different kind of sharing. it's more like what Anna talked about in her latest post, when someone goes through a life changing experience and then shares the deepest of her feelings and thoughts with other women as a way to reach out to them and help them with their own struggles, or when someone speaks about a happy moment or a dream come true in her life so others can share her deepest joys

when i realized the magnitude of sharing i fell in love, once again, with my blog, with this space which has helped me reflect on my life and put things into perspective as well as talk about my joys, hopes, and dreams, all in the frame of "sharing". i do go through phases of doubt and fear regarding my blog but i sort of feel obliged to keep it, keep going, keep writing, keep sharing because i strongly believe that it might help somebody, a woman out there who needs my real and honest words and my sharing. just like i'm always touched by what Glennon shares on her blog i hope that my words would offer a hand, stretched out, to help somebody else. i feel that sharing for me can be at times some sort of payback, an expression of appreciation to what God has done and is doing in my life.

a few days ago, i received an extra dose of encouragement through Brene Brown's words on vulnerability and sharing (specially with a larger audience through blogs, books and public speaking) in her book "Daring Greatly" when she wrote: "We're all grateful for people who write and speak in ways that help us remember that we're not alone."

i'm not alone and neither you are.... let the sharing continue...

photo cutline: when i think of the word epiphany the first image that comes to my mind is a light bulb (right above someone's head) that's why i chose this photo i took yesterday of the almost full moon from our window, i'm pretty proud of the result, as i'm taking baby steps in photography

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

فوق سطوح الأيام


فوق سطوح الأيام

نامت الغيمة تحتي
فسمعتُ بياضها
يغنّي لي
لحن الحب بصمت

منذ متى
صار لدمي طعم السكر في العروق؟
منذ متى
تنبعث من أنفاسي رائحة المطر
وتتناثر أفكاري
لتفرش المساء ريشاً
وتعتلي صدر الأفق؟

كنتُ قبلاً أخاف
من مرايا الحب
وثنايا الكلمات
والفتات الساقط من مائدة العشق
فجاءني سحرُ صوتِهِ
تعويذةً
جثا أمامها ذكور الجهات الأربع
و رفرف الحب
فوق سطوح الأيام


دمشق
أكتوبر 15/ 2005

قصيدة كتبتها لحبيبي منذ 8 سنوات نشرتها لي جريدة النهار اللبنانية في باب "نهار الشباب" سنة 2005
جميع الحقوق محفوظة لمدونة رهاميات

this is a poem i wrote in Arabic for my LOVE who is now my husband too, photo cutline: 8 years later, this was the sky and sunshine from our apartment window, i chose it so our two children would be included in this post, they are our true sunshine

Monday, October 14, 2013

seasons on facebook


when i started "facebooking" 6 years ago in Spring, i didn't know what to expect from this new form of social media. it was during the Spring of 2007 that i started blogging too (blogging became a verb but facebooking is underlined in red!!), but i had a clearer idea of what i want and expect from my blog than what i want and expect from my facebook account. at the beginning it was an enjoyable new experience for me, it reminded me of the German language course i took out of curiosity. German sounds like English but it's not English so why not take a beginners course and get to know this language better... why not start a facebook account and get to know this site/fashion better...

over the years i could notice a change of seasons on facebook. these seasons didn't necessarily follow a repetitive pattern, but they were clear and interesting enough for me to observe and check how much i'm effected by this change, and since fb is dependent on real people behind these millions of accounts it is to a certain extent under their control (in addition to the hard work of developers who focus on improving and changing the site). i kept asking myself: am i a follower or a pioneer in terms of new trends that appear on fb? does the general mood of friends on my list affect mine? do i get carried away or am i always the master behind what i do with/on my account?

at the beginning i've noticed that the majority of users (or at least those i knew in real life) were in their twenties, late teens, and early thirties, then other age groups joined, younger people who added fake birth years and older people whose children encouraged them to create fb accounts, we shouldn't ignore cautious or curious parents who were indirectly forced to join so that they can either relate to their children or check on them, so numbers of users grew as fast as light-speed.

i can only speak about my own account which currently has around 600 friends (or followers) and that's where i got my observations from. it's worth mentioning that for me the rule is to only add people whom i know in real life (an exception can be a dear friend of a friend, or a close relative of a friend, and they are only a handful). i tried a couple of games at the beginning then i discovered that it was such a waste of time (and eye site for somebody like me) so i quit. soon, fb for me meant "communication" mainly with people i don't see in real life (and that included absolutely everybody during our first year of marriage when i moved to a country where i know practically no body). i would use photos and words, that was it. which in itself is quite wide since it includes adding albums, commenting on friends' photos, writing status updates, replying to comments, and of course sending inbox messages which can be quicker and easier than "traditional" e-mails. 

recently, i've started to seriously think about how facebook has its own seasons and how they change, this change is caused by fb people and also affects these very same fb people (i mean users, but the word people sounds more human to my ear). fb's GOLDEN AGE was over soon enough and this introduction phase lead to the first season change. what i've noticed was that people started to get bored, they started to add less and less albums, write fewer comments and change their statuses less often. this season of STAGNATION would sure witness a revival every once in a while when somebody got married, or had a new baby or graduated or went through a similar life-changing experience thus wanted to share the happy news through words or/and pictures. 

i would hear people, in real life, talk about how boring fb has become and that they no longer open it. some of them used to say that and i would discover that they're following every single activity i do on my account so i started calling them "facebook spies" they claim that they almost never open their fb account, which wasn't true, they used to say that only to go with the flow and to sound "cool" enough, since cool is now re-defined by not having time for fb (the exact opposite to the definition that existed only a couple of months earlier). 

the second season change came with what is called the Arab Spring (i'm not using this term because i strongly believe in it, but i understand it as a mark for a new era), when some of my fb friends suddenly turned into political advocates, with strong opinions about what's going on, their timeline (it was called a "wall" back then) was filled with youtube videos, shared statuses from certain pages of people who are "pro" or "anti" certain groups or personnel, the vast majority got involved in discussions and debates about politics and religion, many started to lose a number of people on their friends' lists, and things got out of control on an individual level and a larger scale. the main feature of the season of HOSTILITY was some kind of war, a facebook one, weapons included cursing, negative language, harsh criticism, stereotyping, prejudice, judgement, subjective opinions... etc. in addition to videos of very graphic content but i was able to avoid those, the things i couldn't avoid were photos that kept me dizzy for a while and are now plastered to my memory, posted on the timeline of friends i used to consider as sensitive and considerate who added these photos without a warning, it was like a trap for me...

during this season, those friends who once were "sensitive" or "polite" showed a whole different side of their personality and i was shocked, at other times i was hurt because some verbal aggression targeted me because i identify with certain groups and categories that were insulted... some people thought that by hiding behind a computer screen or a mobile devise they then can say whatever they want in whichever way they see fit. this hostile environment on fb was repulsive, people took their frustration, aggression, and oppression out on each other thinking that what are clearly their childish opinions are instead worth fighting for even if the price meant losing real life friends in the process of defense or attack.

the third season arrived with the fading of revolutions' initial appeal and momentum, because what started as peaceful demonstrations turned into armed conflict, real war in real life lasted for one year after another so many of my friends were pulled down by despair which swallowed them like quick sand. during this season of GLOOMINESS they no longer had the energy to hope for or say anything, neither positive nor negative, and for a while i joined this current, i started to hate fb and the bad effect it had on me, what used to be a haven for me, a place where i can connect with people, now have become a place of torture, ugliness, and so much disconnection. at that time i saw no use even in prayer, so if fb is now a platform to talk about war and only war then it's a bout time i took a break. this break didn't last too long for me because i missed the fb account i once had, that little space through which i could stay in touch with dear ones who are so far away, .

the fourth season was one that only a few people experienced, and i knew i wasn't alone when i started to develop a new kind of fear when this season of PHOBIA began. whenever i saw a photo of a nice looking young man, smiling, i would hold my breath for a split second to check if he's dead and how he was killed... no photo of a happy family where all members were smiling meant that this family is happy any more, who is the missing member? how many were killed? the same was true for photos of little babies, group pictures of university students, and even pets portraits. but the truth was that the majority of these photos were really happy ones, yet my mind could no longer relax and detect happiness. when things were really bad, like a suicide bombing, an explosion, or chemical weapon attack, i would go through lists of names to check if there's somebody i know who was killed or injured in that tragedy, lists grew longer and sadder and by time i developed a mental illusion when i would recognize a name only to find out a minute later that i actually do not know that person. is there such a thing as "reversed wishful thinking"? when you're too scared to discover something so your mind decides to lie to you because the agony of that hated reality is less painful than the fear and anticipation of it so you hear a voice in your head saying: "here it is, stop worrying, start the grief process" and we all know that the first stage of grief is denial. but that "reality" was never real in the first place.

so in the Fall of 2013 i've noticed that many people are trying to lead a normal fb life/account once again, but some seasons leave their marks on us when we survives them, i strongly believe that things will ever be the same on fb, yet we try to adapt, do some fb seasonal cleanup, get rid of what's now considered as trash and keep the good stuff, try to maintain a positive attitude and watch out for bad language, try to be kind and nice to other people and be a spreader of good stuff through each of our fb accounts.
still it seems to me that there's a number of people who intentionally or unintentionally decided to extend the season of HOSTILITY, to dwell in it and turn it into a lifestyle, a "facebookstyle", that's why this saying keeps coming to mind: "tell me who your friends are and i will tell you who you are" but i re-phrased it in a Rihamic twist that applies to facebook now "tell me what you share and say on your facebook account and i will tell you who you are"...

photo cutline: putting this picture together took almost as long as writing this blog post itself, but i'm pretty proud of the result

Thursday, October 10, 2013

وشم


من يعرفني حق المعرفة، مع أنني لست أعرفني مؤخراً، يدرك موقفي من القرارات التي لا رجعة فيها، فأنا إنسانة ملولة بطبعي أحب التغيير الدائم في محيطي الذي أعيش فيه حتى وإن كنت لست من هواة تغيير شكلي أو لون شعري أو شنطة اليد التي أحملها قبل أن تتلف وتغيرني هي، إلا أنني أفكر ملياً قبل اتخاذ قرار بـ"جواب نهائي" خشية أن أملّه سريعاً فأندم أو أن يتسلل السأم تدريجياً إلى عظامي بعد مدة وإن كانت طويلة فأشعر بأنني حبيسة ذلك القرار القديم البالي والخالي من احتمالات المسح أو التعديل على خلاف الخيارات الكمبيوترية من "ديليت" أو "أندو" أو "باك سبيس" أو "إيريس" ... الخ

أعيش أيامي في حالة خلق مستمر لكسر غمامة الملل، كلما استشعرتها أغير في ديكور منزلي، أجرب وصفة جديدة في مطبخي، أخترع لعبة مختلفة لأولادي.
لايمكنني أن أدعي أن إدماني للتغيير لم يؤثر في شخصي ولم يغيرني أنا حتى وإن لم يطل إطلالتي الخارجية بشكل ملحوظ لكنه حتماً قد طال هويتي وطباعي ومنظوري للحياة.

هذا الصباح، وبينما كنت أشاهد أغنية مميزة في إبداعها الأدبي والموسيقي والإخراجي معتصَرة من واقع الألم السوري، ارتأى المخرج أن ينهي الخاتمة بخارطة سوريا، وإذ بي أفاجئني في غفلة مني برغبتي في وشم، وليس أي وشم بل وشم خريطة سوريا!!

كان اندهاشي برغبتي المفاجأة تلك في الحصول على وشم يفوقه اندهاشي بخياري لشكل الوشم نفسه...
تغير الحروب خارطة البلدان وطبيعة الشوارع ومعدن الناس ولكنني لم أكن أعي أن الحرب في سوريا قد غيرتني على هذه الشاكلة وإلى هذا الحد، أن أتوق لوطني مستخدمة مفردات غريبة عني، لو طُلب مني أن أحمل بلدي معي لكنت اخترت طوق الياسمين أو إسم "شام" لابنتي أو الموزاييك الدمشقي في منزلي لما في تلك الدلالات من رقة وعذوبة وجمال بخلاف علامة على الجلد أشبه بالندبة منها إلى الفن أو الجمال وشكلها سياسي أكثر من كونه إنسانياً حميمياً. ألعلني قد يئست من أن يفتقد السلام وطني إلى درجة أنني اخترت ندبة كي أندبه؟ أم أن خارطته شُوِّهَت فتوهمتُ أني سأخلّدها بجعلها جزءا من خارطة جلدي؟

تحضرني وجوه عجائز سوريات من قرى عدة بنقوش "مدقوقة" على ذقونهن، تطل كالضباب الملون تارة والقديم كصور الأبيض والأسود تارة أخرى، تطمئنني ابتساماتهن فأرى وجه جدتي لأبي بين خليط نساء تلك القرى المترامية من ساحل سوريا إلى صحرائها، فأسأل جدتي "حفيظة" بلهجتي الشامية محاولة تقليد أهل القلمون: "ستي أم عوض، شايفي إشو صار فيني (أترين ما حل بنا)؟" فتتلاشى صورتها هاربة وينهرني ضميري: "لا تزعجي الموتى فهم لا علم لهم بالجهنم التي أمستها سوريانا" وأسأل نفسي: هل سننسى نحن بدورنا ونرتاح من وجع الحرب عندما ترقد أجسادنا، سواء كانت مزدانة بالوشم أو مغطاة بجلد سوري "سادة" أو مغطسة بالفستق الحلبي والسمسمية الحمصية؟

جميع الحقوق محفوظة لمدونة رهاميات

Thursday, October 3, 2013

a mother's blog post on her son's 1st day of school


so THIS is how it really feels like on your son's 1st day of school... actually there wasn't much drama this morning because i had a strong enough dose yesterday...

we get to have two first days of school, yesterday and today, the very first one was more like an orientation day for parents and students, to get familiar with the school and the class teachers, to get done with photos and photos and some more photos, to get to meet other parents even if we haven't had a real conversation with any couple in particular.

i started the day happy and excited, helped my son put on his clean and ironed new uniform, there was no drama when i helped him get dressed because i was already picturing how cute he'll look in the pictures i'll take of him throughout the short school day. Our car was broken and spent the night at the mechanics so we took a taxi. i was glad that my husband wanted to come with us without even me having to ask him, he was as excited and it really meant a lot for our boy.

some photos at home, one in the taxi, a few at the school's front gate, more in the playground, then the meeting started in the auditorium, oh and why not take a photo of the school principal and the head of the Kinder Garten department as they addressed us... then something happened, i was taken off guard, i started to choke and tears welled up in my eyes... "my son is starting his academic journey today"... "what did i do to deserve this much joy and content"... "how bitter mothers just like me must feel because they crave the honor of sending their sons to school"... "if i were in Syria..." then i realized that things might get a bit messy and out of control and i needed an emergency plan to put in immediate action... "SHUT UP and STOP THINKING"... no these weren't the principal's words but my own while he was still speaking.... then the KG head of department started talking and none of her words were supposed to trigger this much tears, fears and hopes... it turned out that all of these strong emotions were hibernating in my head and heart, latent, waiting for a day such as this to wake up and attack me when my defenses were down and the only thing i held was a camera.

so today i've decided to capture here what the camera couldn't capture yesterday at school. school shootings are not familiar in the MENA region, maybe school bombing or shelling can make the headlines, or a number of different other disasters that happen in schools, but mothers in the MENA region pray for their kids' safety at school just as hard if not more than mothers around the world. it was yesterday that i knew deep down in my heart how precious "a mother's prayer on her child's first day of school" is... not just the first day, but every single day as she entrusts her jewel to teachers, administrators, workers, other than HER, it doesn't matter how much she knows or doesn't know them, it's not about trust and optimism, it's nothing personal against any specific person, it's just that this precious child is not any more in the safety of the comfort zone land marked by her arms... this is a dangerous enough territory in a mama's map for her children... you go to extremes during the long process of selecting a school to your children then you're too afraid to send them there!!!!

today is the actual 1st day of school for my son as he is now at school, all by himself, on his own, can i stress it enough that i'm not with him? and i can't stop praying for him and wondering.... are  you having a good time? did you meet new friends? what did you do when you needed to go to the toilet? are you enjoying the food i put in your lunch box? are you having fun in the playground? how do you feel about being with older kids in the same place? did you like your teachers? and a zillion other questions ....
i wish i could see him, like on a screen with a live-broadcast from inside his classroom, Class B, like reality T.V... i wish i could visit him, just for a while, to give him a hug in his now dusty uniform and give him a kiss on his now sweaty face, to hand him his water bottle and remind him to drink because the sun is too heavy... he's a big boy and for years i've taught him how to be independent, but now i feel as if he shrank again as he looks too little to do this on his own.


this morning i took a few minutes to talk to him about being kind, enjoying his first day, i asked him to learn as many new names of his classmates as possible, if he sees a boy crying to go give him a pat on the back and tell him "not to be afraid" as if i'm saying these very same words to my boy himself or maybe saying them to my son's mother!!! i also gave him a name tag that i made to replace the one we received yesterday with his name misspelled hoping that the teacher will remember to correct his school name tag and give it to him today, i know he knows his name very well but i didn't want him to go without this identification card pinned to his uniform shirt, i could've just ignored the misspelling yesterday and received the school name tag as it is but i wanted everything to be just perfect, fix the collar of his shirt, wipe his new black shoes till it shines brighter than his teeth, do anything to defuse the tension and convince myself that i'm in control, and nothing can go wrong as long as i'm capable of doing this or that, while the truth is that i'm only this much capable of protecting my son, so it's about time i gave up and handed him to the safety of the God who made him in the first place, who honored us to be his parents, and who is ALMIGHTY...

حبيبي إنت... i love you so much my big boy, my little munchkin, i pray that you'll have a safe and enjoyable day today and throughout this school year... wish you many many great school years to come...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

living and remembering


today, 3 years ago, my maternal grandmother went to heaven... i was shocked when i did the math, only 3 years have passed since 1 October 2010, it feels like forever, years passed heavy and slow... whenever i talk about my grandmother Teta Badi'a i know that only people who were blessed with an extraordinary grandmother can relate... only a handful of people can understand that she's not just another grandmother who got old and sick then died... she's a legend, a second mother to me, and definitely a role model to many who knew her throughout her long and rich life...

my mother was a full time math teacher when her 4th child arrived, so it was natural and expected that my grandmother would look after me while my mom and 3 older siblings were at school, so i had the privilege of spending 5 years with my teta... the first 5 years of my life, which i later learned in my psychology and education classes that they are the most essential 5 years in one's life...

here is me, with teta, playing with my pet chick on the bench of her front yard... in the black and white photo i was almost 4 (i don't know why i don't have my glasses on, i was 2 when i started wearing them) with teta on the bed of the small room in the front yard... in 2005 i celebrated my 26th birthday with her, a year later she attended my wedding and in 2009 i couldn't believe that my dream would come true, she saw my son, held him and prayed for him... in the summer of 2010 i saw her for the last time when my son was exactly 1 year old, we flew to visit and he took his first steps right there in that living room and teta saw him, the photo shows him on top of the stairs leading to the front gate and the very same bench is down there behind him, but i didn't get him a chick to repeat his mom's photo taken 30 years ago...

on 26 September 2010, just five days before teta's departure, i wrote her a letter and e-mailed it to my mom (overseas) to print it out and read it to teta... i didn't want any words to stay unsaid, i didn't want regrets, i wasn't sure i'll be able to fly there and attend her funeral when her last day on earth arrives, but what's the use, she won't be able to hear what i have to say, (still i couldn't make it to her funeral)... my mom told me that when she read the letter, teta cried a bit and laughed a bit...

random images and stories came to my mind as i was writing that letter, i reminded  her of things she told me, things we did together... i reminded her of stories she shared with me from her childhood, a poor girl in a village who used to dig her feet inside ashes of the fire place to keep them warm, stories of when she left her country and went to Lebanon to study theology for two years while teenage girls her age had different preferences in life, she told me about the things she learned from missionaries when she spoke English and French fluently...

i wish i could remember details of what she shared with me many many years ago, but i'm grateful for whatever little bits and pieces i still remember, like the love story between her and my grandfather, jeddo Mtanos, who was only 2 years older than her, a graduate of the same theological seminary in the thirties of the 20th century... and what a great pastor's wife she was accompanying my grandfather on his travels for many years all over the country... giving birth to 7 children in 7 different villages and cities...

30 years later they settled in this warm big house in the capital where 19 grandchildren learned what a grandparents' house is, what unconditional love is, and there, we've accumulated one layer of memories after the other, the happiest memories of our lives... our Family House had the unique fragrance of orange peals burning by the fireplace in winter and the aroma of freshly cleaned front yard in the summer, a post-rain like smell...

i still remember her half automatic washing machine in the backyard which we could reach through the kitchen's second door, i used to stand stretching my hands so high to catch the laundry pieces which teta used to squeeze in between the two rotating cylinders, my job was to make sure they drop inside the laundry basket so teta can later on hang them on the laundry line as i hand her one peg after the other... the washing machine grew shorter over the years then got replaced by a full automatic one... 

my school was a three-minutes-walk from teta's house, i used to go see my grandparents daily after school with my sister then my mom would join us for the fifteen minute walk home, most evenings the outing was a visit to jeddo and teta's house, again, as if we actually lived there and only went home on occasional visits over night...

it was a tradition to celebrate our birthdays in the Family House, the cake was home made by teta, the icing was a layer of homemade jam with a big plain white candle in the middle, no one objected or expected a different sequence of events during the party celebration, first we sing Happy Birthday, then the hymn we all know by heart "Lord, a year has passed", then comes jeddo's prayer for the birthday person (a child or a grandchild)... teta took that role when jeddo went to meet the Lord, also in October but 6 years before her...

teta took me with her on "trips", the ones to the marketplace were my favorite, i got to pull behind me her empty shopping trolley on the way there (one that most elderly owned and took with them for easier grocery shopping) i remember feeling so proud of how strong i was, but she did that job when the trolley got full on the way back as i held teta's free hand. as for trips to church, my grandfather would walk ahead of us with his steady big steps, long and handsome in his neat suit with sermon papers tucked inside his jacket's upper pocket... us two used to walk slower and arrive there hand in hand, a few minutes later...

she was the first family member with whom i shared my love story and engagement plans, then several dreams of mine came true till the day my son, named after her youngest, met teta... my son has the name of my favorite uncle, when she held him she prayed that this little boy would continue the ministry of his parents and grandparents... i can still remember how she clapped with joy a year later when he walked for the first time, right there at her house...

what a unique and amazing woman she was as a girl, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, a friend, a companion, a teacher, a role model... she showered us all with love, gifts, hand made wool blankets and pullovers... her name Badi'a means "exquisite" and "marvelous"... she's Teta Badi'a, teta the exquisite... my marvelous grandmother...

i learned a line people exchange during funerals in Egypt: "may you live and remember"... i'll live remembering who you were and still are to me, i'll tell my children and hopefully my grandchildren of a living blessing i've had and will always carry with me as i live and remember...

love you tons and miss you more dear teta...