Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Most Far Memories

Tri ru rum….ti ti rum…..am walking away….from the troubles in my life…am walking away…to find a better day….am walking away….

What a great song…..I think I will have some type of addiction on it. I’ve already had withdrawal symptoms from it. I came craving for it. And it seems that I need a more dose of it today.

The most far memory I have is that we were in a car. Me, my father, and my mother. My sister was not born yet. I must be below 4 years old. Cause when I was 4 years and a half my sister was born. Is it possible to remember that far? Anyway. I remember I was in the backseat. Fairouz was singing “A hadeer il bousta” in the car’s radio. We were near Baghdad international gallery between Al Hartheya and Al Mansour. In a corner there was a restaurant called EL NASAEM. In its garden there were colored circles of lights. Red, yellow, blue, green, and white. I liked them a lot. Now every now and then when I hear that song of Fairouz I remember those lights. My mother was young and energetic. My father was teaching at secondary school but at the same time he was studying art at evening. I asked them why we did not go to that restaurant. I cannot remember what they answered.
I cannot remember something else till am 5 years old. Me, my mother, and my aunt went to Jordan to unknown cause to me. We went to Al Aqaba beach. I knew Zina, a girl of my age. Her mother became my mother’s friend. They were alone. We became neighbors at hotel. I remember my mom said something about me loving Zina. I was so bothered and annoyed by that and told her that I only like her. The little Sami said something like: “Zina is just a friend…..A FRIEND….I do not plan to marry her mama”.
I remember, and am sure of that, I loved her mother. I was so embarrassed when they put me on the table and tell me to stand up there so that we took a picture. They surrounded me. My mother, Zina’s mother, and my aunt were standing around the table while am standing above the table. I refused to stand there. I object, but they did not listen. The little Sami said to himself: “they treat me as a child. Why they put me to stand above the table. Why don’t they stand above the table like me. Why they surround me like idiots. Even Zina’s mother is smiling. Am I short to be put on the table? Do they think they are more mature than me?”
I was so embarrassed that I still remember that till now. When they did not listen to my objections I became quite and looked at the camera with a faked facial expression.
I remember one day, before leaving Al Aqaba, my mother asked me to bring back the white radio with that red line in the middle of it from Zina’s mother. I went to their room. Their door was opened. I froze. Zina’s mother was sitting, with her back on the door, while the radio was behind her. I froze again. I cannot remember what she was wearing but I always ask my self this question: “for the God’s sake, what she was wearing?”. A question that is abnormally recurrent. I think her dress affected my little heart. I froze again and again like a statue. Till she, without turning her head, said: “sami, why you stop like that? Come here”.
I went inside her room. My memory tells me that something like this dialogue runs between us:
- Sami, I wanna ask you
- ……
- Sami, you will tell me the truth.
-……
- Do you love me?
- I came to take the radio.
- I know, but tell me, do you love me?
- My mother wants her radio.

I cannot remember what happened later. I swear I cannot remember.

12 comments:

Jeffrey said...

Sami,

I was going through the archives for IBC today when I came across a link to a blog entry from a few years ago -- "A nuthouse called IRAQ" -- from an Iraqi named Akba. He opens his entry like this:

I feel sorry for Americans, I really do. When they liberated Iraq they never expected to find a population as insane and dysfunctional as the Iraqi population is. They never factored in the psychological damage that 30 years living under Saddam Hussain has done to a population of over 25 million people.

It's an interesting blog entry. I have to admit that there have been many times when I just don't understand the wild mood swings of many Iraqis, along with their incessant need to indulge in conspiracy theories. To be frank, they often sounds nuts to people in the US.

But, as you've already written and detailed on your blog, a lot of Iraqis have seen as much violence as soldiers in combat and suffer from the same stress-related trauma as them. As with soldiers, I imagine, some civilians can absorb their experiences and move on and others struggle.

Anyway, as a psychiatrist in Iraq, you are the perfect person to reflect on this issue. Any thoughts would be appreciated. And yes, I know that it's a very hard topic to tackle.

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Jeffrey said...

Sami,

Your story reminded me of a memory of mine from childhood, one that I only later learned was very different from the way that my conscious mind had held on to it over the years. What really happened was buried there the whole time, it seems.

Flip Side.

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Laura said...

Hi Sami: I believe the last memory you mentioned is very likely a screen memory. This type of recollection is like a screen or picture, that covers over a fuller memory--and has distortions in it (masking something the person is preferring to avoid recalling, unconsciously). Screen memories often share these characteristics: often there is a bright light, or a sense of brightness to the scene; the scene can be very still, or have a sense of immobilization to it; the memory is quite intense: sensations in the dream are felt to be unusually vivid (colors, tastes, textures, sounds can have a very exaggerated--ever grotesque-- quality to them). A minutiae of detail tend to be remembered. Also, these memories tend to come back often. (You can find a description in Freud's paper "Screen Memories" in Early Psychoanalytic Writings.

There! Proof that Freud is still relevant today!

By the way, I personally object to Jeffrey's comment that Iraqis "often sound nuts to people in the U.S." That isn't my experience. I haven't heard other people saying that either.

Jeffrey said...

Laura,

Thanks for that explanation of "screen memories." Take a look at my story "Flip Side," and you'll see what I'm talking about.

About the mood swings and conflicted emotions that Iraqis have had to deal over the last five years, I can cite off the top of my head three different authors -- Anthony Shadid, Jon Lee Anderson, and Steven Vincent -- who have spent a lot of time with Iraqis in Iraq and made the same observation. These conflicted emotions often lead Iraqis to embrace contradictory thoughts, which can be interpreted from the outside as "nuts," in the vernacular. I've been in dialogue with Iraqis for the last five years and running Iraqi Bloggers Central for four years. It's been my experience that even Iraqis themselves will admit on occasion that the Iraqi psyche is somewhat fractured. I'm not suggesting at all that it's permanent. I'm assuming, in fact, that much of it derives from having lived under a dictatorship for almost three decades and that over time those psychic wounds will heal.

And, as I suggested in my previous comment to Sami, the source of conflicted emotions is the fact that many Iraqis had to live for several decades under a dictatorship where the fear of saying the wrong thing -- even mumbling something against Saddam in one's sleep -- was very real, and then later having to watch their society torn apart by AQI from outside and their own sectarian issues from the inside, resulting in lots of violence that they witnessed and which must be very hard to process.

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Laura said...

Hi Jeff: I apologize for my earlier remark. I misunderstood what you were saying. I've seen this happen at other blogs, where, as an 'old-timer' I've witnessed newbies react to comments inaccurately, because they lack the sense of context one has from having been around longer. This time, I fell down the well. Your fuller comment helped me see that.

I admit, too, that I'm a shade defensive these days, as concern trolls seem to be hitting blogs more, with disparaging comments about Iraqis and war propagandizing. I was too quick to take offense.

Tried to follow your link, but it went back to the comments on this post.

IBC is a complete jewel. Thank you so much for what you do to make it possible. With best regards, Laura

Jeffrey said...

Laura,

No need to apologize. As you pointed out, it's easy for misunderstandings to arise on comments pages.

Anyway, I must have botched that link to the story. Let me try that again.

Flip Side.

As soon as I read your explanation of "screen memories," I thought of this example from my own life.

And thanks for the compliments for IBC. I'm lucky to have been able to bring three fine writers on board over the last four years to keep it fresh.

*

sami said...

Dear Jeffrey, as you can see in my blog I have never talked about such sensitive things that you have mentioned. I will always feel gratful that somebody stopped by my blog and read something and had the interest to send me a comment. So I thank you Jeffrey for your care and interest. And I will now try to read your link.

Sami said...

Dear Laura thank you to let us know about "screen memory". Memory is really complex thing to understand. Thank you dear friend for offerring me precious moments to help me understand my memories and dreams...

Laura said...

Yup, Jeff. That's a screen memory. The light, the sense of texture of your pj's. The sense of comfort. The shock of the night is dissipated through the mind's concentration on comforting details.....a beautiful example.

I wrote my master's thesis on these types of memories. While explaining it to my mother, she told me of her favorite memory, being a little girl, sitting on a dresser, eating sweets from a bag and feeling oh so smug. She remembered pulling her pretty dress all about her and feeling very satisfied with herself.

As is often the case, all one has to do is gently look at the details and bigger parts of the story start to emerge. I asked her how she came to be sitting on a dresser, being a little girl. "mama put me there." And what was your mother doing? Talking on the phone. And crying. It turned out to be that this was the day her father abandoned the family: she never saw him again. It was all embedded in a sweet, happy memory.

Jeffrey said...

Laura,

Amazing. Thanks for putting all of that in the context of psychology. I see that my story fits your explanation perfectly.

Sami,

I know it's a tough subject, trying to figure out the psychological profile of an entire society. Again, let me repeat, I believe that Iraqis will slowly recover from the double traumas of having lived under a dictatorship for so long and then the violence of the last few years.

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Jeff said...

What a wonderfully written blog!

I have loved Iraqi blogs since they began and this is a prize one.

God bless you, Sami, may you prosper in happiness. Keep writing!

Sami said...

Thank you Jeff for your encouragement. I feel motivated to write more when I recieve comments like yours. Thank you. Sami