Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Eugenia

Julia or Julie (May 1, 2009)

I happened to know Julia intimately: I was forced to observe her behaviors and sometimes succumb to her will.

Julia is the type of women who are always on alert; she is ultra prude and claims that she has never been on a beach or wore any kinds of swimming trunks.

Julie cannot sit down, relax, or let anyone relax.  She has to worry about everyone and everything.

Julia loves money but never handled money wrote a check or had a bank account: She is thrilled when she sees construction and buildings going up and sounds envious.

Yes, Julia has never set foot in a bank or wrote a check or withdrew money, I think.

Julia is an excellent cook, a talented dress designer (currently you say a fashion designer), and sew clothes to all her sisters, daughters… for every major event.

And loves to remodel the house when she can afford it, a gene that my sister inherited.

She wants her family members (especially the girls and ladies) to look as well dressed and as coquettish as she used to be; a tendency that forces her grandchildren and children to avoid passing by her when they have “sinned” against dignified fashion (like looking pretty nude).

Julia has humongous pride and she would not visit a patient or go to any anniversary when she cannot afford gifts (her unique daughter is taking after her in many ways).

If she receives a gift (and if she cannot afford offering a gift) then she has to rummage through her secret “depot” in one of the closets for a suitable counter gift.

Lately, cooking something for the returned dish is what she could offer. Julia believes that she knows something and has to offer her recommendations and guidance to people of professions, even if they are over sixty.

In 1939, Julia’s mother Eugenia left Lebanon to West Africa in order to join her husband Tanios in Segou (current State of Mali). The four sisters were left alone and joined a boarding school in Beit Chabab.

And the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration.  The sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the war because all schools closed, although Lebanon was not directly affected.

The eldest sister Josephine was 13 and Julia 11 years old at the time.

Julia’s aunt and her extended family lived across the street. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh“) at the age of 20 the other three sisters were re-interned in a school of Beit Chabab for two years.

The summer before the non-married daughters had to join their parents in Segou, they lived alone a mile away from Beit-Chabab (to what is now called Konetra) so that they don’t emulate their eldest sister in eloping.  In the meanwhile, Eugenia gave birth to many other children and at least three died in child-birth.

Julia once believed that she had scabies “jarab” when she was in a girl school in Beirut and aged 18 years.  Scabies was pretty common and when her between hand fingers  were itching she tried to cure herself secretly.

Julia told me said that “jarab” was very contagious; she secretly spent a whole week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Julia said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding almost everyday.

This story came about when an overseas grand daughter called saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab”; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong but it generated a secret story that Julia told me.

I really have no idea what Julia learned in school except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading.

Julia joined her parents in Africa by sea. The captain of the ship heading toward the port of Marseilles never believed that she’ll make it alive: Julia spent a month in her cabin unable to eat, drink or move because she suffered sea sickness.

Julia was as thin as a stick with a tough will for survival.

Any moving object makes Julia dizzy; heights make Julia dizzy; tree climbing is out of the picture.  Hell for Julia must be a rotating platform; worst, a wobbly, jerky, and seesaw habitat.

In fact, Julia never played games in school or anywhere else.

Physical games, especially for girls, are not dignified. Reading is extremely dizzying to Julia; watching someone reading intently must be giving Julia grounds to believing that the reader is “dizzy” in the head.

Julia married in Africa a handsome, loyal, over generous and devoted husband whom she fell in love in the same town in Lebanon before she travelled to Africa.

George must have sensed that he is marrying a handful of expectations and constraints.  Youth always turns a blind eye to potential troubles because youth can handle anything and never ages.

This valiant couple worked hard in harsh conditions as the sole white people in remote African villages.  They were robbed of every dime several times; once, in the town of Koutiala (Republic of Mali) and what they had saved was gone overnight; Julia was on her last week of pregnancy (of me) and George suffered kidneys problems out of grief.

Right now, when any neighboring house or shop is stolen Julia plays the investigator; everyone is suspect until the culprit is discovered: she does roam her house after every robbery story, checking exits and entrances; mouse and cats should no longer be susceptible to be entering the house.

Those 15 years in Africa must have been the best and most glorious years for this couple. They were the first to purchase an electric generators in the town of Sikasso.

This undaunted couple resumed their joint adventure to above average fortune.

Julia knew how to combine business with charity; she would offer every poor pregnant woman a “trousseau” for the new-born for free. Thus, she retained life-long customers and the competitors could not match her business acumen.

Julia sewed and altered dresses that she ordered by catalog from Paris.

When Julia returned definitely to Lebanon, her unique daughter among the other 2 boys, (well spaced them out in age, an advanced serious family planning), was never seen wearing the same dress twice in any ceremony.

Since two identical dresses take as much time to sew as one, then her niece Joelle was observed as a replicate twin, regardless of whether Joelle liked the dress or the color.

This couple was the first to install a generator for electricity in this remote town.  They transferred their three kids to boarding schools in Lebanon for fear of African diseases  because the eldest son barely survived Typhoid. And the couple would visit them one summer every two years.

Julia spent a month in Paris in 1980 to care for her first grandson William who had an open heart surgery at the age of 16 months.  William had a hole that mixed the blue and red blood in the heart and an artery that was twisted. The hospital offered a makeshift bed for Julia to sleep on for 23 days in William’s emergency room.

Julia also cared for Joanna, her favorite grandchild, for over 6 months when Joanna’s parents were in the USA on military training mission in 1985.

Joanna likes to return the favor and she volunteers to driving Julia to shrines such as Mar Charbel, Mar Rafka, and Harissa of the Virgin Mary; these are occasions for Julia to confess her grave sins for caring too much and doubting occasionally.

Julia spent 6 months in the USA in 1990 when I lived with my sister Raymonde’s family; Victor was then appointed Military Attaché to Lebanon for two years and Julia enjoyed that reprieve from war torn Lebanon and the constant blackmailing of the militias for more money when there was nothing to pay. She had to pawn her few gold rings or necklaces to appease the frightened husband.

Julia recalls that it was the hardest trip ever when she visited in the US: Victor had a terrible backache and she had to carry Victor’s bags which were packed with heavy gifts.

Julia is suffering from arthritis and a whole gamut of blood problems but she forces herself to work hard everyday as means to letting pain forget her.

She has excellent memory of ancient events.  Currently, she barely can recall names and I barely can come to the recall rescue.

Julia is currently prone to letting two casseroles burns and barely save the third: she cannot waste time and has to do several tasks simultaneously.

Julia cannot believe that she aged and has a wrinkled face. All mirrors must be destroyed but Julia would never break anything consciously.

George neither cannot believe that he aged; he just want to be left alone and not be immersed in problems that should not be of his concerns, especially that he is no longer a provider and almost destitute; but to whom are you chanting your psalms George?

George is happy to realize that his hearing is not that sharp and gets terribly frustrated when he has to repeat muted answers to Julia’s unending queries and requests.

Julia barely sleeps at night because in the solitude of the night her brain is working full-time inventing all kind of catastrophic events that might befall on any one of her extended family.

Her dreams are of the cataclysmic kinds, though one individual at a time, one dead person after another parading in succession in her dream.  Apparently, nights are more exhausting for Julia than charged days’ work.

When Julia walks out now she is constantly observing changes in her environment; such as the progress in the construction of the villa next door, the new design for neighbors gardens…

There was a time when Julia walked straight ahead and never deigning to turn her head:  She must have been convinced that she was the center of attention; she stepped out in utter elegance and vigorous gait.

Julia’s nemesis is death: when she gets upset from any member of the family she tends to ward off this fatal enemy by threatening: “This winter would be my last and you all would be delivered from my trouble making”. She has a white fancy gown stowed away for that occasion.  I hope that Julia has let someone on the proper location of the dress.

Julia is the strong type of women. Julia cannot be circumvented.

Julia is every bit on alert, the “mustanfara“, even at 83 years of age.  She is totally broke financially but that would not constitute a valid reason to let down her purpose in life: Keeping everyone on his toes.  Julia is my mother.

Note: Four years after writing this article Julia is unchanged: She is in much pain, more forgetful, and taking all kinds of medication, but Julia is undaunted. I realized that Julia is chatting far more than usual: She is thinking aloud, kind of her thinking keeps the right track if accompanied by words.

Julia wakes up at 6:30 am and begin her day, working non-stop till after 1 pm as her back aches and her fingers are crippled. Her husband, only 3 years older, doesn’t take any medication but his health is deteriorating fast and George is almost bed-ridden.

George is in  care and recovering. Julia refuses to go home to rest even for a couple of hours: She has to stay and sleep in the hospital room of her husband. The nurses tell Julia not to feed George what the hospital does not bring to eat, and I tell Julia not to feed George, and Julia believes she knows George better and what is good for George…

I tell Julia that George enjoys loneliness and would not recover as long as she never leaves his side and keeps chattering. Maybe I am wrong: I was showing George how to ring the nurses for emergencies and George chuckled softly and replied: “Why would I ring anyone when Julia is around?”

Julia is saying: “It was a good tradition to marry a husband at least 5 years older than you: So that the wife can care for him in old age...”. Joanna flew from London for a weekend just to give Julia  a boost. The moment Julia receives a boost, it sounds trouble for the extended family.

Note 2: Julia passed away at age of 92 on January 31, 2020 at 2 pm at the hospital of Beit-Chabab. Except for her heart, her vital organs started to fail. She endured unthinkable pains for an entire week, every minutes of it. She was Not feeling good before she fell in the bathroom trying to undress: there was no one at the time and I found her lying on the floor in great pain.

Introspection: Mother Julia, and aunts

Julia, my mother

When single, mother (Julia) lived with three other sisters, alone in her home for several years: Her mother Eugenia left in 1939 to join her husband Tanios in the town of Segou (In current Rep. of Mali in Africa).  The four sisters were to join an intern school, but the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration. 

My eldest aunt Josephine was 13 and mother was11 year-old at the time.  One of mother’s aunt (they were many) and her extended family lived across the street for the duration of the war. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh”) at the age of 20 with late Asaad Ghoussoub, the other three sisters were interned in a school in Beit Chabab for two years.  The story goes that Asaad threatened to jump off the roof of the house if the wedding is not “facilitated”. Aunt Josephine had a harsh life: She had six kids who were raised mostly in Beit Chabab, in intern schools. I attended the male intern school of Beit Chabab for six years while my parents were doing commerce in Africa.

In the meanwhile, my grandmother Eugenia gave birth to many other children in Segou and at least three died in child birth or shortly after.  

Mother told me that she had scabies “jarab” at age 18, when she was in a girls’ school in Beirut.  This story came about when her niece Joanna called from London saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab” as sign of the rash in her body after a trip to a British shore; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong. 

Mother said that “jarab” starts in the hand and is very itchy and very contagious; she secretly spent an entire week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Mother said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding everyday.  

I really have no idea what mother learned in school, except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading. Nowadays, a girl of 18 is already in universities but the sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the WWII, because all schools closed, although our district in Lebanon was not directly affected.

Aunt Therese

I do not recall seeing my folks reading a book; dad read dailies and lately, when I specifically borrowed books for him.  Thus, we never had a library except what my Aunt Therese bought for me when I was a kid, because I was a voracious reader and still am; the books were French since Therese could not read Arabic. 

Aunt Therese was still single and lived with us in the apartment on General Chehab Street.  Therese could barely speak Arabic because her education was French.  Therese was patience incarnates (externally), teaching me my homeworks that were in French, like French history, French geography and plenty of “dictees” (French spelling). She used to take us to movies like “The sound of music” or “Doctor Zevago” or other French movies. 

Therese used to join mother on purchasing expeditions for the shop dad ran in Ain Rumani (three miles away from home).  She had many suitors who used to take the whole family out.  One suitor used to get drunk and sing and recite Arab poems:  These behaviors (of too much Arabic poetry) didn’t rime with Therese.  She finally eloped with Edward Fakhoury on the night that my cousin Aida Ghoussoub was consecrated nun. 

Edward was usually served whiskey by dad as he assiduously visited Therese.  Edward barely touched the glass; dad was under the impression that Edward does not indulge in alcoholic drinks, until we found out, after the wedding that Edward loved “arak”.  Therese spent the best years of marriage life preparing the “mezzeh or Taska” to Edward after a day work.  These sessions of slow nibling on a variety of dishes while drinking arak lasted for hours.

Thus, Therese married and has two daughters and two sons and grand children.  All her children got married except the youngest son.    

Most of my library was burned by my parents when I was away in the USA, even the benign French collections of “Livre rose” and “livre vert”….  My parents were apprehensive because the civil war targeted suspicious individuals who read specific ideological manuscripts.  There was this potential that the books may contain political and ideological lines not appropriate for the location and place of the strongest militias on the ground.  

Not an artistic family

We are not an artistic family by any stretch of the imagination; no singing, no dancing, no music, no laughing… Mother learned to cut “patrons” at school and was the designated sister in her large family who fashioned and sewed clothes to her remaining six other sisters, and their kids later on. Actually, in our larger families I cannot single out a member whom I could select as artistic, except maybe Bernard who sculpted on wood and later on stone and marble.

The new generation is leaning heavily toward the new major of graphic design, which didn’t exist in our time, because basically personal computer didn’t exist or was not powerful enough for the requirements of that discipline.

I do not recall that I ever communicated with my parents, not around the eating tables or anywhere else for that matter.  Dad never shared his plans or any anecdotes with us, though he was voluble when in a gathering of adults.  Mother also is voluble in gatherings, but mostly at our expense, on account of our limitations and asocial behavior. 

Our crude verbal outbursts are symptoms of our lack of verbal skills and weak initiation to talking and expressing our feelings: We, the kids, were not permitted to join the adults when they were paying us visits. No wonder that the atmosphere at home is not that cheerful and we ended up, my younger brother, sister and I, dumb socially and never succeeded in being social and interacting like normal people.

I joined many bus trips with acquaintances in the village, of the same age range, during summer vacations, but I didn’t join in the singing or dancing or conversing or attempting making close friends, simply because I didn’t know how, and was not prompted intelligently and skillfully to befriend others.




March 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,518,710 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 764 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: