A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the sounds of silence.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 1, 2007

I find it difficult to sorrow in the presence of others. Sadness for me expresses itself only in solitude. and now, home again after 32 days in 5 hotels, I can relax into the silence and, at last, be sad.

2006 was a dreadfully long year. While it had beautiful highlights – my cousin’s wedding in April, my sister’s baby three days ago – its low point were many, and they were very low.

I came home (this is my parents’ home – I return home to Beirut next week) to find that even the flag is in mourning. My father, whose patriotism is profound but never blind, erected what is perhaps the largest American flag flying in Iowa – save those of the local car dealerships and Perkins restaurants – several years ago. We can identify our house from miles away – the flag stands out among all the housetops.

Today, however, I came home to find the flag half untethered from its pole, whipping ineffectually in the winter wind.



2006 was a tough year for those who had to balance love of our country with horror at the policies pursued in our name. Perhaps the flag is sad, too.

My grandmother gave me a Christmas present yesterday – a book I had requested at the beginning of December, when I was freshly arrived to Jerusalem with a pile of torn out magazine pages. The book was a funny one to request from one’s grandparents:


I am not a violent person – not someone who would ordinarily thrill to a book on guns. But kalashnikovs are omnipresent in the Middle East, and the many shabab-in-shabby-jeans I have seen carrying them over the years has made me intensely curious about the gun and its role in political histories around the world.

I asked for the book, and (so my grandmother and the Amazon.com printout near his computer tell me) my grandfather ordered it immediately. Thanks to the terrible weather these past few weeks, however, it arrived on the 30th, in between the memorial and the new baby.

True to her always elegant form, my grandmother wrapped it and gave it to me as a proper gift. As with all their gifts over the years, it came with an accompanying card, and an inscription inside the front cover:




I love that she wrote the cards from both of them – our other gifts, the ones she wrapped on the 24th, were signed only from her. I love it, and I wonder whether it made her as sad to write their names as it made me to read them.

(On a brighter, equally family note: I asked my friend M to ask her Mo(u)hammad whether as an aunt I could call my nephew “khalti” in the same way that mothers and fathers in the Levant call their children “mama” and “baba”. Apparently I can, as long as I use the appropriate tone. I have been encouraged to reflect carefully upon the tone parents use, and adapt the same to “khalti”. So please imagine me stalking innocent parents on the streets and in the restaurants of Beirut, trying to get their intonations into my ear.)


2 Responses to “the sounds of silence.”

  1. Intlxpatr said

    Mom told me today that when Dad discovered internet catalog ordering, and Amazon, a monster was created! I am SO glad he was able to get you the book you so wanted, and that she included his name on the tag, recognizing his contribution. . .

  2. me too – happy-sad, but very pleased to have one final gift from the two of them.

    as for online ordering, it is monster-creating! I am addicted, or perhaps beyond.

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