Saturday, July 19, 2008


The kids on the street set up a lemonade stand.
It vaguely reminded me of Safia and the fresh squeezed orange juice, mostly just the spirit of it, so I went over. As I approached, the sight of cell phones and bottled juice set up on a foldout table forced me to pretend I had walked to the end of the driveway to get the mail.
Things just aren’t the way they used to be.
There’s even a black kid on the street now. We haven’t had one of those in years.
Twenty years now we’ve been the most non-white family on the block. Ironically the only time my neighbors see me is when I take the day to tan in the backyard.

I can’t tell what I’m writing about anymore. All I have here is my family, (almost the exact opposite of Tangier) which I was banned from writing about years ago when my Baji made me promise never to mention her by name when I become a famous journalist.
I am starting to become fascinated by the daily living practice of everything around me, I think it’s more of a bad habit than creative inspiration, seeing everything like a specimen. In any case I’ve been busy with a project of preservation.
The project we started at the Cinematheque right before I left was Memory Box / Boite a Enregistrer les Souvenirs / Snduq Al-Dikrayat, to preserve the memories and family stories of our neighborhood. The whole family album.
It spawned out of wanting to record every word my mother said. So I got home. She was still talking. The family albums were still there. My sister had begun to censor them, removing and possibly destroying the ones that included my other sister, when she was young and adorable, where you can see her true hair color, and the same of my mother before she went to Hajj. These are the gems.
As someone who has an almost manic obsession with recording everything through pictures and sound, I have been trying to build on our family album for years. It’s like cutting my legs off.
So I have launched a preservation project to digitize all family memories before they are screened by the “black cloud.” In a way I understand what she is doing but in a plumper, more supple way, a way that takes up most of the chair, I think the whole thing is ridiculous and as much as I miss Tangier, I’m glad I am home to save these things.
Even my mother, when she opened one of the 1999 Kashmir albums exclaimed, “This thing is just -like a -memory -box!” with all the usual hesitations and accent.

And I miss the elastic way of practicing Islam that seemed to come from all directions back west, generally behind a façade that presented itself in a caricature almost like a joke, like talking and winking at the same time.

This is the only picture I have with no people in it. Maybe I will start coloring the faces of people in black like my mother does when animate objects sneak onto the patterns of the fabric of our furniture. In her defense, sometimes it does take a month or two to recognize that squiggly shapes spell out a body. Head and hair and everything.

No comments: