When I was young, there was a lady who used to visit us often, she sometimes baby-sat me and a cousin, she told us stories about her days in a distant place called Gaza, she used to have tears in her eyes every time she mentioned Gaza, as the only good memories of her whole life were between the G and the A of Gaza.
I always wondered why Um Hasan's son; Hasan never showed up, but as I grew older I understood that there was no Hasan, as Um Hasan didn't have any family, the only family she had was my extended family, she felt safe among us, she played the role of the mother to the adults, and grandmother to the children.
Um Hasan was illiterate, but she never told me she were, she helped me with my homework, making me recite poems I had to memorize while she looked in the book as if she was making sure I didn't make mistakes, she couldn't dial the phone as she couldn't read the numbers, but she could tell you the phone numbers of all my aunts and uncles by heart.
Um Hasan never lived to see Gaza "liberated", she never saw it occupied again, and again, She never saw Gaza abandoned again, and again, and probably would've died again and again if she did.
I haven't thought of Um Hasan for more than 10 years, as she passed away in the early 1990s, but today, and without permission, she passed by with her cigarette smoke filling the air, and her stories of beautiful Gaza came to mind. Sometimes, our minds pinch us into remembering people who have had a role in our lives, I recited a prayer for Um Hasan, it was probably the first time anyone thought of her since her passing, how ungrateful we are sometimes.
Um Hasan's name was Jameeleh, and as I remember the smiling face of that Gazan angel, I remember a bruised beauty of sorts, time bruises us like nothing else. But tonight, Um Hasan's face looks like a full moon, to me; the little boy who used to run away every time she tried to kiss me, lighting the cloudy London night, and jumpstarting my numb conscious as my sanity hangs by a thread.