x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Ali Story: Homes make memories

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insightand experiences from growing up in the UAE

I have been passing by my hometown city Baniyas recently, as our family has decided to offer our house for rent.

Whenever I visit the house, I get mixed feelings and it's hard to describe what I go through every time I park in front of it and my mind fills up with happy and sad memories.

I decide to call my mother to tell her how much I miss us living in our hometown and in our big traditional house. While talking to her on the phone, she says to me, "Son, you can always live again in our house. In fact, why do you pay rent if you have this house to live in?"

However, there is one fact I can't stop thinking about even now, which is that living back in this house is never going to be the same as it used to be because any house is not about what it looks like or where it's located, it's about who lives in it with you and the type of neighbours you have living near you despite the good and bad sides of it. These are my mother's words, who then explains to me that it's about time I find a new house so that my own children can enjoy having their own house and yard to play in.

I remember many memories from my time with my beloved father, who always made sure we felt connected with our house and the surroundings, be it the people living near us, our dear neighbours, or the visitors who would stop by our hometown since it's basically the main city in Mafraq district of Abu Dhabi emirate, and it's on the main highway for all who visit us from our sister Gulf countries.

And of course, by surroundings my father meant also our gardens and the palm trees almost all of the houses made sure to plant and take care of as well other types of trees. He even mentioned how we should always acknowledge that the cats in various areas of our neighbourhood were are also part of these surroundings, and it's important to remember they are our responsibility to take care of, always.

All of these images and memories of my parents' words hit me so hard as I stand in front of our house, and I can't really imagine for a minute that it's a fact that my family and I won't be living in the same family house ever again. For many reasons, my sisters are married and living on their own, and my mother is now based in our other family house in Sharjah, where we moved almost 10 years ago before my father passed away.

Family houses are always precious and special and difficult to let go of, but once the members of the house move on and go their own ways, the empty house becomes just a beautiful old memory that makes you sad.

My phone is ringing now. It's the gentleman who has been wanting to rent our house and waiting for my answer.

I look at the house before I answer the call, and I feel it and the whole surroundings are telling me, "Ali, we miss you all, but we can't live alone, we need souls and spirits to spread again around the house. It's sad that the house is left alone."

I smile, and I answer the call, and the house is going to be rented soon, inshallah.

The garden needs to be taken care of, the swimming pool needs to be cleaned to shine like a blue sky again, the air conditioner needs to be opened from time to time. The underground pipes and the walls need to breathe, and the bulbul, which is a beautiful type of bird, needs to fly again over our home and settle at the start of building his own nest in one of our garden trees.

Having someone or a family renting our house and hopefully bringing life to all of these things would be such a great blessing and good thing for the surroundings, for sure.

If it wasn't for how my father explained to me the importance of respecting the surroundings, I don't think I would have accepted the offer for others to rent it, but it's really important to not leave homes alone for a long time.

I call my mother to inform her that we will go ahead and rent it to another family of five people. She keeps quiet and I can feel she is reflecting back to our family, which was made of six members (in reality the house can host more than 20 people but we were happy to be six people only). Then she says: "Alhamdulillah, and tell them mabrook, they found the best house that accommodates six people perfectly, God bless them."

I truly felt tears falling as I hear my mother saying those words, because I know she also had a flashback on how we as six members were living and growing in this amazing family house.