Shelves of Time by amina kadous

My dearest grandpa,

I’m writing to you although I wasn’t that close to you, I was closer to Nanou but since your departure nothing has returned to its normal routine… As I enter our home in Mehalla Al Kobra, I discover the hidden gem that carried and hid all the answers to so many questions I didn’t know existed within me; until the moment I stepped across its threshold and everything erupted…It was time to put all the pieces together and understand the story of myself and yourself, Grandfather. 

It has been many years since you passed away and since I last entered our home in Mehalla Al Kobra. It was home to many people…It represented light and hope to generations… Always open to anyone and everyone as you never liked to close it, even when you were traveling, I enter now as a different person, a more exposed, matured version of myself searching for the old days of her childhood. Soon, I was on a mission to collect all my memories and the moments I have lived through in these thick walls.

I find myself lying in each corner of the house and on each shelf, feeling your presence in your bed where I used to cuddle with Nanou and feeling your presence in the kitchen where you always created those special recipes only you approved of. I feel you there, in your seat in the living room. I lay in the spaces between and beyond those days, observing and polishing my memories, as best I can. I wander through your photos and am lost in an era that seems so distant, so far from touching upon anything we are living today…Life was black and white as in your photographs…For me, however, these black and white legacies were infused with the colors of life. 

Life revolved around you. I was so much attached to the structures of our homes as well… and the concept of home and how it was a beacon of light… my home was me and I was our home…

 Do you remember how our homes were filled with people? It was always crowded and noisy. Kids running around in the garden and in the corridor…Voices of the familiar, prayers, of tears, tones and sounds that hugged me, embracing me and tethering me to my childhood days as they echoed through the rooms and hallways of each house. My world grew out of that world, a tree with deep roots that withstood the shifting and unpredictable sands of the Sahara it grew from.

I saw myself reflected in your belongings, your photos and your love for the old and rustic...your wanderings, your travels, your thoughts, your struggles. As you meandered, so have I. I found how much I am a reflection of you. Now a days I do the same things you used to do back then, I explore the same places and I search for what you always searched for… It is as though gravity pulls and attracts my unconscious, my heart towards you.

 On a slow talk with my aunt I came to know how much I resembled you. She told me how genes travel through our family, that I had the family’s habit of being attached so much to our past and hoarding so much of our ancestor's belongings, often feeling as though we were always living in the past…She told me that you were the same. I came to know this through your left behind clutter. Clutter that is now a legacy of notes, letters, stamps, photographs and your love for the old and vintage...

We unraveled stories through your hidden world where endless finds came to hand. I was lost in you...lost in your space and lost in your time... I traveled far back, to the time when you wrote letters on your typewriter to your friends and when used to exchange stamps with you friend in India. To the time when you used to go on road trips with your friends in school and to when you hoarded coins from every place your feet stepped. 

I came to know you more when you left. Since that day, many of us have been affected. Nanou didn’t wait long until she followed you in the year after… she couldn’t live life without you because you had given her that life. You were full of the ‘joy d’vivre’

I find myself through you Grandpa!

My life, though still young, has taken me to wonderful lands because of you, because of who you were. I came to be who I am through you, your eyes. Since then I have became a totally different person, someone I wish I had been when you were here. I wish I had spent more time with you…

If it wasn’t for all your documentation and your photography I wouldn’t have known you better. I wouldn’t have known how handsome you were, how sophisticated and how eccentric, artistic and outgoing you were. Thank you for leaving behind these treasures and clutter so that I could explore your world and unveil the inner and outer beauty of your journey here, a journey I came to know through your shelves of time.

 Your Granddaughter,

Amina Kadous