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It has been about six or seven weeks. Almost 50 days, since I first noticed the seeds of a familiar sensation germinating in my soul. A familiar feeling of uncertainty and insecurity creeping its way down from my ears and eyes, to my heart. It started with hearing the news of isolation and sickness from my home town, Iran. First a cousin slips away, then a rumor spreads. Trying to live in denial for as long of a stretch as possible, until the rumor becomes too loud not to be heard, too tangible not to be touched. Until the circle of safety gets too tight to be able to breathe without apprehension. Until the feeling of insecurity becomes more and more discernible through every piece of news or phone call.
I wondered for a while, why this familiarity? Why has this fire started burning so fast as if it already existed there? As if the hot coal covered with ashes for decades is revealing itself again. Why am I feeling like falling, at a speed faster than the threat itself?
Then, came the realization. It was just a few decades ago that I would be shaken in the middle of the night by my fear stricken mother to run to the basement for shelter.
She would be shaking. All through the air strike and even for a while after the white siren would pierce the dark night. It was like every limb, every organ in her body was shivering. In her hysteria, she would grab my wrist so hard, trying to keep me safely close to her that my skin would have a hard time letting go of the red markings left by her frightened fingernails.
Her mouth dry.
Her breath shallow.
Her slender body a bit more crushed with every roar of an explosion.
I wasn’t afraid though. I detested having to run down in the middle of the night to shelter. My innocent teenage body didn’t have time to contemplate the possibility of death. It was too busy growing. Too busy exploring. It was invincible. It came to a point where I would not even wake up through the raids. I would sleep through bombings and wake up in the morning to find out how many neighborhoods were destroyed. The invasion in our lives was curious. It was not scary.
How can I even wonder about the familiarity of these days of suspense? This well experienced feeling that I stayed ignorant to, for a few years; denied, for a few more and, actively shoved under the rug of a busy life, for the years to come. This close sense of insecurity and vulnerability has been traveling with me across the globe, no matter how far I ran to hide away from it.
This time around though, I am experiencing it from the other side of this looking glass called age. This time, I am the mother. I am the care giver. I am the one who wants to gather her chicks under her quivering wings, hold them so tight to leave marks on their skin. Crushed by their youthful carelessness, I look in the mirror and I see my mother. I understand now, that her fear was more of watching us get hurt than losing her own life. I understand now, that the shiver was not just a fear of the bombs or even death, it was of not knowing, not being certain what the future was pregnant with. It was of the ambiguity encompassing our days ahead. Where would the next meal come from, the next tank of gas, the next load of gasoline to keep us warm? So many loose ends. So many details incomprehensible to our young minds then. I see my mother in the mirror. And I hear her voice:
This too shall pass.