I am finally home – Lebanon.
Two years. Two years since I last saw my grandparents. I missed my Jido and Tita. I missed listening to Jido’s stories and the taste of Tita’s food.
Knocking on the glass door that had shattered. The glass door that shattered multiple times because of multiple wars.
My Jido opened the door and the moment my hazel eyes met Jido’s clear blue ones, I forgot the exhaustion of the long trip from Kuwait to Lebanon.
His open arms welcomed me…embraced me.
My first question was about the swing at the balcony. The swing that I spent countless hours on…daydreaming about multiple things. My Jido informed me that he had just hung it up. Immediately, I ran excitedly to the balcony and sat on my swing.
It was then and there that I knew the summer of 2006 was going to be unforgettable.
And it was, truly unforgettable.
Thursday, July 13, 2006, I woke up to mom’s worried voice speaking with dad on the phone. “Naji, they attacked the airport! What will I do? The children are in danger! It is war! A war!”
Mom’s hysterical voice struck me.
What is war?
It was a word a nine-year-old girl would not understand…would not grasp.
A word a nine-year-old girl knew was something bad… something unforgettable.
“Not good. This is not good. I need to run to Jido and ask him what is going on. I need to understand. Mom should not be sad,” I kept repeating these words while going down the stairs to my grandparent’s house.
“Jido! Jido!” I yelled.
“Dana! What is going on?” Jido worriedly asked putting his radio aside.
“Jido, what is war? Why mom is scared? Will something happen to our family? Are we going to be ok?” I breathlessly asked him.
“Breathe,” Jido said caressing my face.
“Now go swing and do not worry about these things,” Jido said directing me towards the swing.
However, I was worried. Anxious. The Israeli aircrafts were roaming Kobbieh every night. Mom would run around the house switching off all the lights. Ensuring that me and my brother were with her…that there is a knife underneath the mattress, one she hoped to never use.
Friday, July 14, 2006. I was sitting with Jido watching the news. Every now and then, Jido would place his palm over my eyes to prevent me from seeing violent scenes.
Violent scenes that made me have nightmares.
They laid on hospital beds. Bloodied children my age, who had nothing to do with the political ping-pong games between Israel and Hezbollah.
Sitting at the kitchen table, we noticed aircrafts zipping through the sky, but pretended that nothing was wrong, except Jido who was counting.
“Something is wrong. They are going to bom¬¬–,” before he could finish his sentence, the deafening sound of a bomb could be heard.
Jido immediately embraced me while repeating a prayer in my left ear to soothe my anxiety. My anxiety that led me to the bathroom with my hands covering my mouth. My anxiety that made me leave my Jido’s embrace. My protector.
I do not remember how I reached the bathroom. I remember that I heaved until I had nothing left in my stomach to heave. I remember mom’s hand caressing my back and guiding me to the sink to splash cold water over my pale face.
“Dandooni! They just bombed the Sawfar Bridge. Do not worry they are not attacking houses. Your dad booked us a ticket. We are going back to Kuwait,” mom said soothingly.
“Can we take Jido and Tita with us? Please mom! I cannot leave Jido behind,” I begged.
“Go ask him,” mom replied. Her eyes filled with unshed tears.
“Jido, can you please come with us? We do not have a balcony or a swing, but we can listen to the news together on my radio. Please come!” I begged clinging to his right leg.
“Dandooni, I would never leave Lebanon. It is my county. If I die here, I would die happily. It is my home.”
Monday, July 31, 2006. We were escaping Lebanon. Not leaving, but escaping. Escaping our country. Escaping our home.
Summer 2006, truly unforgettable.
A memory that haunts me every time I return to Lebanon. A memory that I hope a Lebanese civilian will never have to witness and live again. A memory I am always lost in. A memory I cannot erase. A memory that has engraved mental scars.