My Mother's House

Visiting the house my mother grew up in was different to how I always expected it to be. It was different to how I imagined it. Smaller. There was a loquat tree growing at the back of the house, near the entrance; something so dead, so abandoned, broken down, destroyed yet somehow still standing had life growing from it. Walking inside the remains of her home, I could feel these stories, memories my mother had shared with me, come to life. I was transported to a time that always felt so distant. I could feel the presence of my mum, her brother and sisters; I could feel the presence of my grandmother. I could see where my mum played with her dolls, I could feel the energy of four kids running around this small space, I could smell delicious homemade food cooking on the stove, I could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the shore in the distance, laughter outside coming from my mum and her cousins running around like wild children, free, joyful, enjoying the nature that was their playground, I could hear my great-grandmother's voice calling out to make sure they stayed out of trouble. Happy memories that had always just been stories, images I had conjured up in my brain that I had only ever dreamed about, only ever wished I could understand or feel somewhat connected to. I close my eyes. I breathe. Here I am. In Lebanon, in the house my mother was born in, seeing and feeling and understanding these stories more clearly than I ever had before, feeling closer to the mystery of who she was, who she is, where she came from and it felt so good. “This spot” My mother's voice breaks the deep day dream I’m in “this spot here” She says as she points to a corner of the room of the house she hadn’t visited since the day she left, that day in 1976. A room that is now nothing but a cold, dark, cell, covered with graffiti and empty beer cans. “This is where we were standing, when my grandfather got the call, he was right here and we saw the first explosion outside this window” She turns around and walks a step to her left “we screamed and hid behind a couch, right here” Just like that, I am reminded of all that happened in this house, on this land; the terror, the uncertainty, the bloodshed. My stomach drops. I look at my mum in that moment and all I see is the 12-year-old child whose innocence was lost, whose innocence was stolen in the very spot she is standing in and all of a sudden, I understand.