“You should write a book,” my mom concluded after we strolled the memory lane of just perhaps every random childhood moments we could remember. Well the last time someone told me to do that, I wrote a book about my one day of skying on the slopes . . . well Mom, this sounds like I’m in for a War and Peace series, with an appendix.
Last night we celebrated my sister’s birthday tucked in a corner of our favorite European bakery. My family doesn’t quite plan, except for the sister who married a son of a lawyer, so we all spontaneously showed up one after the other, as if we were gathering at our kitchen table for dinner.
The memories started with the rain. Maybe because it rains so rare in Sacramento, birthdays with rain in them are more memorable. I was trying to convince my mom that it was raining so badly on Dina’s twentieth birthday that the power was all gone, this same bakery we came to, was closed early, and we ended up having cheesecake at the Italian place across the street, complete with candlelight and amazing customer service, because we were the only people crazy enough to be out on the streets that night! Now that was a long sentence.
“You do remember the hard rain on dad’s birthday . . . and the lightning . . . and the baby frogs!!!” We all threw out memories from that one day of celebrating out in nature, the non-stop lightning that illuminated the sky, and the string of tiny frogs crossing the dirt road as we were getting into our car. Once at home, our father had to carry us one by one across our yard to get to our summer kitchen where the birthday celebration continued. The water was knee deep for us and we loved the adventure of having a storm in our front yard.
Then inevitably we had to remember just how Dina was brought home from the hospital. Wrapped in white material with large purple ribbons added to the side to hold it together, and for beauty, our mother laid the tiny thing on the couch in the living room and all three of us older sister swarmed her like bees each wanting a peek. We all had a share in picking out her name and I believe a group effort has done us well, Dina is truly a wonderful name, even if people have a million ways to spell it. I guess that’s what you get for having an international name. I still remember it beautifully written in Arabic above a store in Cairo.
Dina’s famous childhood stories were of course the bike accident and the stroller accidents. Let’s just say with three older sisters growing up, we all thought we could take good care of her! Our mother brought up how Dina would come home with bruises from biking with us and we had to correct mother that it was only one time! The one time my older sister thought she could make it up the hill with three of us on the bike with her, (let’s just say she was a woman of unusual strength), and while two of us jumped off, Dina ended up on the bike with her and they both went rolling downhill. And my favorite story was pleading with my older sister not to take Dina out of the stroller, but she insisted that I help her and through tears I tried to help her, even though I knew she couldn’t hold Dina, she was six herself, and there went Dina falling back into the tall stroller we could barely reach. That too, my older sister remarked, was only a one time occasion.
We spent the night remembering all sorts of things and even had a competition of who had the most frightening night walks through the city. My sister brought up the pitch black alley through a maze of trees leading to the railroad station and of course with an old cemetery across the street, which she had to often walk alone. I of course, brought up the snowy winter day of walking past sunset, in ankle deep snow, from my piano lessons. With temperature below zero and the snow slowing down your pace, no street lights, and a drunk man laying near the fence where I had to pass, I sure had to have had a more scarier experience. Some bad experience are actually great, because they stick in your memory and help you remember things you wouldn’t have remembered otherwise.
These stories obviously transitioned us into the topic of how difficult circumstances make one grow up, fast! My older sister went on with her stay at the hospital for surgery being merely six years old or so, alone, because of the inhumane regulations of health institutions. And thankfully neither Dina or Nadia, my two younger sisters, had to have any unpleasant hospital stories, I sacrificed for all of them and saved ALL of the horror experiences for myself. But other than that, I was a typical selfish child, haha! Now that I think of it, maybe the hospital did change for the better once I got older. As a four year old, I was alone for what seemed like months being treated for an illness I didn’t think I had, seeing my parents only through a window, and as twelve year old, my mom got to stay with me in the hospital when I had food poisoning, go figure.
I do remember the beautiful snow falling outside my window every single morning in that prolonged hospital stay, none of us can distinctly remember what for. I wasn’t allowed to go play and jealously eyed the kids building snowman right below my third-floor window, but something about the beauty and the serenity that comes with watching falling snow, made it all peaceful inside my heart. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I equally love the warmth of summer and the splashing of water against my skin and the freezing temperature of winter with the falling snow melting against my cheeks.
And now I feel like a writer. Tucked in a cozy throw, in my wingback chair, with only a single lamp shining on my laptop, typing away in the dead of the night, with the rain gently beating against the skylight windows, reminiscing on times past. Maybe writers have insomnia because their thoughts have to be put down on paper before their minds can rest, not sure, but this will definitely be a night, now morning, to remember.