Well then, hello. I believe I’m approaching my 6th week in university, and, up until now, it’s been a mix between extreme book obsession, rantings, disappointments, disillusionment, fascination, discovery, and hormones. I think I’ll be writing about all that later on, but, for now, I’m posting an unedited version of a piece of informal reading response to an essay we read in English 203. It was about home, by a Lebanese American journalist reflecting on the village of his mother, which is geographically extremely close to my mother’s village. I like this piece because it was the first English-y thing I wrote for University, and even though it shows a still-undeveloped side of my writing, as opposed to how I’m expressing myself now, I think it’s sweet and contains the sentiment of dissonance expressed by Lebanese expatriate authors.
If you crept up on tip-toe, as I have, through the long corridor well after midnight, you might hear the ghost of my parents talking about a dream. They imagined a new home in Der Mimas. It would contain all the splendor of modernity; yes, far away from where my mother grew up. I think they started feeling that they need to anchor us somewhere, to make it harder to leave.
The dream was set aside after the assassination of a friend of dad’s.
How could we dream, then, when the very foundation of our house was shaken?
A white dead German once said– and I don’t care enough to look up his name– that we Lebanese post-war first-generation inheritors do not belong, per say to a specific identity. We are in a state of in-betweenness, stuck, fallen through the gaps of where old boundaries ended and new boundaries do not extend a welcoming hand.
But, I digress.
My mother is from Der Mimas, where looking over the terrace of a now war-damaged cemetery, you could see the remnants of an abandoned monastery. Our house there is still in working condition, but I guess what makes a house is not just its rubble, but the people within its walls. After my grandmother was buried in the new cemetery, we never came back except on mother’s day.
It amazes me how fast my parents shed their longing to Der Mimas. For so long, we were told to believe that, as the sole successors to the Phoenicians, we had a duty, something rich warlords in peacetime say, to be buried here. But, I guess, the whole matter seems foolish to me. Why would I care for a fleeting country, parceled up by a complete stranger by right of conquest, in full ignorance of the racial, religious, and social feuds surrounding them? No, for me, what I will be most hesitant to leave won’t be a pile of bones in a mound of dirt under a new building that, as of by primogeniture, will hold the same power and glory as its ancestor. Home is where I know the people. Home is where I can always see my name etched on a wall, along with all my other cousins’. Home is where I see the faces of strangers coming and going, and know that to some degree, our family trees crossed branches.
I have dreams of what my home is, just like my parents, but I know that I now live in a house, that Der Mimas was not my home, nor was Ashrafieh. I know that I have never felt at home here, but I know that wherever I go, I will always hold up just the tiniest part of Lebanon in my voice. I am the fish that came to love its fishbowl, and that is all I have to say about my home.