Saturday, April 14, 2012

Almost twenty years ago, when we were still living in Africa, we would often visit Lebanon in the summer - usually leaving my father behind because he had work. My mother, brother and myself would stay at my grandparents'. I would often sleep with my grandmother in the same room. Every night before I fell asleep, she would tell me a bedtime story. Then she would draw the peach and beige quilt over to my chin. She would turn the lights off and leave the room to finish her chores.

In the morning I would wake up to an empty room. My grandmother was a teacher and she would remain at school until the early afternoon. I would spend the early morning in bed and then leisurely rise and rush into the kitchen. I would find hard-boiled eggs, white cheese, labneh, olives, zaatar, bread and a glass of orange juice that my grandmother had carefully arranged on the rectangular table. My mother would be running around after my toddler brother. Or she would be reclining on the red and white striped sofa watching television with baby boy on her lap.

I spent some of my time playing with my grandmother's cat. He was a German Rex and his name was Minouche. He would usually repose on top of the wooden chiffonier in the dinning room. I would call out for him, "Minouche." And with an air of arrogance, he would emerge. Foolish as a little girl, I would sometimes pull on his tail or wash him with soap and lukewarm water. I am sure he did not take pleasure in my ways. Little did I know. In my defense, I petted him more than I did my baby brother and he always followed me around - me and my white stuffed cat that I often carried under my arm. He passed away not many years later.

I remember one afternoon he was nowhere to be seen and I started crying. I wanted to see Minouche. I loved him too much and he had become my one dear friend. In the late afternoons, I would curl up on my grandmother's bed and watch cartoons with the cat resting in the space between my bent knees and chest. But that very afternoon, he was gone. I asked everyone about him but they all told me the same story: he had traveled. I believed them. And with time, I got used to his absence... And I lost my white stuffed cat. But I never forgot what they both looked like.

How time flies...

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