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Finding my mother's diary: Pages of power and archiving violence

Finding my mother's diary: Pages of power and archiving violence

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Opinion Women’s Rights The Truth

Friday 10 May 202410:57 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

العثور على مذكّرات أمي... صفحات من القوّة


My mother kept a diary, which she made sure to hide carefully, in which she detailed the various storms that passed through her life. This diary, old and worn, with its scratched leather cover, yellowed with time, with some pages torn, was more than just a notebook with seemingly endless lines. It was a secret friend to my mother, amidst the chaos and violence of living with my father.

Living with a violent father was like walking on a thin layer of ice, never knowing when it would crack and plunge you into icy waters.

We all thought this notebook held my mother’s notes from the English language and computer courses she was taking, but I always knew it wasn’t an ordinary notebook, and the mere thought of my father discovering it filled me with fear.

This diary was a refuge. My mother poured all of her fears, hopes, and dreams between its lines. It was the only place where she could speak freely, the only place where her voice wouldn’t be silenced or judged. Here, between these pages, she would share that she couldn't go on. Here, between these pages, there was no no one to tell her “It's okay, just bear it,” or that “A woman has no place but her husband's house.”

This diary was a refuge. My mother poured all her fears, hopes, and dreams between its lines. It was the only place where she could speak freely, the only place where her voice couldn't be silenced or judged. Here, between these pages, she would freely say that she couldn't go on. Here, between these pages, there was no one to tell her "It's okay, just bear it," or "A woman has no place but her husband's house."


Finding the diary

I recently found the diary. It had been years since I last saw it, yet it felt familiar. At that moment, I remembered when I was a child, and my mother caught me peeking at this diary and flipping through its pages. I ran with it when she yelled at me before snatching it from me forcefully. It was strange. Seeing my loving and affectionate mother like this terrified that curious little girl.

Things were different yesterday, as more than 20 years had passed. I held the diary in my hands, I went to my mother's room, and asked her if I could have it. She nodded in the affirmative. I immediately returned to my room, afraid she might change her mind. I then made sure the door was closed, grabbed the tissues from the nightstand, and sat on my bed. As I began to read, I was overwhelmed by old fears and memories, intertwined with a sense of intrusion. Yet, there was also a desperate need to connect with my mother's world, to understand her journey, and perhaps my own, especially since some entries date back to the year 2000! Despite the fragility of this little notebook, the power of the words inside it persisted over the years.

Our days could not be predicted. Laughter during dinner can turn into a night filled with distress, where every closed door sends shocking waves through your heart. You learn to read the slightest changes in his face, tone, locked jaw, and stern demeanor as signs of an impending storm.


Memory lane

Every time I read the dates in the diary, I remember the incidents of violence that occurred during those times. It was only mere moments before the bad memories swept me away, and I began to recall the details of living in the same house as an abuser. Living with a violent father was like walking on a thin layer of ice, never knowing when it would crack, plunging you into icy waters. Our home, which should have been a safe haven, became a battlefield, the air was thick with tension, its walls had absorbed the echoes of raised voices, screams, cries and harsh words.

Our days could not be predicted. Laughter during dinner could turn into a distress-filled night, where every closed door sends shock waves through your heart. You learn to read the slightest changes in his face, tone, locked jaw, and stern demeanor as signs of an impending storm. You master diplomacy and the art of appeasement to avoid the worst, even before you reach your 10th year on this earth. The nights are the hardest, spent lying on the bed, ears alert, listening to the creaking of the floorboards that signal his approach. Every outburst of anger carves deeper scars, not just on the skin but in the soul, reinforcing the constant anxiety that hangs with every step. Our home, filled with broken shards of false promises of change, turns into a prison, its bars made of fear and silence. Amidst this chaos, heartache – from loving the person you fear more than anyone else – weaves a complex fabric of emotions, an ongoing battle between longing for his affection and the instinct to escape his wrath.

Every outburst of anger carves deeper scars, not just on the skin but in the soul, reinforcing the constant anxiety that hangs with every step. Our home, filled with broken shards of false promises to change, turns into a prison, its bars made of fear and silence.

I remembered the day he tore up my university admission file, and decided that I wouldn't study. I remembered that the hardest part of his beatings for me was when he hit my mother and siblings. I remembered how I would sleep for hours after his outbursts of anger, only for my mother to wake me up after midnight to study. She would sit on the edge of my bed, her face pale and her eyes swollen, repeating that nothing would get us out of this reality except my studies.


Archiving violence

When I read my mother's diaries, I thought of all the killings of women in Lebanon that occurred over the years, and all the murdered women and mothers, some bludgeoned to death, from Manal Assi to Roula Yacoub, and many, many others. Did these women, like my mother, keep diaries? Did they archive their suffering? Did their children find their words, as I did? Will the courts take them as evidence? Will they ever be published? These were all questions that haunted me as I read the memoirs of my mother, a survivor of abuse and violence.

You master diplomacy and the art of appeasement to avoid the worst, even before you reach your 10th year on this earth. The nights are the hardest, spent lying on the bed, ears alert, listening to the creaking of the floorboards that signal his approach.


Survival

My mother's voice brought me back to reality, to my solid present today. As I flipped through the old pages of the diaries, my hands were steady, there was no trembling, and my heartbeat was calm. I didn't cry as I had feared I would. Beyond the door, I could hear her, her laughter mingling with that of my siblings' in the living room, in the home we built together after our father left.

When I read my mother's diaries, I thought of all the murdered women and mothers. Did these women, like my mother, write their diaries? Did they archive their suffering? Did their children find their words as I did? Will the courts take them as evidence? Will they ever be published?

I see her today full of life, in stark contrast to the hidden pains spilled across the pages of this diary. It provided me with a deep sense of peace, and ever since then I've been repeating the same two words to myself: "We survived."


* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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