Love After Loss
By Rama Tolimat
By 8:00 am, everyone at my grandparent’s house is awake and sat at the breakfast table, which understandably makes me furious, as I cannot comprehend why anyone would be awake this early during the summer vacation. I smell the freshly made bread before I make my way into the kitchen, and I think to myself “That has way too many carbs”. I see the widest range of homemade cheese, labneh, za’atar, olives, foul, hummus, vegetables and of course, the family favorites: magdous and shangleesh. Again, I think to myself: “why can’t we just have croissants or cake instead of some homemade traditional meal?” Our neighbor’s children are loud today, just like every other morning this summer, and I think “why can’t their parents give them a phone or an iPad to keep them quiet?”
It is almost 11:00 am now; my father senses my uneasiness and boredom and convinces me to go for a walk around the city with him. Every five minutes, a stranger who expresses so much love towards my father and I, begins what seems to be an unending conversation. The grocer, who gets up and greets every customer like a long lost friend, takes me into his arms and offers me a chocolate bar: “Not another locally produced candy” I think, I wish I could just get a Twix. We walk past an entire street of Jasmines, quite common in Syria; and I must say they smell marvelous, I pick a few from the trees and think that I would prefer roses instead.
Finally, my father and I head to a restaurant for lunch, and I wish I were having lunch at McDonald’s. A not so extravagant mosque lies on the other side of the road. My father seems quite fond of the structure, something I do not quite understand. “Isn’t it just amazing?” he exclaims excitedly, however he is met with my unimpressed reply: “I’ve seen better, dad”. He asks me to read the sign by the Mosque, and my eyes scan the inscribed letters: Jamih al Fada’el, Ali Shehab El Dein Tolimat Al-Hussaini. For the first time, I feel excitement run through my veins: “Dad! It says Tolimat! We’re Tolimat!” He smiles and says “Indeed, you know your grandfather refuses to pray anywhere else on Fridays. It is 960 years old Rama.” I’m astonished; how can something so old still be functioning? The excitement lasted a few days and I proudly expressed this enthusiasm to all my family members. Obviously, they were already aware of the family mosque. I won’t lie; a few weeks later the mosque became old news to me.
Today, I lament my lost city, a place that I had taken for granted for fifteen years. I force my father to repeat stories of our ancestors and about the origins of the strangest street names. I force myself to remember every aspect of my grandparent’s home from the color of the couches to our neighbors and their children’s names. I am thrilled when Syria’s history is discussed because the past is my only source of happiness when the present only brings me sorrow.
I admit it gets quite exhausting trying to remember a past I never paid attention to. However, this is my only connection to a place that I may never be able to visit again. I do not know what I fear most; that I may forget how my family mosque looks like or that I end up looking it up online only to find that it has vanished like its keepers: Homs and its people.
Rama Farouk Tolimat is a graduating senior at the American University of Sharjah. For four years she has been a student at the School of Business Administration with a concentration in finance. She is also the AUS women’s basketball team captain and the Vice President of Public Relations at the Student Council. Writing this piece was outside of her confront zone as she has never thought of herself as a writer. However, as a Syrian national she felt the need to express what she and other young Syrian men and women feel towards their home.
The mosque is in ruins now like more than half of the buildings, mosques, universities, and restaurants in Homs. Homes are either vacant or buried by rubble as the grocer and thousands of others flee the city. Fear keeps children from playing outside and so their screams of joy can no longer be heard. The fifteen-year-old teenager who wandered the streets of Homs, is now a twenty one year old young woman who wishes she could have one more early morning back home. I would give up anything for carbs packed fresh bread, homemade Homsi food, and Syrian produced chocolate. I could go on for pages about the things I miss, whether it is the best ice-cream to have ever been produced from “Rainbow”; a local favorite, a twenty minutes waiting line for a “Kreish” sandwich, another Syrian favorite, or even a silly local football game that makes everyone’s weekend. However, two things make my heart well with emotion: the Jasmines I picked, I had wished they were roses, but I now wish that every plant I stumble upon is a jasmine, and my favorite architectural monument of all: our not so marvelous but definitely the most sentimental family mosque.