Monday, November 5, 2012

Where I'm from

I am from here and now. From then and there. I am the product of my past, the meeting point of the present and the window to the future. I am a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a neice, a granddaughter, a wife and a mother, and, an in-law. I am a friend.

I am from Lebanon, the multi-factions country, the country torn by religions and wars. I am from Lebanese food, fresh home-made breakfasts, nutrient-packed lunches and family dinners. I am from avocado milkshakes, freshly squeezed orange juice from a juice cart, and vegetable vendors who push their carts to your building door. 

I am from the smells of freshly baked bread, manakeesh on Sundays, and every days, and kaak on trays on vendors' heads.

I am from Beirut, the Pearl of the Middle East, the City that would not die. From the bombs, the fires, the ashes. From a twice destroyed house, a childhood lost in the war, toys jumbled with metal, glass and concrete lying on the side of the street.

I am from power outages and water shortages. I am from bread lines and green lines. From walking on foot across town for fresh produce, then walking back home.

I am from days without school, without sun light and without song.

I am from Hazmieh. From a two bedroom, four bath apartment on the fourth floor. I am from the apartment building my late grandfather built as a gift to his sons. From the garden he grew underneath. From the hours playing with the neighbors in that garden.

I am from my neighborhood, from the gas station next door, the Iraqi Embassy up the street, the convenience store down the street. From my friend's house five minutes away, the pool at the hotel five minutes further than that, and the supermarket across the highway.

I am from the Apricot and Lemon trees my grandfather planted in his garden. From the apricot jam my grandma spent hours in the sun making. From the hundrends of tabboleh dishes she made with these lemons.

I am from the garden's red, white, and pink roses, from the huge lilies, and the tiny violets. From getting in trouble for picking the roses and breaking off the lilies. I am from the fragrant yasmine tree, the one that made the night that much cooler on a hot summer's day. From making yasmine necklaces and draping them from the car's rear view mirror.

I am from gardenias growing on the balcony and sitting in espresso cups on the bedside tables. From cloves spelling my name on an orange, from the hour it took my grandmother to make it for me, and from the second it took that bomb to shatter it along with all my other belongings.

I am from the shredded Quran that crashed to the ground that same day. The same one I still keep on display, the one that reminds me of my faith, the one that grounds me when in doubt. I am from the voices of the muazzins calling for prayer, at four oclock in the morning and at four other times after that. From the sounds of church bells on Sunday mornings. And, from the two of them residing in close proximity in a small country.

I am from Sundays at Teta's house, Eid lunches of riz bi lahme and laban, and a weekly allowance of lp 5,000 from Jeddo. I am from sharing birthday parties with my two cousins, wearing hand-me-downs from my other two cousins, and from new shoes only from Red Shoes.

I am from scrimping and saving to have a better life. From studying hard and working hard to get to where I am. From paying my way through college and graduate school, and from taking on four jobs to make enough to come to America.

From a working mother and a working father who did their best. And their working fathers and toiling at home mothers who also did their best. From Rana and Hassan, and Ramez and Ibtihaj, and Mahmoud and Inaam. From the Abiads and the Madhouns. From my small family of four and my extended family of many more.

I am from the fortune my grandfather built with hard work and no formal education. From his lands that have since been sold and his business that did not make it much past his passing. I am from his memory. From the day he died and I was not allowed to see him. From the visits I pay to his, and his wife's graves.

I am from the weekly calls I make to my current grandparents. From hearing their prayers for me, their wishes and hopes and dreams. From knowing that one day they, too, shall pass and that I may not be there to wish them farewell.

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