Before I got married I lived in the same place, for thirty years, in a town on a hill; a town with ancient roots. It is called Rabat, from the medieval Arabic name for 'suburb' or ‘a fortified place’, but people have lived there since pre-historic times.
It has a variegated history – but you can find that information on any website or even on my other blog (that I have sorely neglected this year). But there’s more to life than history. There are the personal stories; the everyday tears and laughter that no one will ever record or write about. And scattered around this town are little pieces of me: pieces of my history; my story.
Although we lived in the suburbs, I know the old town well. I could walk blind-fold through its winding streets and ancient alleys. But I don't, I walk with my senses all a-buzz, hunting out forgotten doorways; mysterious windows. And here and there, the echoes of yesterday’s laughter reverberate in the silence of my head. I gather them to me, these moments suspended in time, and wear them, like a soft shawl, hugged tightly to my body, to warm my heart on days when life seems bleak: memories of childhood games in shaded alleyways; shadows and whispers of those who have gone but whom we still love; snippets of conversations from balmy summer nights of long ago; teenage giggles in secluded corners – they are there, like a bridge between what was, what is and what will be.
Home, home, home my heart seems to sing as the echo of my footsteps ricochets off of tall buildings in narrow streets. I can still feel their presence, those people who were old when I was just a child. They seem to be here still, benign reminders of the passage of time. There are some whose names I remember - names which sound so strangely archaic now – but others are just faces etched on the canvas on my mind. Maybe that’s what makes a place feel like home, when the ghosts are familiar and the air is thick with memories of half-forgotten yesterdays.
They say that home is where the heart is. But home is more than that. It is a place where the soul lingers long after the body is no more. And, sometimes I wonder, whether after I’m gone, I’ll come back, to join the kindly spirits who wander the streets of that town on the hill.
Querencia: a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self.
Location: Rabat, May 2016