I had yet to understand the intensity of it all. That is, until I turned on the news. My eyes widened as my second home morphed into a warzone, crumbling to the ground.
It was as if the world I know was spinning, I was doing everything in my power to hold on for some kind of control. I felt numb. Quietly, I wiped the tears streaming down my face; I cupped my hands together, praying I wouldn’t lose another family member to the violence and cruelty of the Syrian government.
In that moment of absolute helplessness, my mind wandered to the nights I spent on balconies in the city sipping tea with my cousins, staying awake until dawn, playing cards. The roars of their laughter at my attempt to speak Arabic and being surrounded by the aroma of jasmine flowers are what I remember as if it were only yesterday. The days I spent with my family were certainly some of my best and my stomach churn at the realization that I may never relive those days again.
I think back to my summers spent beneath the Syrian desert sky, picking apples from the tallest tree branches. The tangy, sweet taste of fresh fruit is what I often look for. It seems I’ll never be able to find it.
Staring at the TV, I realized I’m searching for the same sense of warmth and beauty I fell in love with the first time I visited Syria so many years ago.
Will I ever feel that sense of belonging again? I wonder.
I ponder the first time I trudged up the steep and narrow steps to the ancient home of my aunt. Immediately, I comprehended why her old age and chronic illness prevented her from leaving her home for 30 years. Finally gathering the money and courage to buy a new home, I watched as her longtime dream of a better life for herself quickly vanished when her home was unceremoniously bombed to the ground.
Leaving this world with broken dreams one year later, my aunt’s memory allowed me to understand that I could have easily been in the same position. I’ve realized now that if my parents hadn’t moved to America, I would have been living through the violence and trauma that my relatives have lived through.
Death and destruction is not how I wish to remember Syria, a country I’d like to think of as my second home.
What would I have done if I were living through the revolution? Would I be brave enough to fight for the freedom of the Syrian people?
Syria is constantly on my mind. I often think of what I might say to my relatives if I ever got the chance to see them again. I hate myself for the unspoken words; moments I should have told my family how much they meant to me and times that I regret not being more thankful.
I continue to replay moments in my head in fear of forgetting them someday.
My feelings for a country that I care so deeply for and the family members that I’ve loved more than words can express make it difficult for me to imagine my beloved Syria in ruins.