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Sitting on the living room floor upstairs

White veil folded over the top of her head

She holds in her lap a large round tray

Full of lentils,

Her right hand pushing each wavy row at a time

Up towards the top of the tray

Inspecting them for debris…

She wears a navy dress with white polka dots

And every grandchild knows that dress.

She’s recounting another story,

Always full of every possible detail

Often mimicking the players

In perfect adaptations,

While we sit listening.

 

Lentils picked through …the tray

Is taken to the kitchen by the maid,

Downstairs she follows onions beckoning

To be chopped into perfect small dice

Excited to enhance the fledgling soup

Sautéed in green-gold olive oil

They wait to turn a luscious brown.

 

The telephone rings

Her youngest sister calling to say she’s coming by

One of my round aunts clad in black

White veil clinging to graying hair

Rosy face and twinkling eyes,

Three kisses on two cheeks

And a pinch of the chin.

 

The soup bubbles on the stove

Melding the flavors of crisp onions

And brown lentils with a hint of cumin

A quick stir with the wooden spoon

Between lines of conversation

The latest family gossip

Floating around the room.

 

Arabic coffee is brewing next to the lentils

Thick, dark, rich its heady aroma

Vying for space between the airborne words

A quick boil, a resting minute for grounds to settle

Then into tiny flowered porcelain cups

A hint of sugar sprinkled

And quickly stirred

More news, laughter and plans for a visit

To an elderly friend who recently lost a husband.

 

The stone house on the corner

Above Abu Salim’s grocery store

A basket dangles from the balcony

Waiting to descend into his hands

And be filled and hoisted up again.

 

A sheik in black with a blue striped vest

Manicured mustache curled

A white cotton cap on his head,

He walks along-side his doe-eyed donkey

She, carrying baskets of honeyed figs

From the orchards at the top of the hill,

Weaving down the winding streets to market.

 

‘Ahlan Yousef’ a greeting meets him

The source sits on a wooden chair

In front of the inviting barber shop

Sipping coffee from a gold-rimmed demitasse

A backgammon table laid out

Waiting for participants

On this sunny mountain day.

 

A hand touching his forehead in response

Donkey and master are closer to market

A taxi honks to get by the pedestrians

Tangling in the streets

Each shop with its own bouquet of people

Talking, kissing, catching up on the events

Since 10pm the night before.

 

Long straight hair at the skilled hands of hairdressers

Flow down slender shoulders

Framing lovely dark eyes,

As young women walk arm in arm in pretty skirts

Snacking on toasted melon seeds from crumpled paper bags

Avoiding the glances of young men

In tight shirts and store windows.

 

Each mother tows more than a child

Pretty frilly socks and matching ribbon in curls

Adorning chubby faces

Or shining black shoes and knitted sweaters

On a future man of the village

Who now holds a cone dripping with

Mango, peach and pistachio ice cream.

 

Stray dogs make their way to the back of butcher shops

Patiently waiting for today’s scraps

While the owner haggles with the woman

Veiled and gesturing at a piece of meat

Which he holds in his hand

20 lira is not what she pays for that very same

At Abu Amin’s shop across town.

 

A policeman’s whistle at a gray car double parking

The man in a blue shirt, his wife and children

In the back seat leaning out of windows

“Bas takki” he shouts at the officer

‘Just one moment’ and he’ll be gone

Just long enough for Sameera to run into the pharmacy

For father’s medication.

 

Fairuz sings over the noise in the square

Her rich voice idealizing her country

Comes from a radio on the balcony

Above the fabric store

Where Im Ali sews dresses for customers

While her children are in school,

Colors streaming from hangers.

 

‘Hey, ya Kamaaaaal’, call a group of young men

Leaning against a Mercedes

Turning the head of another making his way

Across the street to Ziad’s bookstore

Whistles and hand clapping when he hears

Laughter at his distraction as he finally sees

The goateed chins that beckon him.

 

Hugs go around the now circle of friends

Plans for an evening stroll after dinner

And hints at who they might run into

To spice the night’s ritual

A clasp of hands before Kamal returns to his path

A mental note to complete homework

Before the stroke of 9.

 

Dotted along the streets grey taxis

Usually a 6-year-old Mercedes

Carries six passengers tightly squeezed

Back from a day of work in the sun..

Skin darkened, sporting darker mustaches

Looking forward to joining family for dinner

Displayed in six or seven flowered dishes

Meals are an invitation to share good fortune

To catch up on the day’s news

To show generosity towards friends and family..

 

Mothers and grandmothers in their long dark skirts

Many wearing the white flowing thin veil over their hair

Spend the afternoon together preparing the evening meal

Always Turkish coffee at the ready.

Children play in the first floor atriums

Or on the street between balconied houses

Looked after by older siblings, cousins,

Or jovial shopkeepers who too are friends..

 

No neighbor in this village is a stranger

No one keeps to themselves for this is a Community

Of family overflowing with love and concern

Their hearts like their houses are close,

Like the winding alley ways

Their lives wind around one another

No one hesitates to ask for help

Nabeel skips morning chores to take Aunt Im Jamal to the doctor

Lena walks to town for a spool of brown wool

To mend upstairs’ Abu Fady’s jacket.

 

Between these snug two and three-story stone buildings

Serving as houses and shops…

Stray slender pine trees and fragrant flowery bushes

Winding narrow stairways and alleys

Sprinkled with cats and people

Busy with the day’s work

Acknowledging each other.

 

Where the spaces between structures grow larger

Stand houses capped with red tile roofs

Sit upon hill crescents offering dizzying views

Of tree green valleys and mountains

Gentle sloping land down to the shimmering

Blue waters of the warm Mediterranean

Its shores outlining modern cities.

There the men and women have a brisker pace

There the shops are shinier

The cars polished carrying fashionable passengers

The buildings taller, the streets wider

The pace faster, but still allowing friends to linger

Over coffees and sweets and late lunches

In the outdoor cafes dotting every corner.
The cheeks here are red with intentional color

The shoes and handbags from twin material

The conversations in three alternating languages

At each dining table, in each bunch of students

At Chez Michelle’s Salon and George’s Boutique

The dresses shorter, the makeup brighter

The flirting noticeable

 

Her white head cover now exchanged for a black one,

She makes her way to the city in white the Mercedes

Kameel the driver in white starched shirt and long pinky nail

Making polite conversation…

Visits to Daoud the tailor, Kabe the jeweler

And Abu Talal the wholesale grocer

Before returning home to the mountains.

 

A little something for me and my sister

Dad’s favorite fruits, dried beans and rice

To last a few weeks..

A bunch of fresh dates from Arabia

And ripe, orange, fleshy mangoes from Egypt.

 

All congregate in the large kitchen

To help with parts of the bountiful evening meal.

 

~ Hoda A.©
2009

4 thoughts on “Home

  1. what a lovely tribute to all things beautiful and enriching to our Lebaneseness. keep it coming sista…

  2. Just came across your lovely site. Love your work, commitment to help people heal on every level..and the way you express yourself.

    1. Thank you for your kind remarks Heidi. I do hope the information gathered here is helpful. There is so much misinformation in the world, that making decisions has become rather complicated. My aim is to distill what I can, and make sure it resonates with me before posting. 🙂 Cheers!

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