Friday, November 30, 2012

Thinking of Home

I remember a long and cold night, many years ago, when I was in a forest somewhere. There was no light and I had stupidly forgotten to bring my wool gloves. The sky was clear and above my head there was a beautiful display of stars. Wherever I go I always remind myself to look for the stars because sometimes I might see a familiar face, and then I would know things would be alright because I knew that those same stars were also over the people and places I loved. My buddy and I were keeping watch in shifts. Hour on and hour off. I had been trying to sleep but lying down in a trench with just your kit is very uncomfortable and as much as I tried to keep my hands warm I just couldn't. I remember looking up at the night sky and feeling as if I was lying in an open grave. I treated the thought with indifference. When the other guy - I don't even remember who it is - tried to wake me I was up straight away, happy to no longer try and force myself to sleep. He hunkered down into the earth and I stood in the dark, peering out at what might have been infinity. Nothing stirred. I kept trying to warm my hands. When I remember those days the two main things that bothered me the most were the fatigue and the cold.
Then the thought occurred to me that at that very moment my family were safe in our old home. The thought gave me immense relief. That somewhere they were living a normal life far from this wretchedness I was subjecting myself to. In my mind's eye I saw them sitting around our dining room table, beneath those old chandeliers. I imagined everything down to the smallest details and including the smells. That faint smell of mazot from the old fashioned square heater, it's long piped exhaust reaching up to the high ceiling and across to the far corner of the room, suspended by wire.

I imagined them talking and living and doing all the boring things I had once despised. So desperate was I back then to see the world and have my adventures. There I was in a trench in the middle of nowhere, and what wouldn't I have given to be back there with them!

Slowly reality set back in and I was back in the darkness, shivering and alone with the sound of leaves rustling and the damp smell of cold earth in my nostrils. It was enough for me then to know that they were safe and comfortable. That all loved ones were so.

Today I am warm and that trench has long been filled. As I sit here on a train that is taking me home, drousy from the warmth, I remember that night from years ago. What I wouldn't give for my family, and all families, to be safe and warm in Syria again.

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