Life was full, and fun and filled with family and friends. (A flurry of F's there!) Since my parents were strict they sent me to the same girl's high school two of my sisters attended. The principal was a 6 foot tall, skinny as a rail, British spinster who sprayed you with every 's' word. The VP was just as scrawny, just as old, and put the fear of Hades into us...she was Ms. Button. (A horse whinnies in the distance.)
The walls around the school were 7 feet tall, and the only way in and out besides the front gate, was the bus entrance.
Three of my girl friends and I would sometimes wait behind the pillars in the bus parking garage, and when the buses left at noon to take kids home for lunch (yep, you could go home if you lived within a 2 mile radius), we'd sneak out and quickly walk up the street to a small bakery run by a wrinkled, old man whose name was Joseph.
He let us hang out and if any teachers came snooping, would tell us to climb the twisting, handcrafted wood staircase to the tiny attic that was covered in flour!
These were the days when I tried my first cigarette, heard about sex for the first time and couldn't imagine what my friends were talking about, and had my first kiss with a green-eyed, black-haired guy from the Boy's School further up the street.
I stayed with my sister Aida and her young family in the Beirut during most of the school year. My parents and next oldest sister wintered in our family home in the mountains, so it was easier for me to stay in the City than drive down every day.
We all spent most weekends in the mountains at home. My sis and her family had their own large room and bathroom off the Den upstairs.
I missed being able to hang out with friends, but there was a charm to our village in winter that I loved. Visits to my Aunts, Uncle and grandmother were always filled with surprises and laughter.
That's me in the front with the headband, and to my left is my co-conspirator and my cousin, M. The bushy-headed kid in the back is my nephew Ouss, a key character in many of my creative adventures!
Some winters it snowed in our village, and then things got really interesting! Our driveway was long and sloped down to the main road, so sliding down was like a Disneyland ride.
Scooping clean snow into bowls and topping it with carob molasses was as good a treat as any Slurpee, actually 10x better!
Then I started college... coed! YAY! Two years before I joined, the Beirut College for Women became Beirut University and admitted men. How lucky could I be? Haha.. My parents had no choice but to send me there, heartened by the fact that the girl to boy ratio was 5:1. Made things challenging!
I was an English major, in love with the Romantic Poets. I took Drama like my sister before me, and found my way onto the stage, and loved it.
Neil Simon's 'California Suite', I played Connie.
George and the Dragon was our neighborhood hang out pub, and 1 beer was my limit. Darts was my game! The main drag was Hamra Street (Red street), where many small boutiques, movie theaters, restaurants and Cafés catered to young and old. It was a busy two lane street, with more Taxi cabs than people.
Wimpy's Burgers was the happening spot for college kids. They had a round counter that slowly spun around... how cool was that... and the BEST fruit cocktail with whipped cream, ice cream and a cherry. What I wouldn't do for one of those!
Kinda like this.. but with more fruit and a cherry on top!
Then in my second year at college, the unrest began. Lebanon opened its doors many years before to Palestinian refugees when they were ousted from what is now Israel, and they lived in camps around the city. Lebanon was drawn into internal and externally fueled upheaval because of their presence. Not fun for anyone involved.
So the beautiful, Switzerland of the Middle East became a war zone for 15 long years.
In 1975, we came to the U.S. to visit my two sisters and brothers who lived here. We brought my older brother's fiancée with us, they were getting married here in California. While we were visiting, things got worse back home, universities and businesses shut down, and Dad said I should enroll in college here, since there was not telling when things would calm down.
And so I got into Memphis State, of all places, because I was able to track down my Communication professor from Lebanon (a Welshman), and he was teaching there. With no access to transcripts I had no other choice. He vouched for me until we could get documents from Beirut.
I earned a BA in Broadcast Communications, met my would-be husband, and moved to Houston where he was finishing up at the Maritime Academy.
And so I part from my homeland, my sweet relatives, my beloved sister and her family, and all things familiar, not to return for 25 years.