Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dearest Uncle! [our memories]

For years now, my uncle and I kept a series of emails, letters and correspondences. With his permission, I am posting his latest letter, and my reply.

Dear Family and Friends,
Mdeirej is a little village at the intersection of two main axes:
  1. the Beirut-Damascus highway and
  2. the road linking the Chouf with the Upper Metn region, the first villages of which along that road being Hammana on the Metn side and Ain Dara on the Chouf side.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in that little village; I went to school in Hammana, and, because of the difficulty in logistics (the road being available-- due to snowfall- some 50% of the time in winter) I was sent to school at the age of 7. We had a house and a fruit and vegetable garden there, and I spent a wonderful childhood in that village, mostly doing mountain climbing in the summer, hunting for birds.

The unskilled laborers working for my father were for the most part from the neighboring villages: Hammana, Falougha, Ras-el-Metn, Ain Dara, Azzounieh, Aghmeed, Sofar, Bhamdoun, to name a few. As a result of my father's professional involvement I knew many families in the region and, in the Summer time, some of the workers used to bring along their children to play with me while they were doing their job.

Consequently, Mdeirej holds a special place in my memory; the hospitality of the neighboring villages, the conviviality, the natural beauty of its surrounding villages, the plentiful supply of water springs in the mountains where I used to go hunting, etc. Nothing can erase those souvenirs from my memory. On Sundays, when I used to go hunting (or simply doing some hiking), some of the fruit orchard owners would be tending to their property; unmistakably, each and everyone of them, at every orchard we pass, would invite me and my cousin Charles to stop by for a bunch of grapes, a basket of cherries, some apples, some pears, a basket of figs (in September); these memories are to die for. (Perhaps that's what is required of us at this time?!)

After we moved to Beirut, we kept our property there and used to spend the summers in Mdeirej; at 1,500 meter. of altitude above sea level the late afternoons are rather chilly, not to mention early evenings and later. If one sleeps for 5 hours, one feels like new in the morning. Then the 1975 war occurred in Lebanon and in their advance on Hammana, coming from the Chouf side, the Palestinians and the so called national forces pillaged our property and destroyed it completely.

The house is gone, now Mdeirej is shelled, but the memories remain; and I am sending copies of this mail to my daughter, my niece and my nephew, so that the memory goes on, to the next generation; perhaps some day there will be a story to tell.

Cheers, in spite of it all.



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