Mama's dream didn't make sense at first...
- Posted on Aug 23, 2017
Breakfast was my favorite, though Mama made it hard to choose with her delicious cooking for every meal. One morning at home in Damascus before school I sipped Mama’s rich tea, and devoured her fried eggs, soft cheese and salty olives.
“Sammer, I had such a nice dream,” she said. “You were happy and laughing, in a green forest by the sea.”
“Yes, Mama,” I said. I loved the sea. My best memories were of family visits to the Mediterranean when I was little.
“An angel carried you to this green place,” Mama said. “And there were people speaking all the languages of the world.”
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My mother believed in angels. She often had nice dreams, and some of them had come true. Thanks to the angels, she claimed. But this one was impossible. “There are no forests by the sea in Syria,” I said. At 16 I longed to see the world, but I saw a future for me only in Damascus. Perhaps I would be a teacher like my mother and father. I woke early every morning just to read and study. Education meant everything to me. I’d have to find my adventure in books.
Yet my mother’s odd dream stayed in my mind. An angel to fly me to the seaside, I thought on the way to school. That would take a miracle. One day after a soccer game I noticed a scrap of paper on the ground. I saw the word “scholarship.” I picked up the paper.
The United Nations Center in Damascus announced a competition for a two-year, all-expenses-paid scholarship to a college in Italy. Only one high school student in Damascus would be chosen. Has God given me a miracle? I thought. My grades were the best in my school. I headed for the UN Center, walking for more than an hour to reach it. “Everyone has applied,” the UN clerk said. “It will be tough to win.” I told no one about my application, not my family or friends. I’ll tell them after I win.
Weeks passed and I heard nothing. Finally, I told my parents. “Two hundred students from seventy countries throughout the world,” I said. I had given up the dream that I’d be chosen. “We will go to the UN Center and check,” said my father. There we learned my fears were true. Another boy was the winner. I was silent all the way home.
“Life is full of other beautiful things,” Mama said. “Come. You will love what your mama cooked.”
Not long after, my mother met me at the door when I returned from school. “Someone called,” she said. “From the United Nations.” The winner had refused at the last moment. I was second on the list. “You won the scholarship from the United World College of the Adriatic!” Mama shouted.
Mama helped me pack. Every night she hid food in my luggage, and every morning I took it out. “Too heavy,” I said. But the very last day she managed to hide as much as she liked. Early on an August morning my parents went with me to the airport. “Don’t cry, Mama,” I said. “Have a good smile. It will make me stronger.”
But my mother’s tears were flowing. I was afraid. I had never been in an airplane. I had never left my country. My language was Arabic. I knew no Italian, and very little English. What if I got lost? And in the Rome airport, I did. I missed the connecting flight to Trieste, and slept fitfully in a metal chair all night. I was glad for Mama’s food then.
“Welcome to Italy!” said the American who met me at the Trieste airport the next morning. With him was a guy from Denmark and a girl from Spain. I didn’t understand a word they said. The ride to the school was a blur. I wished I had a cup of Mama’s tea to wake me up. The driver dropped us off at the villa where we’d live. I put my bags down, and went for a walk, half asleep. Everything was quiet except for the pounding of my heart. Or was it something else?
I stood still. There, only a few steps ahead, was the Adriatic Sea. I’d heard the waves crashing onto the shore. Could this be possible? I turned to view more of my surroundings. Around me towered the largest forest I could have ever imagined, mountains of green embracing the buildings of the school. My school. This was my dream of adventure, and my mother’s angel dream come true. A green forest by the sea.
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