The following piece was first published on Mashallah News on April 12, 2012
by: Tala Abu Rahmeh
I couldn’t believe you were finally here until I counted your 10 fingers. They look like real fingers, creased from all the struggle to come into the world. They look like you were clawing your way out, and that idea alone makes me deeply love you.
You looked too tired for a 4-day-old, as if you are storing sleep for years of sleeplessness to come; ones when you’ll be pinning over a crush, studying algebra, applying to graduate school or singing a lullaby. The nights when you will watch dawn break out could be more than your new body can bear.
Your timing was impeccable. You knocked your mother’s stomach at 2:30 am, knowing that Qalandia checkpoint will be empty, and your grandfather would not have to curse traffic (since your father has agreen ID and can’t come watch you swim into the world). The car whizzed through the ugly gates, but was searched at the entrance of the Israeli hospital. How can you claim your Palestinian identity if you’re not a suspect while still in the womb?
As your mother screamed you out, Palestinian houses were being demolished, and a kid was nursing a bump on his head from a floating gas canister, but then you came, and the glory of your little body silenced all the dangling rifles. Your grandmother, beautiful with curls, held you so close so you can hear her heartbeat. What else could possibly matter?
When I saw you, I understood, for the first time, how one could love somebody to their bones before they really know them. You insisted on sleeping on your belly (you have opinions already), and breathed the world in and out. When I held you, I could see your lips pouting and your pinky clutching on to mine. You blinked because the sun bothered you, then you succumbed to a squeal. Your hunger these days is bigger than you.
I wonder about this world you’re waking in to. My head is cloudy and I’m scared, but there seems to be so much love in the folds of you, and love like that cannot be let down. I see dusty roads and young soldiers screaming for IDs and I think, I never want you to hear the screech of this terrible loneliness. I don’t want you to get in a car every single morning wishing this whole country could just collapse in on itself. I don’t want you to feel the way I do today; disappointment with a committed desire to runaway.
What does it take to be happy these days? Perhaps you could tell me, because you have brand new eyes. Perhaps its the little things, like when a mother throws herself in front of her child to protect him from a bullet, or when a doctor artistically removes a sharpnel from someone’s thigh, but why must our joy come from the overcoming of suffering? Can it ever be about a quiet day, a sunflower or a really good book? Is it so bad to be one of those awful normals, who think about lunch instead of the fastest way to meander an Israeli jeep?
Today, without having a hint of an answer, I wish you this: one starkly bright morning, you rise slowly to face your mirror, and you see the acne scares, the tousled hair, the broken nail, the scarred knee, the unread books and the body issues and think, how lucky am I for this to be me? And in that moment, you will finally be.
Your loving aunt,