I don ‘t remember the Cuban missle crisis first-hand. I don’t remember the Cold War. I remember my classmate bringing a gas mask to his kindergarten class because Donald Rumsfeld of CNN fame dropped depleted uranium all over the Iranian water supply in order to generate more readily acceptable as real test footage for the indoctrination of native people and immigrant cultures. And I’m not even Iranian. The skies were grainy, yellow, and glittering. Mirages on every curve of the road. The ocean water: thick, cerulean and silver, syrupy, and opalescent with yellow, glistening webs of light shimmering across the surface as the sun fell below the haze of dense, doughy clouds far across the horizon. I miss the wondrous striations of colorful clouds, the pinks and oranges and yellows and cyans and grays and blues.
I miss riding in the car with my dad and his wireless walkie as he visited one gas station clerk after another, offering free refrigerators in exchange for beverage exclusivity. I miss the weekly, Friday get-togethers with company and family, and the swimming, cycling, and squash competitions.
I miss the strict British instructors, the strict Arabic teachers, the mixed-language cartoons, the Indian Betamax pirate video stores, the arts and crafts classes, the Chinese cashew chicken restaurants, the omnipresent Chicken Tikkas, the brilliant scientists whom I called uncles, with their toys and physical novelties, the smiling Japanese neighbors in our compound, and the unsmiling American ones.
I miss the wooden ship cruise, the laborers shaking the date palm trees dotting the island to collect sugary treats, the roundabouts, the slums, the toy stores, the silent piercing of intense eyes framed behind the veil of the abaaya, and the smiling intensity framed by the hijab.
I miss the animal instinct and terror of looking upon my sister’s face, I miss the fall to pieces joy and babbling emotion of seeing my father returning home to make me solid and at peace, I miss the beautiful marbles that reflected and bent light so mystically, and Legos that could be arranged into a house or a car or a person that always looked like a duck, the puzzles built from cardboard from thousands of pieces, and board games we played together.
I miss the piles of sheets and blankets arranged into a nest on my mattress, where I would curl up at night in anguish, the forts made with chairs and blankets to greet my father, the sirens and thunder wailing at night, the call to prayer in the morning, and the hysterically afraid news anchors on the television with pleading, terrified eyes calling out from beneath the high pitched whine of the television screen. I remember being able to hear the sound and fuzzy tickles on my earlobe when I placed it against the glass, even when there was nothing playing on the glass screen.
I remember my quiet mother drinking nescafe from a tray and the bite of soggy marmalade jam on brown toast that always brought me running and set me at ease after. I remember the steamy soft boiled egg I ate as she helped me write my name from right to left before my first day of class. The letters curved along the paper in a semicircle, and the dots, were scribbles.
I remember my father’s special sauce nachos, made with catsup, mayo, powdered milk, and pale yellow cheese, all melted together in a saucepan on a gas stove, never seeming to combine evenly together and never really needing to, as they reminded me of the sunsets I loved so much.
I remember the grey, mucky beach at dusk, covered in glistening shell fragments and the boggling arrays of multicolored clams burrowing and living just inches underneath the surface of the shore, pushing out their stomachs to lick at the packed dirt all around them between thick pellets of blackened pitch.
I remember the bright, smiling, well groomed classmates with maids and chauffeurs, and my dedicated father driving me to school every morning so he could discuss the radio news with me.
I remember eating boiled rice and fish with my right hand from a table mat laid on the floor of our friends’ living rooms, and sitting on cushions instead of couches.
I remember my first family computer, loaded with floppy floppys containing tic tac toe, math and algebra training, and alley cat…
I remember the giant-eared Egyptian kitten hiding in a carboard box overlooked by a Chinese woman downstairs from our flat, and growing older from watching his graceful movement and confident curiosity and playfulness.
I remember learning how to become inquisitive, to amend, instead of to affault.
Thinking back on it all, of all the years before and after these memories, I am met with disbelief from my own mind that all these memories belong to me. How can I have so many memories, and yet call myself the young age I do? How can I believe that all these things happened to me, personally, with so little evidence in my life of them, and so little equality between what I was like then and what I am like now? Thought is a mystery to one such as I, trained in the arts of education and pedagogy, and finding nothing in those fields to quantify a homebound life that is full of yearning for times that held more meaning.
Suggested Reading: The Stranger, by Albert Camus