There are some really delicious milestones in one’s childhood- milestones where you stopped and thought, wow, I grew up. A recent happening surfaced the memory of one milestone that I’m sure you can relate to– the first time I walked to the “dokaneh” without adult supervision.
I grew up Saudi Arabia so Jordan was only an annual summer retreat, a place where we’d spend the three months of vacation at my grandmother’s in Shmesani, Amman. Living in Saudi Arabia is literally experiencing a heaven within walls, and although that naturally had its great many advantages to us as kids, we would count down the days to “Nsafer 3ala Amman”- the city of the 7arat, the ice cream, the sha3erilbanat, and ultimately, freedom.
I mention Shmesani in particular because this word is of huge significance to the milestone I’m about to share. Shmesani, an area in West Amman, was my first taste of liberty and my first experience with the outside world.
This experience started in a very little part of Shmesani, my grandmother’s front yard- a sloping stone deck(in picture) perfect for skateboards, balls, and hide & seek. Much growing up was done in that yard whether it was in regards to my dealings with my brothers and cousins, uncles and aunts, or the gardeners.
In the front yard, I grew up enough to progress to the 7ara beyond the fence- the round dead-end street that accommodated my grandmother’s house.
In the 7ara I learned even more- I learned how to deal with grouchy old ladies (chant Sabee7a il Qabee7a), I discovered that you always keep “ili bil 7ara lal 7ara”, and I developed my social skills. The 7ara was my domain for years- trying (unsuccessfully) to play soccer with the boys, learning (successfully) to ride a bike, and having more places for hiding while playing hide & seek.
After many years of being confined to the 7ara, the day finally came where I was “old enough” to be allowed to cross over to the other side of the street to get to the dokaneh, which to a young child seemed like the delicious domain of the candy man himself.
I can clearly see myself walk that very first walk as a big girl, armed with a couple of Shelens and with strict instructions to HOLD BASEM’S HAND VERY TIGHTLY. I can see Basem and I trotting happily down the street clutching each others hands safely and looking anticipatively at the dokaneh down the seemingly endless street.
And as my mother says, “falatat il masba7a”, because soon enough the Dallal kids dominated the whole of Shmesani in different places ranging from Safeway (the only Safeway those days was in Shmesani), Frosti’s, Tom & Jerry’s, Haya’s, and of course, Istiqlal Bookstore (who, for sake of mentioning, are the most spoiled shopkeepers in the WORLD!).
I grew up- we grew up- and our personal 7aras grew too to include all of Amman, but Shmesani remains my ultimate domain. I know every little nook and cranny by heart, every little dead end and alley by name, and every little off beat store by experience. I know every single house and which family resides in each- I know that this is Dar Il Majali and that that is Dar Imseeh. I know that the Khourys have always lived there and that the Rantisis have a big scary dog. Nothing has changed for the past several decades, the same houses welcome my car every time I go visit my grandmother.
When we decided to move to Jordan a couple of years ago, we naturally decided to reside in Shmesani, which had kindly accommodated us as guests for two decades. Unfortunately, the only suitable apartment we found (and which we now reside in) was several blocks down on Tal3et il Plastic, closer to the Il-Madeeneh Il Riyadeyeh area than to the Shmesani we grew up in.
A few months ago though, my parents came upon a house up for sale- a house two houses up the street from the dokaneh, across the street from Dar Khoury, 2 houses down the street from Dar il Majali, and 4 houses down the street from my grandmother’s. It feels so weird, like they just bought back a part of my childhood.
Today, I was standing there, getting caught up in a discussion with the engineer about whether to use marble or ceramic tiles, and my eye drifted down the street to the dokaneh. In a second, I was transported to that little girl again, clutching Basem’s hand, looking triumphantly at the dokaneh and thinking, hey, look, I grew up.
We should be moving in a couple of weeks, and the second best part is, moving comes with a “ta3zeeleh”, so I can finally find all of the stuff that’s been lost for years ;) Well, unless I get lazy and decide to just pull out the actual drawers with all their belongings and transport them in my car…