[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Dear Seif.]
Jan. 20, 2012
It is with mixed feelings that I reflect on what hit us a year ago. Sheer terror and sheer ecstasy in a compact amount of time. With the anniversary of the Jan. 25th Revolution coming up in a few days, so many memories have revolved from the back of my mind to the forefront. I’ll share with you one that is still fresh with the 5 senses in my mind: our outing to the supermarket.
Remember when we were cooped up at home for 18 days? It was too unsafe to venture beyond our neighborhood, there was a curfew imposed, plus there was a gas shortage so we had to conserve every drop in case of emergency.
Our outings consisted of a trip to the supermarket. Your dad would put on a smile and a sing-song voice as he tried to make going to the supermarket and a drive around the block sound like we were taking you to an amusement park. Lara would smile widely in response, oblivious to how strange things looked from the car window.
“Look… look at the tank ya Seif,” your dad would say. I studied the faces of the soldiers like a tourist peering at an alien culture. I tried to capture every detail of the tanks and the soldiers with my eyes – perhaps the more I saw them, the more real they would seem.
You saw men flat on their faces in the middle of a small roundabout; their wrists tied to their ankles. Soldiers were beating the soles of their feet with batons. Foreshadowing things to come? You wanted to know why they were doing that to the men. They were thugs and the soldiers were keeping us safe.
We reached the large supermarket we usually shop at. I’ll never forget the sight and how it felt. The supermarket that was usually buzzing with activity and sounds was full of ghostly, stoned faces moving silently from isle to isle. Again, I looked at the faces of all those strangers and felt that we shared something in common other than sad, blood-shot eyes. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that you and everyone around you are simultaneously feeling the same way: shock.
You went to check out the candy section, your dad and I went to search for basic supplies. Hardly anything worth buying was left on the shelves. Your dad got a scoop from a friend on the phone that we could find missing essentials at the mini-market inside a gas station nearby.
I was delighted to see that there weren’t many cars parked outside the mini-market, and that three different families were coming out of the shop with yellow plastic bags. There was something to buy! We found milk, we found juice, we found bread, we found pasta,we found snacks. You asked if we could buy you a box of jelly beans – we told you that you could choose whatever you wanted and that it would be allowed. We wanted to please you and Lara in any way possible. You couldn’t believe your ears and took Lara by the hand to choose candy that was once forbidden to you. The joy on your faces made me instantly tear. How could our life change so suddenly like that? Could we keep you safe? Were things going to get worse? Were we going to run out of money?
Paying for the food, everything seemed too expensive (although none of the prices had changed). I never needed to look at the cost of anything before; I just paid. Given the fact that all banks were closed and ATM machines weren’t operational, our cash was being depleted without the guarantee that we’d receive our salaries at the end of the month. At that moment, I felt the pinch of living on a tight budget.
Our outing was over. We went back home and made sure to miss the news to rest our heart for a little while. We sat together in the TV room and enjoyed the food we were blessed to have.
I asked you today what you remembered from our trip to the supermarket. You described to me the prisoners that were chained, and you even remembered how we tried to visit a friend nearby later that day, but were refused into the compound for security reasons. I guess Lara sitting in her car seat looked too suspicious… You didn’t remember being allowed to eat loads and loads of contra-ban candy.
Your nostalgic mother, Rania