Monday, September 13, 2010

The Walk To The Bookstore

The house was built in the 50’s, not exactly a mansion but a grand house by the standards of the times. The area was quite empty then with only a few houses built, it aspired to be the new elite area of the city. Even I remember when I could see all the way to the outskirts of down town. Over the years the aspirations of the area were never met and it developed into this middle class area with a mixture of the grand houses built at the beginnings and the later not so grand houses built to accommodate the middle income families that moved in. In recent years it has been slapped in the face with ugliness and haphazard building and silly arrangements of shops that sell nothing anyone wants.

Grand or not, it was my favourite area. It was were I formed my most beautiful memories. The memories that I recall when I want to open that valve to let happiness pour in. Last night I went there, alone. I walked all the way to my grandparents’ house and took that road that opened up all the vaults in my memory banks. The strange thing was that I did not see those memories in my mind’s eye, I was almost literally transported there. I stood in front of the house, a silly looking school now, and I heard grand dad calling for his tea, and I could smell the Jasmine tree that is no longer there and I could almost touch the grapes that swayed and shone above us like beautiful chandeliers.

It would be 3 in the afternoon, my grandparents would retire to their bedroom for their afternoon siesta and I would take the money that my grandmother gave me, the equivalent of $1.5 (which made me rich) and start my walk to the bookstore. It would be hot in those summer afternoons and I would walk under the big shady trees whenever possible, feeling the singe of the sun whenever I walked into it’s pools shining in between. There was a distinct smell for summer, or perhaps it was my young nose starting to form it’s own memories of smells and scents. Along the way I would see the same people I always saw on these bookstore treks. The woman that watered her plants, the young man washing his car, the older man in his tank top and pajama bottoms reading the news paper with his Turkish coffee cup placed on the ledge of the front porch. All the porches at the top of the front stairs  looked the same with the same plants grown in the same pots and some in olive oil tin cans. Finally I would reach my destination and there I would feel that the whole world opened up for me and gave me a big hug. It is the end of the week when the store received all the new issues of Batman, Lulu, Superman and Mickey Mouse comics. There was also the monthly issue of the five adventurers (any Middle Eastern readers of the same age group should know them) and if that was the weekend when all came together then jackpot!

I would pay the owner of the book store hurriedly unable to contain my excitement a minute longer. The back trip would take much faster, I would want to run back to my room at my grandparents and get into that mental frenzy of not knowing what to start with. Not knowing which comic to start reading I would read the first page of each one. The room with it’s high ceilings and windows shaded by huge bougainvilleas would be cool, the linen bedspread felt cool to the touch and I would spread my comics all over it relishing the feel of it and relishing my coming few hours of utter bliss. You see, there, in those hours I was the only one in the world, I had everything I needed, I was alone since my siblings would be at home, so no interruptions, I was the only child, the spoiled one, I was King of the world. I would start to read, and very slowly. I wanted to keep the moment, I wanted to taste it and experience it to it’s fullest.

Maybe that is why I still cherish reading, maybe that is why when it is close to bedtime I start to feel happiness washing all over my soul in anticipation of the coming hour or so of being in bed with a good book, it never failed to make me feel good. Now when I want to feel better I just visualize myself with a book and that takes care of the gloomiest days.

Last night I went to bed but did not read. Last night I could only dream of my grandparents and thank them for giving those moments to forever hold.


Afif said...

lovely, I just adore the part about the "five adventurers", but I guess you missed "bisat al reeh" French comics Arabized/localized and published by a Lebanese company, and most importantly (which I can completely see you reading in your childhood) Majed!!!

I tried it so many times but the outcome is the same, memories are best felt when they originated. The more nostalgic we get, the more we are disappointed. I say and from my personal experience, those cherished moments are made of the right formula, right age, feelings, hormones, status quo and timing. The act of trying to re-live a moment might be worth a try, but actualizing it is another matter.

Happytizing Life said...

Actually Afif I never got into Majed. I guess by then I was a bit older than required for such reading :)
You are right about memories. but sometimes the moment is so right that you get a glimpse of the original one more time. That is bliss.