That’s Me in The Corner

Last week I reconnected with a dear friend from the home country and we had an online chat. The talk led me down memory lane and made me think of old songs and music that I listened to in the past, songs that punctuated my life and formed a sort of accompanying sound track to its incidents.

I think everyone has these songs, those that we fell in love to, and those that helped us fall out of love.  Because of my background my soundtrack is an odd mixture of influences and genres, my current iPod play list has songs in Arabic, English, Spanish and German in addition to instrumentals, new age and podcasts. For this blog though I will stick with songs that have special significance for my life.

The melancholy strings of REM’s Losing My Religion take me back to my marriage. I picture myself sitting next to my husband in the car humming along to the words that spoke of my life.

My marriage was a singular fight of trying to keep up with my ex and trying to squeeze out a little bit of love and appreciation out of him. I often felt I was stuck in a corner, especially at the beginning of our relationship when I literally had nobody to turn or speak to. Sometimes I thought the feelings we shared originated only in my wishful thinking or my dreams, because there was nothing tangible in my life to show that he loved me. That is exactly what I thought the singer was talking about when he said:

That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spot light losing my religion. Trying to keep up with you and I don’t know if I can do it.  Now I said too much, I haven’t said enough. I thought that I heard you laughing, I thought that I heard you sing. I think I thought I saw you try.

Listening to it now is like riding in an emotional time capsule, it takes me back ten years to the feelings, the emotions and the torment. I can see myself then, in the passenger seat of a car on a Johannesburg free-way, humming along to the song next to a silent and brooding partner. Yes, that was me in the corner.. No more, no more.

If I Could Relive Any Day of My Life

It will be the day my son was born, because on that day I was also born as a mother and my life gained definition and purpose. I discovered that I have huge capacity of love that I never knew I had in me. I still wonder at the power of this little person in my life. The day he was born the universe aligned itself and I found my place in it. It felt like I have been waiting for him my whole life

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Never Underestimate A Toddler’s Memory

One of Robert’s favorite teachers at school (actually the assistant at his class) has been absent for the last few days. I was chatting to his teacher when I picked him up today and I commented that he must have forgotten her already because when I mentioned her name to him he ignored it and just uttered another teacher’s name.

I guess the little tyke wanted to prove me wrong today. We got off the minibus taxi and started our walk home up the long hill. This is normally a very hard walk because I carry Robert most of the way, while trying to dodge the piles of dirt (and droppings). I also struggle to dissuade him from wanting to “wok” until we get to a cleaner part of the street. When I set him down, he usually walks quickly for a few metres then starts exploring sidewalks, walls, trees, fences and whatever else we pass (That is why I never set him down on the dirtiest part of our street).

I have a rule that whenever he starts touching the dirty street, he gets carried again (no walk , in his language), which inevitably leads to arguments and crying. He was having one of his fits when an African lady came towards us down the streets. She must have been a nanny or domestic worker finishing her day at work, and those women are usually very sweet to young babies, but this one came straight to me and took him in her arms, pretending to take him with her. She started saying: “bye mummy” and I played along for a few seconds. Of course, in the face of this new calamity Robert forgot his distress about wanting to (wok) and his bottom lip stretched forward as he looked at the “intruder” with distrust. Soon the woman set him down and said goodbye and went on her own way. Robert watched after her, a little puzzled, then blurted out “Woosie” (Lucy)… Waoo, the boy still remembers his nanny Lucy, even though it has been almost two months since we last saw her. She would be impressed if she knew.

The History that Brought us Robert

Looking at my son I cannot help think about all the history that contributed to his presence with me today. I think about all the choices grandparents made to bring him about, and all the mixture of genes and traits that shape his every characteristic.

This post is in memory of my grandmother, who left this world thirty years ago today. If she had survived, she would have been only 85, and she would have been a wonderful great granny.

My grandmother Gerda was born in Berlin. Sometime during WWII she met my Syrian grandfather Abdul, and she made a choice to leave her war-torn country and start a life with him in a foreign land. She lived in Syria for the rest of her life, and was laid to rest there in 1978. Unfortunately, I did not get know her well enough or speak to her as an adult. I can only cherish my childish memories of her; the Christmas treats and bakes, the Easter egg hunt on her terrace, playing tic-tac-toe, and filling up pages and pages of colouring books. My siblings and cousins do not have even these lovely memories to hold on to, she was taken from us all too soon. In her short visit to this world, she touched the lives of many people, with generosity, laughter and integrity. I bet she also had a great mind, and would have been one heck of an interesting person to talk to.

Her mother Anna survived her for a few years. Every year without fail she used to send me a birthday card, with old fashioned pictures of little girls, birds and bunnies. They were inked in her graceful cursive German script. Great grandma married relatively late, her husband Opa Erich was a WWI veteran. Grandma Gerda was their only daughter.

The next generation includes my mother; the middle of three sisters. A Libran by birth, she stands for balance and symmetry. She is definitely the anchor of our family, and neither me nor my sister can hold a candle to her. Again, the paths of my mother’s life have diverged and twisted for decades; we swapped countries and homes many times. Through this all she remained the pillar and the heart of our family. Above all she is a great mother, who loved us and taught us well. Oma Gerda would have been pleased to know that her daughter now lives in Berlin, the reunited city of her birth. In honour to my grandma we all speak German, and I would love for my little son to speak the language too.

One day I will tell Robert about his great grandparents, I owe my existence to their courage and love. Perhaps my grandmother’s adventurous nature filtered down to me, and made me also follow my heart into a foreign land and choose to be with Robert’s father. It is nice to think that part of my grandmother will be left with Robert to pass along.

The chain of women has been broken on our side of the family. My mother doesn’t have any granddaughters yet. My cousin Lara has to carry the tradition to her own daughters and perhaps she will be able to tell them a little about the history of the women who have –directly or indirectly- given birth to her.