Tuesday, August 21, 2012

6 days to a quarter century, and 25 childhood memories

Of the more pleasant ones, that is.

How we used to let our budgie birds out of their cage in our house in Saudi. You never open any windows when it's almost always 40 degrees outside so there was no fear of losing them. They got more used to us, were comfortable standing near us, and let us pet them. I could have them hop on my finger by extending it and brushing it against their tummies. They'd eat their seeds right out of my hand too. It was super fun to have that as a child, and I loved how mom didn't mind the mess for what we were experiencing and learning about them on the way.

Playing all sorts of pretend games with friends from the compound. Lillz was one of them, but she'd usually leave us and sit by herself read books instead, which got her to become a librarian and a walking, talking encyclopedia today. She's also my only early childhood friend that I'm still in touch with. But to be fair, she did join in when we played pretend classroom.

Building my own barbie house with cardboard and gift wrap.

How my brother and I would run about in the parks around the compound to catch grasshoppers. We'd softly slide our feet on the grass, and when we see one hop away, we'd slowly zone in on it and cup it in our hands. We'd watch it move on our hands or rub its feet together before it hops off again, or we let it go and catch another. We never hurt them, we just spent a large amount of time devising the best ways to catch them and observe how they're like. We'd sometimes compete about who manages to catch more of them. Fun times.

Seeing my cat give birth. I was 6 or 7 years old, and was sleeping with my parents on their bed that night. Pitsy (don't remember why we called her that) was pregnant and we had prepared a nice comfy spot for her, with a fuzzy blanket and all, in the bottom drawer of a wooden cabinet in the living room. She preferred giving birth behind my parents' bedroom door though. In the middle of the night, we heard lots of meow-ing and got up to see what's going on. We found her there, ready to go. I remember all of it. How it seemed like she's in a lot of pain, how I wanted to do anything to help her, how my parents told me to let her be and be patient, how it was like seeing those five kittens come into the world, one after the other, how she cut the sack they were in, ate it, and licked them right away so they can breathe, and how the tiny cuties gave out their first squeals. 

The day mother was talking on the phone and needed a pencil. I ran inside through our narrow hallway at the same time my brother was running  towards her, with a sharpened pencil in his hand, extended in front of him. We crashed into each other and the pencil was driven into my face. I still have that pencil's tip in my cheek to this day, which I will use to guilt my brother whenever needed.

Still in Saudi. During some of the Eid holidays, we'd go with family friends and their kids to a big park to spend the day. We'd have a barbecue, play "sayyadin elsamak" with a sock ball, run all around playing tag, and roll down the sides of the grass-covered hills. When it got darker, we'd have firecrackers, and us kids would hold each other back while one of the dads does the very dangerous task of lighting them up, then we'd awe at how they popped and lit up in different shapes and colours.

How Gremlins was the first "horror" movie I ever watched, and how I got so affected by it that I thought if I dropped water on my cats, they'd replicate and turn evil. I wouldn't let mom bathe them.

How dad would make a kangaroo pouch with his galabiyya and put me in it while we watch cartoons.

My then baby brother making a habit of falling asleep and dropping his head into his dinner plate. He wouldn't believe it happened till we showed him pictures.

Sleep-overs where we never really slept and stayed up talking and playing with shadows on the walls.

Building houses and fortresses with pillows, sheets and whatever we could lay our hands on.

Going to the beach, especially in Saudi, where the sand was vacuum cleaned flat and decorated with different coloured sand. We'd build castles, make crocodile statues and the grown ups would bury us to our necks. Probably to have us stay still for a little while.

Flying kites for the first time. Mom tied the kite handle to my swimsuit (which conveniently enough had two loose halter straps) so it wouldn't get lost.

The very first sport I played, at 6 years old, was ballet with Miss Tracey. I remember her, my tutu, the other kids, the hall we trained in, and even bits of our routines.

Sesame street and Hullabaloo.

How Saudi's Mickey magazine was much better made than Egypt's. The paper was thicker, the colours were never skewed, the writing was smarter, and they almost always had gifts or things to DIY that came along. I was a huge fan and collected these magazines until much, much later in my teen years.

Singing with the school choir, and taking part in school plays.

Horse-back riding and how I liked how it ticked when the horses ate the sugar out of my hand.

Mom making my brother and I Aladdin and Jasmine costumes for Halloween when I was about 9. Nobody believed she had made them herself, but she was extremely talented at that sort of thing. Mine was complete with a wig of long, thick, black hair that she braided and put a tiara in, and a hooded cape for when Jasmine wanted to take undercover strolls outside the castle.

When we lived across my aunt's place and we had the doors open between us often. My cousins, brother and I were always running about between both apartments and sharing everything.

My grandmother's garden surrounding the building we lived in, and her lemon tree that went right into my bedroom window. It smelled great and gave us fat juicy lemons that I loved to pick.

That day I had just finished swimming practice and as mom and I were walking to the showers, we saw a younger girl than I was had breathed in water and was drowning. I jumped in and helped her out of the pool, and they became family friends. I still remember their living room, where we watched The Aristocats together while munching on walnuts.

Recording cassette tapes with my brother, singing nursery rhymes and talking about random things, making silly voices. I wish I could find any of those anymore.

Hiding behind doors and giving either one of my parents a scare as a pastime activity.
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