There are no warmer memories than the ones made in the home where you grew up with your brothers and sisters, enveloped in your parents’ love. And so while weak with hunger and shivering from cold, I felt drawn to pay our family home a visit. I walked alone to the edge of town, where our home once stood on the third floor of an apartment building.
I knew what I would find, but it still hurt like hell.
Our home is near the mountains where Assad’s Fourth Division is based. These parts of town don’t usually get shelled. They are too close to the frontlines and often the regime accidentally harms their own troops while trying to shell these areas. The regime only targets the front lines when they’re trying to invade the town and they do it using tanks so they can hit more precise targets. They save the random shelling for the densely populated center of town.
Our home was damaged during a regime invasion attempt eight months ago.
One third of our home is now in ruins. Much of the furniture is buried in rubble. Our television is shattered. We spent a lot of family time sitting around that thing. Tuesday was our movie night. My family would gather around with bowls of popcorn and roasted watermelon seeds. Sometimes we invited friends over. Sometimes mom watched with us. Dad died a long time ago, may God have mercy on his soul, and mom took care of us but she was also a friend, and we kept her company.
In the living room, I found my brother’s sweater, a white Armani knock-off, but it was still a good looking sweater. We bought it during a trip to Aleppo. More than once, I waited for my brother to go to school and borrowed that sweater without telling him.
It hurt to see that sweater torn and tattered, like our family.
We’re a really big family but everyone is off trying to survive on their own in a different city, a different country. Palestinians are used to that—but so are Syrians now. It’s too dangerous to stay in close touch with my brothers, so I don’t speak to them much. As for my mom, she feels she needs to check on me every day. But I don’t let her hear my voice. I prefer to type messages to her. If I speak to her, she will hear my sadness and I cannot bear to make her suffer more.
Once in a while, when mom insists on hearing my voice, I speak to her on the phone, and suddenly I don’t feel like a grown man or a brave revolutionary, but like a little boy who wants nothing more than the comfort of his mother, and it’s useless to try to hold the tears back.
But I am just one of the millions of Syrians who’ve been separated from their homes, families, and friends, and left trying to survive in refugee camps or slums for the internally displaced, or living under brutal siege.
I stopped by the kitchen. The empty fridge lay on the floor in bits. The dinner table where our family gathered every day was under rubble.
There’s nothing in the world like mom’s cooking, but I was one of those picky kids. Lots of times, I’d tell mom that dinner sucked, especially when she cooked okra in tomato sauce, a popular Syrian dish. On those days, I went out and grabbed a sandwich with my friends. Mom never really got mad. She was a good sport about it.
For me, a free Syria means freedom and dignity for the people, and also having my family back together under one roof, our roof, in the town we all love, Moadamiya.