Liana telling the story in a nutshell

Love is the twin of a beautiful dream that survives birth to reality; but my love was a reality that survived arduous parturition only to remain a beautiful dream

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February 16, 2005

14. Had I Just Listened

Despite the conspicuous parental displeasure, yet I forged ahead, driven by some weird equivocal impulses. My parents’ eyes could barely stifle astonishment while they witnessed those unanticipated harbingers of recalcitrance. It was the first time that I turned a deaf ear to my parents’ wisdom; and the first time ever that I exhibited such queer non-customary disobedience. My parents could have easily vetoed my project though. Custom and tradition granted them ample jurisdiction to inhibit such nascent mutiny. That wasn’t the way, however, in which my household functioned. Mum and dad tended towards tolerance and broad-mindedness. Objective discussions and a disposition to give and take preponderated, distinguishing thus my parents’ unique sensibility from that of the stifling majority whose undue sternness erected needless barriers between them and their children. My brothers and I viewed our parents not as intimidating figures of authority but rather as wonderful examples of friendliness and affability. Likewise, we never tended towards enigmatic reserve, but magnanimously yielded as much as necessity dictated to their wisdom and guidance, and went to full stretch in putting them in the picture about even the silliest matters that occurred beyond the doors of our home. I was envied indeed by my girlfriends for having such ‘democratic’ parents, as they described them. Love and trust highlighted my family’s interrelationships at all times. Mum and dad were firm and protective without being harsh or stern enough to plant barriers of fear or intimidation that could have pushed us ultimately towards, possibly, seeking wrong advice elsewhere. Being Christian contributed even further towards such a salubrious air. Iraqi Christians were all too well renowned for being relatively liberal and enlightened—‘westernised’ as identified by other ethnicities of Iraq, mainly, for the wider opportunities their females enjoyed in education, work and social life.

But then, I never capitalized on leniency. When compared with other fellow females of similar age, I grew up acquiescently mindful of the honour-orientated culture, which inculcated immense respect for the elderly and acceptance of their wisdom as much as tradition’s bounds. I amply prized my parents, and spared no endeavour whatsoever in seeking to please them with the best behaviour they could have wished or hoped for. Was it then the young girl’s sense of adulthood practising its right of choice for the first time over the supremacy of the parents; or was it the contagiously overflowing enthusiasm of my girlfriends that had me similarly affected? Thinking back, I know it was neither, but rather my destiny for which this was the contumacious prelude. Faced with my insistence, which was backed by Dina, my parents’ foreheads creased as they resigned grudgingly to my wish.

Next morning, I stirred earlier than usual, and totally oblivious of the intended six months’ gap. I was wholly determined to ape my friends in making a dash into the sea of employment. The moment I opened my eyes I sensed exuberance sweeping over me. I jumped out of bed, drew the curtains slightly open, and stood watching excitedly the birth of a new ‘dissimilar’ day. The sun was still yawning, emitting its drowsy beams all over the opposite houses and the old towering eucalyptus trees that were dotted around the liberally leafy avenue. Patches of shades, around curves and angles, were bootlessly fighting the incursive heat. My sweet neighbours who had been nestling in the old giant Nabk tree that shaded off the frontage of my bedroom with its powerful branches had already left their beds, busy singing and chirping and relishing the short mild morning of another scorching Iraqi summer day.

I returned to bed and lay down, heart bouncing with the dream that was materializing. I glanced at the clock. The sense of thrill seemed to crowd out the slightest desire to return to sleep. I drifted, instead, into far away thoughts. Days and years had passed in a blink of an eye, I thought, so fresh and vivid in memory that it seemed just like a week or even a day before when I was stepping across the threshold of academe, having successfully sealed my high school education with a high average. My young heart thumping with exhilaration, I was then on cloud nine, an excited teen grappling and wrestling with time so as to grow up quickly. The school holiday that ensued the senior year was uniquely memorable. I spent the entire three months dreaming and wondering how would it be, how would it feel to be in college. Life could not have been sweeter. My whole body would shiver in excitement at the mere thought of what lay before me. University was a dream that was becoming reality for a pampered light-hearted teen, with a pair of blushing cheeks, and armed with the precarious wisdom of seventeen summers, stepping bashfully and tentatively into the intriguing co-educational ambience of Baghdad University, following twelve years of segregated education, half of which was consumed by private nunnery schools noted for their toilsome character- building curriculum. Much as it thrilled my parents’ hearts to have me advance to such a level of education, it also incommoded them. Their eyes declared defeat as they struggled to no avail to hide the swirls of disquiet that enveloped them throughout those four years. And that wasn’t for lack of faith in their little well-mannered girl, but rather because her good looks coupled with her remarkable innocence seemed too potent a combination for their peace of mind.

I glanced once again at the clock, and wafted further away into the past upon realizing the extra time my early rising had lent to my sweet recollections. My thoughts landed in the kitchen of my house on the evening that preceded my first day in college. I was giving mum a hand clearing the dinner table when dad, coming from behind, wound his arm around my back and hugged me close and walked me gently towards the living room. He slid the door shut, and sat me tenderly at the couch, facing him, while he talked for well nigh fifteen minutes. I was dad’s little girl right up to his last day on the face of this earth. That evening, however, was the first of only two or three times throughout his entire life where he seriously addressed me as a fully accountable grown up girl. He launched upon how great it was for him to live to such a blissful day as to see his precious girl on the verge of embarking upon an academic education: ‘It’s a dream half come true; the other half will materialize the day you get your degree’. He spoke slowly and solemnly, with an impressive voice. He emphasized that valuable as education and knowledge were, they should never crest the unquestionably priceless honour and reputation of the family: ‘That, you keep in mind in every move you make or word you say, now that you are embarking upon this combined education. Your mother and I trust you infinitely and we trust that you’ll behave well. We inculcated in you esteem for yourself, for your family and for your traditions; you must guard those three as much as you guard your own life. Cherish them, and keep them always before your eyes. Always bear in mind that easy girls are scentless flowers, a transient unmemorable pleasure. Men love to have fun, but they have no respect whatsoever for easy women; and in our society they are tossed out like trash and never ever chosen for wives’. Those words remained engraved lifelong into the deepest folds of my mind, and it was this poignant speech and, also, my extreme love for my parents that further deepened my sense of reliability and enhanced my self-esteem.

To Be Continued.........

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