on goodbyes

A teacher of mine once told us that he did not particularly like goodbyes. He was superstitious, which is why he opted for "See ya later!" whenever goodbyes were in order. Goodbyes are finite. They mean that we are never going to see each other again.

And I quite agree with him. To a certain extent.

I lost two of the most important people in my life without having had the chance to even say see ya later to them.*

Which is why goodbyes are important to me. Not the kind where you leave and then you come back. The kind where you leave indefinitely.

A month ago, with everybody (aka my mother and brother) being in Dubai, I was cajoled by my sweet grandmother to sleep over at her house on friday. Now I can see you smirk and say: You could have gone anywhere you liked, and you went to sleep at your grandmother's? On a friday?
To which I will answer: Yes, sir, I did just that. I had nowhere else to go on that friday night.

But I did it, not just because I knew it would make her happy. I did it because it would probably be the last time I would ever get to sleep in this house. This old, plain house facing a cemetery that had once been a pine forest – the most famous pine forest in Beirut at the turn of the century. Well it would be the last time I would open my eyes to its long windows and its large ceiling, to the pendulum announcing that it was twelve with twelve of the most eardrum-piercing strikes. The last time I would wake up to the sound of my grandmother and my nanny** arguing in the morning, the echo of their voices like a strident wave of air flying from one room into another. The last time I would smell the dampness of time crawling in the wood of its furniture and the thickness of its sandstone walls. The last time I would stand onto the patio, having just walked outside the kitchen to see the long entrance, flanked by plantable – albeit not so green – areas, and to see the loquat tree, the olive tree, the orange trees and the little fountain in which my mother and her brothers used to swim when they were young.

You see. The house has been sold. One misunderstanding led to misfortune. And the house was sold.

At the time I slept in it, the house was, in fact, no longer ours.
The architect to whom it now belonged came to visit us in the morning. Aside from the fact that he saw me just as I had rolled out of bed and thought I was no more than fourteen years old, he marched outside of the house repeating religiously, almost to himself I would think: "may your house always stand." – which is the literal arabic translation of a saying you tell people when you want to wish that they may always have a home and may they always live happy and fulfilled, with a roof above their heads to keep them safe. And this is where the Queen of all ironies butts in. You see, this man had bought our land for the sole purpose of demolishing the house to allow for a great and terrible building to rise in its stead!

[Too much anger? I'll tone it down a little bit.]

So I thought it was ironic. Lest of course, Alanis Morissette disagrees. But I don't think she would.

Today, our house is lost, like many of its siblings around the city. But it isn't that Beirut is losing another beautiful element of its heritage. No, it really isn't about the city at all. Beirut has become gray, arid, concrete, and nothing is to be done about that.

No, this is about us. It is about our house and its demise, and our story there, which will end when the house ceases to exist.

It breaks my heart to pieces, this mere realization that one day, I am not going to walk through its doors, to freeze to death in its rooms, to recall my grandfather walking in and out of it. To see him standing on the porch in anticipation of us.

So I have written this post, to commemorate the house. To honor its memory, and that of all of those who have met, loved and lived in it.

The pictures that I took won't be enough, next month, when it's gone, but like all the things you say goodbye to, the memories are far better than nothing at all.


*But I have indulged in countless romanticizings of my respective obsessions with them previously on this – not so rich, I would say – blog, which is why I am not elaborating any further. If you guess what and who I'm talking about, then congratulations, you get an A. And a smiley face. It means you are a faithful, albeit rare, follower of this blog. So you win.
**My grandmother and nanny often engage in loud discussions/fights. My nanny has lived her entire life with my grandparents. She moved in with us when my mother got married and we were born. But by the time I turned fourteen and we moved out of our first house, she returned to my grandmother's house and has been living there since. I know you don't care about this information, but I'm just itching to tell it. Write it, that is.



  1. You beautifully described your Grandma’s house, and gave it a soul and a story to last forever.
    Miss you Sarsour :)

  2. This was a gorgeous house and I am really sorry it doesn't exist anymore... I can understand your anger and sadness. My grandparents's house, which my grandfather built for my grandmother and their family (my mother and her brother) in 1940s was demolished after my grandparents died a few years ago and it had to be sold. It wasn't as grand as your grandma's house, but it had a big garden, in which lots of my memories of hot and long summer days and dreams were buried. Ahh, everything we love we lose with time...


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