Sunday, December 13

The gift of memories

I was washing the green beans when I heard my dad telling Brent the story of how we left Algeria, our home country.

I'll never forget that day, I remember looking up at the sky and seeing the bright full moon as my mama and papa rushed us in the car to get to the airport.  "Are we ever coming back," I asked my Papa.  "I hope so," he replied.

There was a lot of civil unrest in Algeria at the time but of course, my brother and I didn't know that then.
We left most of our things back in our house, my baby clothes and all of my mama's special perfumes that she would let me smell every now and again.  She collected those perfumes before her marriage years when she was a flight attendant and she was so proud of them, her very favorite being Samsara and Opium.
I wonder if they still make those?..

Memories are so funny like that.  Sometimes I forget the big picture but remember the tiniest details.

I was wearing green shorts with a belt, my hair up in my signature pig tails and bangs.
We had four suitcases, between the four of us.
We got to my uncles apartment finally, after what felt like hours of flying, but I don't remember much after that.
There might be months or years, I can't really tell, between the memories that I have after.
Our apartment complex had ducks that we would feed in the afternoons and I dressed like a cowboy sometimes.
I didn't know any English but I knew all the songs on the radio.
I remember my first day of school and my very first exam.  I made a D and I asked my friend who translated everything for me whether that was a good grade.
I never made anything lower than an A after that.
Music was the main way I learned English.  During school, I would spend a half day at the normal Elementary and then a bus would pick my brother and I up and take us to the English Second Language school.
I got made fun of for having an accent in middle school, I got made fun of for being chubby and for being different.  My mama still dressed me and brushed my long hair and I didn't think it was that weird, all the girls in Algeria were the same way.  But American girls, they were different.  They wore makeup and short skirts and had boyfriends and went to the movies.
One day, I decided that I would never have an accent again, so it just went away.  Just like the way I decided I would stop walking pigeon toed and stop having a lisp.
Where are you from, people would ask.  It was never a simple answer, and it's still not.

As I was trying not to eat all of the green beans, I went to my closet and found four big photo albums that my mama and papa had put together over the years.  All of the photographs were taken on the film camera that my papa had bought back in 1981, he told me.  When papa was studying in America to get his PhD.  That was the year that my love was born but it would be 4 more years before my own birth.

There were photos of my grandparents house and my first ballet recital when we still lived in Algeria.  I was so proud of my handmade ballerina outfit and you could tell.
My papa still had hair  haha and my mama's hair was still black.
Brent looked at each individual photograph in awe as he had never seen that early into my life.
My grandfather was so young and funny and his garden was overflowing with grapes and pears and flowers, may he rest in peace.
It's so weird when you look back at yourself and see how young and naive you were but remember thinking that at the time you felt as grown as you would ever get...

That small camera that captured all of these priceless memories was the most expensive thing my papa had ever purchased, and literally the only camera he has ever had.  

When he gave it to me this past thanksgiving, I feel like he handed me a part of my childhood, and also a part of my adulthood because I wouldn't be the person that I am today if it weren't for him.  He taught me languages and made sure I knew about different cultures and while I didn't have the independence to go to the movies or have boyfriends or wear short skirts, I knew how to travel in London and Paris and Italy by myself at 13 years old.  The old and worn case even still has the travel tag from our last trip to Europe as a family,  with fond memories of our fights haha and eating tomatoes and stinky cheese in the train on the way to Florence.

I will cherish it forever and I can't wait to start shooting film for the first time!


  1. your story is beautiful... thank you for sharing your heart. xo!

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, and for your presence here xx