my mother's song |  leyna

Introduction :
When Leyna remembered a sad yet tender song of her childhood, she realized how much she misses her mother and Beyrouth.

Amanda, a friend at Washington State University, offered me a silver bracelet for Christmas. I am aware that Amanda is attracted to me but I choose to ignore it. I am tempted by the idea of two women in love but I am not ready for a romance. The notion of female homosexuality was inexistant for me during my adolescence in Lebanon. The guys used to tell jokes about faggots but they never mentioned dykes. Sexual scenes in my head were taking place between men and women. The novels, the films, the songs,... everything was centered around a Romeo and a Juliet who were changing time and places but were always falling in love.

The bracelet of Amanda reminded me of a sad song of my mother. The song represents for me a nice memory of my childhood. But I have never imagined that the friend of Adele, the main woman character of the song, was a woman too. On television programs, it was always a man who offers jewellery to young, beautiful women. The gift of Amanda has just shaken all my system of values.

My mother used to sing for my sister, my brother, and myself in the afternoon, after we had become bored of our games in the house -- as playing outside was forbidden because of the bombing. Mom could sing for us in Arabic, French, and, sometimes, English. Her favorite singer was Farid el-Atrash, son of Prince Fahd el-Atrash, a Syrian aristocrat. According to my mother, Farid el-Atrash had to leave Syria and live in Egypt because his sister -- the diva Asmahan -- and himself chose to have singing careers. Being an artist was not considered honorable for the Arabic aristocracy. My mother told us repeatedly that she has been in love with Farid since she was 14 years old. She used to spend all her time at home, holding the collection of Farid's songs in her hands, and singing his famous melodies of love. Had he proposed to her, she would have left my father -- her second choice -- and followed her heart. Farid died in 1974 in Beyrouth, at the age of 60, as a single man. His death broke the hearts of many women in the Arab world who committed suicide when they heard the news or on the day of his funeral. Thank God, the year Farid passed away, my mother was much more attached to her kids than to him. Nowadays, I perceive Farid el-Atrash as an icon for the homosexual Arabs. His mouth wide open till his ears, the way he moved his hips while walking, everything indicated that he was a caricature of a faggot, the way the hairstylists and designers of Cairo or Beyrouth were portrayed in movies, like flaming queens. My mother never acknowledged that Farid did not like women. According to her, he was in love with an Egyptian belly dancer, the famous Nadia Jamal, but his social rank stood between him and his passion...

I have just written Beyrouth with a "y," "o," and "h." I miss this form of Beirut. Since I arrived to the United States of America, my beautiful Beyrouth simply became the Beirut that we see on CNN. The summer heat, the streets transformed into rivers during the winter, the false blondes, the honking of the cars, the cab drivers from whom young girls and women are supposed to be careful,... briefly, I miss everything, especially my mother, her way of protecting us, her voice and her songs sung on the wrong note. "It is because of the cigarettes that I lost my voice," she used to say. "Do never smoke!"

I still remember very well a song in French that was the only one to make me cry every time I ask my mother to sing it. I have not owned this song on disc or tape. I have never heard it by anyone other than my mother. I am not even sure that the words and music are correct. But I am positive that I like the version of my mother whatever the original version may be. I do not know the title of the song but I have always entitled it as "Adele." After I had received the bracelet from Amanda, I started to enjoy imagining that Adele was in love with a woman, not a man. I will present to you the words of the songs below, translated into English.

I have a friend who is sick and I don't know how she is doing.
I have a friend who is sick and I don't know how she is doing.

I ran onto her father and asked him:
I ran onto her father and asked him:

"Oh! Galopa, where is your daughter? Tell me and I will visit her." (bis)

"Near Saint Helena Church, on the right hand side." (bis)

"Who is walking on my grave and causing me to suffer that much?" (bis)

"It is me, my dear Adele, get up and kiss me." (bis)

"How do you want me to get up while all these stones are over me?" (bis)

"Where is the ring that I gave you?" "It is still in my little finger. (bis)

Give it to my little sister, she is prettier and nicer than me." (bis)

"I will not give it to anyone, not even to your parents. (bis)

Farewell, my dear Adele, we shall meet one day in heaven!"(bis)

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