A Change of Seasons

Don’t you just love that smell? That sweet sweet smell in the air… winter's over already, springtime is here.
The breeze carries with it a powerful aroma, one which grabs you by the soul and doesn’t let go till it has cleansed you of all worries, all ill feelings. Just close your eyes, and smell the air.

Springtime in Baghdad is a special thing, although it lasts only for a few days each year, yet it is so special. Maybe that's what makes it so special, it does not last for an eternity like summer or winter do.

It holds such a special place in my heart. Brings back a train of memories, beautiful days gone.

I am particularly fond of my Friday memories, 18 years ago, a little child watching "Captain Majid/ Captain Tsubasa –in Japanese-", a very popular football cartoon, naturally, I started to have an interest in football (i.e. soccer) so, being the oldest kid around, I decided we should start our own league, complete with elaborate names for teams, player aliases, and even names for "special moves".

those were all nearly identical, and usually consisted in running like hell toward the leather bolus and kicking it like I really hate it, all the while shouting some funny name, like, super-hawk shot, burning ball, rocket shot, and others I still cringe to remember..

All this took place in my father's family's garden, a beautiful green place a fall here or a scratch there could never beat the joy of playing, except if you fall on (or even touch) my granny's beds of roses, at which point we learned it is wise to simply go walk and stand in the corner by ourselves picking out the thorns, much better than to have my granny's wrath unleashed..
Roses and flowers aside, I was really proud of my infamous weekly matches: those were so unevenly-sided it was like... I can't find a good word! Let me tell you what I mean:

Every Friday, we (the kids of the family) got together to play:
All the big boys on one hand, led by me, as the defending heroic Fire-Tigers, and all the girls, little kids, and asthmatics on the other team, the challenging Evil Thunder-Wolves... we always won 58 – 0 or something like that... but we ALL loved it!

I've since grown out of it, started the moment I took to blaspheming about why 20 guys were running after one ball, and why shouldn’t each bring his own ball instead… my thoughts were not held in a good view by the more sport-addicted boys, and so I was kicked out.

My reign as the supreme high-commander of the undefeated Fire-Tigers team came to an abrupt end, three months after it started.
Good thing actually.
The first "real" match the tigers had with the neighbors' kids' team, a bunch of little thugs with no taste for sportsmanship and finesse, only for kiddie blood, ended with in such a horrible way the team members refuse to communicate with each other even now...

So anyway, back to Friday: when I was a kid I wasn’t so hot about praying and religion and stuff, I did not go to the mosque every Friday like my cousins (and everyone else) did, instead I spent my Friday morning washing, stuffing myself with food, and watching Grendizer (a robot cartoon that was and still is like the MOTHER OF ALL robot cartoons! To me anyway!)

Come Thursday afternoon time, my parents would pack up and get going to my grandparents' house, so I would see my mother's family:

The earliest memories of them were of sweet tea and kleicha (date-filled pastry, THE most popular kind here); we usually slept over, and returned the next day. I'd confer with this side's kids (the whole tribe of them) about the next move to achieve total domination of the world, starting by way of the garden...

I remember one reaaaaaaaaaally "Special" time when they (my mother's parents) had a gardener dig up the garden about a meter deep so that over the next week they'd spray termite-pesticide round the foundations of the house… naturally the sight of trenches and hills of dirt was all too fascinating for a bunch of 6-year olds...

Like moths to fire, we were drawn.

Mud has a hypnotic effect on children. Just like fire. And Captain Majid. (I hate it now, I physically hurt when I see it now. Kinda like the guy in clockwork orange did when he was "programmed")

We started constructing booby-traps, by covering a few holes with plastic bags, then cover it with mud and broken branches and stuff...
Up to this moment everything was fine, then someone got a mind storm of upgrading to tunnel-construction by covering the trenches with anything we can find and then covering that with mud, and we'd scurry down those with torch-lights and pretend we're like those dusty soldiers shown on TV, fighting other dusty soldiers from "a neighboring country"...

We never understood what war is or what that particularly nasty war was about; War is a very complex thing to a 6 year old mind. Hell, I'm 24 and I still don’t understand what the frig it is about.

We just saw the obvious thing on TV, and copied that.

We'd take turns playing sides, actually, the usual thing that happened was that the big boys ended up as the Iraqi soldiers... and we'd have your regular every day battle of Thermopylae there, except this time the good guys outnumber and outgun the bad guys... C'est la vie...

Come sunset, our parents would come to fetch us; they'd be shocked at the sight of us. Some would be guarding a few enemy prisoners squatting on the dirt , some would be lining up a couple of POWs against the corner, some would be scaring those poor little kids to tears, others making POWs dig more tunnels and so on.

And all of us are covered head to toe with caked Mud.

Now this would have been bad enough on normal days, but on Thursday and Friday you wear THE nicest thing you had, kinda like Sunday/Church-Clothes, you know!

Fathers shouting, mothers running, kids crying, mud flying, lo and behold, it was a scene out of Looney Tunes!

After a good scolding, and almost an hour of scrubbing using soap and boiling water, we would emerge from the baths, red-hot and smiling, racing out for my youngest uncle's MSX, THE console of 80's Iraq, and hijack the thing while he looks at us, obviously pissed off but saying nothing out of respect for his brothers and sisters, who came to see him while he was on leave from the battle front.
Yes, the real one.
Two, actually three of my uncles were drafted, two qualified as field-doctors and one as an engineer (couple of long years in med or engineering school ought to do that)... the others were either too old or too unfit. They held non-combat jobs but their units were in combat zones, every time they had leave and came home I remember it was like a national holiday, a special day of celebration. I was but a kid, but I still noticed the evident relief on my grandmother's face… she glowed.

Anyway, back to the subject:
Friday night, time to go home, I would throw a tantrum worthy of King Louis –y'know, the dude who's got his panties in a twist, played to perfection by Leonardo Di Caprio in The Man in the Iron Mask- but alas, it was time to leave.

I could not stop the trip home, but I could sure as hell delay it… around 11 pm it REALLY was time to go home, I was already an hour up past my bedtime, sleepy, tired, and having to go to school the next day…

On the way home, streets are lit, shops are open, and we drive on, through a living, pulsating city… I roll down the window, and feel the spring breeze kiss my face; cold refreshing air… my mother turns and says: "Close the window A., you'll get a cold"

What do I care? I'm smiling; I have never felt more alive.

Moral of this loooooong and boring story?

Kids are a pain in the Butt.

(p.s.: personal "Infos" post is already written, will publish in a day or two!)
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