22. Growing Pains

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I miss home. Perpetually. I scroll through my twitter home page, with journalists and analysts sharing articulate insights into the politics on the ground. The terror and dominance of ISIS, the tensions in Jerusalem, the simmering chaos in Baghdad: I watch the images of war paint my screen daily as winter sets over Britain.

I went to a bonfire last night and lit my first firework, it reminded me of when I was 11 in Baghdad, I was on a Ferris wheel in a theme park and I saw a firework fly into the sky and I remember thinking ‘how great! Even in times of war they still have fireworks’ only this one didn’t go off. It continued to travel through the sky, arching high. Then it fell, there was a moment of calm, everyone held their breath in the stagnant air. Then the ground shook and my ears hurt. People screamed, my uncle drove on the pavement. We got home, ate watermelon and laughed about it.

However, daily missiles were not a quotidian experience in Iraq in 2004, whatever the media was depicting. The everyday, the banal, was one that was tinged with food, exasperation and humour. Men would go to work; women would don a black abaaya (veil) and buy fresh fish and parsley from the markets, boys would play football in the dusty streets and girls would practise threading each others’ eyebrows. I know this sounds highly romanticised, and I daresay it is, but this is how I remember it. It was like the missing puzzle piece of my identity, seeing my mother back in Baghdadi life like that, being in charge of her language and customs, seeing her in natural habitat if you will, humanised her for me. They were necessary visits to the warzone because I had to witness not just the death of war but also the peace of life. I had to see it to connect with it. Marcus Garvey wrote ‘a people without knowledge of their past history, origins, culture is like a tree without roots.’ I was growing without my roots and I felt all the more lost for it. So I went and acquired both knowledge and lived experience of my polemical origins.

But I’ve grown a great deal since and I’m forgetting my roots again, I need to go back, I need to see my family and my sunsets. I miss home so much it’s become an ache. And no amount of highbrow Western analysis will fill that void. As Islamophobia continues to rise in this country, my mother was recently told to ‘go back to where she came from’, but seeing as she’s here due to British involvement in Iraq, she can’t. She (in a rare instance of constraint) said nothing in response, but if it were me, I would have sincerely told him that I wish I could.

Originally published on Infita7, on the 6th November 2014 here.

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