Some people like to collect stamps; in my family we collect passports. Would you like to see my impressive collection of passports? not one of them is forged and each one has a picture of me wearing my signature smile, hey, hey!
My mother was beaten black and blue when her dad found out that she was dating my dad. “You are forbidden from seeing that Mohamadan (Czech speak for Muslim) ever again”, were my grandfathers instructions. So my mom married the Mohamadan and followed him around the world, first to Algeria and then to Kuwait. How she managed to fall in love with a person she had no common language with, is beyond me. My mom tells me that I get my stubbornness from my dad, yeah right!
My grandmother was beaten black and blue when she became pregnant with my mom. She was in a Nazi work camp and my grandfather worked in the kitchen. He used to sneak food to the starving Russian slave workers in the factory. So, if the shortest road to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then the shortest road to a woman’s heart is what? Well you can guess what happened next, they fell in love and she became pregnant. The Nazi soldiers wanted to know the name of the father so that he would be executed. When my grandmother wouldn’t tell them, they decided that they would let her have the baby and execute her after the birth. Luckily Germany lost the war on the day my mom was born. My grandparents got married and lived in the Czech republic. Hurey!
I wasn’t beaten black and blue when I met my husband, though it would have made this post more interesting. Instead, I got a long speech from my mom about how I should merry a young man from one of the nice (my mom’s speak for wealthy) Iraqi families that we know in Vancouver. I reminded my mom of the nice fiancée she left back in the Czech republic for an Iraqi political refugee that she met one day at a lakeside resort. “That was completely different”, my mom asserts. Ehm! Ehm!
My husband was referred to by “Hatha ele beihki zei el yahood”, (Arabic for the one that speaks like the Jews), by a participant at a charity for Palestine. See, I couldn’t just merry the average Palestinian man: refugee or living in the occupied territories, no, no, no, no, no! That would be too average, too ordinary, too boring, for a Palestinian that is. I had to merry a Palestinian that grew up inside Israel, held Israeli passport and spoke Hebrew fluently.
I sometimes fantasize about traveling with all my passports. When the customs officer at the airport asks me for my passport, I spread them all in front of him and then say “pick one”. I remember the good old days, when traveling with the Iraqi passport was preferable to traveling with the Czech passport. Iraq was America’s ally and communism was the world’s greatest evils. That was then, this is now. Today I travel mostly with my Canadian passport.
So, the one that speaks like the Jews married the Czech/Iraqi concoction in April of 1991. On our wedding day we were all in pain over the recent bombing were of Iraq during the first American led war on Iraq. I oscillated between happiness of a young woman in love and depression over seeing the most powerful countries in the world bombing a third world country. I wanted to cancel the wedding and go to Iraq and get bombed with the rest of the people there. I told my dad I wanted to die with the rest of the Iraqi people. My dad talked me out of it, he told me “that is what George Bush wants you to do, he wants you to lie down and die. You must go on with your life and get married”. Since, we didn’t know if our relatives in Iraq where alive or dead, and many of the family friends were in a similar situation. We had a small wedding, 12 people, only the closest friends and family. We celebrated quietly in one of the fanciest restaurants in Vancouver. The mood at my wedding was somber, but we all tried to make the best out of it. With my husband, I ended up living in Glasgow, Scotland and Jerusalem, Israel, not the most logical places to live in for a Palestinian and an Iraqi but love is blind. Finally we moved back to Vancouver. Where we live happily ever after.
When my first daughter was born, I told my mom that when she grows up it would be unacceptable if she brought home a nice average Canadian boy. No, no, no, no, no! My poor daughter has to find some nationality not encountered by my family yet and do a masochistic trip around the world with him. I don’t know, maybe a Buddhist monk a tribal chief from Zimbabwe, the nice Canadian man would be totally unacceptable, we have family traditions to uphold. The hunt for fresh passports must continue.