December 29, 2011

The first poem I wrote was in Grade 6. It was about rain. The teacher had asked for 4 verses. I wrote an entire page.

I hold very special memories of December; it’s when I was born, Christmas gifts under the tree unwrapped at 5 am, New Year and being allowed to stay up all night watching TV, and most of all rain… Winter’s romanticism at its best.

It’s the clouds, the sound of water dripping on windows, in the streets, the vigorous wind that made nature whisper secrets to my ear, the high waves I surfed in my imagination that I could see from my home in Beirut. It’s the cleansing of dust, trees, and streets… A fresh look of the city and Aha’s “crying in the rain”. Beirut looks more genuine when sad.

Many times mom caught me dancing in the rain. I’d play a tune in my head and dance, dance until mom would grab me fearing I would catch the flu. I’d be turning and twirling in endless circles, hands up, face towards the sky… The trance of winter freedom is addictive. And there’s the hot chocolate under a blanket with a book, the TV and, eventually, a bad flu with mom’s hand on my forehead every other minute to check on my fever. I miss that tender and innocent nonchalance of my childhood.

Every December as we’re approaching my birthday, my mother would tell me the same story of the day I was born… How my dad was travelling and his trip was cancelled because of bad weather and he ended up witnessing my birth. Rain for her was a synonym of good fortune… I inherited that meaning.

The same December that used to be filled with heart-warming nostalgia is now a confusing reminiscence with death attached to it. Exactly two years ago, a few days after my birthday, my mom passed away. And here’s the part I can’t go on writing anymore.

I was on a plane back from Beirut, on my first vacation in two years to attend a friend’s wedding that I eventually missed.

Mom insisted I’d go… I didn’t want to. My fiancé lost his passport the same day we were leaving… I wanted to say let’s cancel the trip… But I didn’t. I asked the doctor if mom was ok. He said she could be discharged from the hospital but that she needed an oxygen machine higher than 10 liters. The hospital had none available, and only 10 liters maximum machines were available in all of Doha … We needed more. I found one in Beirut… I was planning to bring it back with me. I called… I booked its pick up… It never happened.

But the doctor said she was ok… Ok for us meant temporarily stable. I had planned everything, including extra nurses to look after her… Everything. I wanted to cancel the trip a million times… She kept on insisting I’d go. And so I went.

On the 29th of December, I woke at 4am in terror. I was haunted by the nightmare that mom’s nurse was screaming. My fiancé said it was just me being worried and that everything was ok. “You just checked on her” he said. So I called at 7 am. I don’t usually call her before midday. The nurse answered… “Where are you? Your mother fainted at 4 am”. That was it… I had missed it.

Mom’s caretaker said that she woke up around 3 to 4 am screaming my name and that was it. She passed away at 1pm while I was on that plane. We buried her on New Year’s eve in the city she adored, Cairo, next to her mother just like she wanted. It was full moon.

That day, I was at the funeral and when I came back to my hotel room in the evening people were dancing, all dressed up, celebrating life… I was in black… It’s the irony of life.

Friends comfort me saying “she wanted you to go”. I don’t think so.

The good thing about Doha is that it doesn’t rain much… Because when it does the flashbacks are exhausting. With every sight, sound and smell of winter, my heart bursts with bittersweet feelings.

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