Remembering a time
Yousuf keeps bringing up Gaza and his grandfather. Little things will evoke memories of his time growing up in Gaza-fragments he continues to piece together in a sort of non-linear way from a time he can barely remember yet is so hauntingly familiar: the turtle we found trying to cross the road from the beach inland that we securely re-located to my father's farm (do you think it has a new family now? is it still there?); the time he burned his bottom in the ice-cream shop across the street when my mother accidentally sat him on a container of boiled corn-(hey don't call child protective services-it was an accident!)
Today, it was an old manual camera. My father bought it for him from a garage sale during a visit here last year. I dusted it off after Yousuf said he wanted to take his own pictures when we go to Puerto Rico next week, where I am going to be delivering a lecture at the Center for the Freedom of Press in San Juan.
The camera elicited a host of questions and a conversation I can only pretend to answer with any certainty.
"Mama...inshallah we'll see them again. But what if they are shot before we go? And how will we get across if the border is still closed?" he asks, knowing full-well from years past that going to Gaza is not as easy as hopping on a plane from point A to point B.
"It will all be ok I promise, don't worry too much about such things. Leave that to me and take some pictures of the present, so you can remember your happy times."
Every time I rub his little almost-5-year-old head after he wakes up from an afternoon nap, when his face is still warm, I remember how we huddled together in my bed in Gaza as our windows shuddered from nightly shelling.
He belongs to that place, and he belongs to this time. He belongs to that time, and he belongs to this place.