As part of a collaboration between Syria Deeply and Rookie, we’re publishing the memoirs of a teenage girl living in the midst of Syria’s war. Marah, as she’s chosen to be known, lives in a city under siege. She was 15 years old when the uprising began. This is the sixth in her series of articles.
Family is a big word with a great meaning. Family, for me, used to mean grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and siblings. Now my family is smaller. I only have my mom, my two sisters and my little brother. Everyone else is far away now.
I love to talk about my siblings, and I’ll start with my sister Maya. She is one year younger than I am. We are very different, and we always fight. She’s studious and loves to read, and always has a book in her hand, at home, at school or even walking down the street. I think that reading is her escape from reality. Our circumstances haven’t stopped her from excelling in school, and she’s up late at night, reading and studying by candlelight or with a flashlight. My mom asks her to take it easy because she fears for Maya’s eyes.
Maya dreams of becoming a cardiologist, and I think it fits her because she’s quiet and studious. But sometimes she speaks out. The day after our father was killed, she wrote a story about him that made everyone at school cry.
My other, younger sister is very delicate. She resembles my mother in looks and personality. The conflict has affected her significantly. She is not doing well at school, and when our mom asks her to study, she cries and says that she is unable to memorize or comprehend her lessons. She lives in her own world. Maybe in her head she’s in her old, happy world, the world we had before the war. Or maybe she’s trying to escape our current bitterness. We don’t know. She is secretive and doesn’t like to open up. From the time she was a little girl she has refused to share her pain with others.
She is too attached to my mother. When mom gets sick, she sleeps beside her, holding her hand and crying. My sister fears losing her mother. My little sister does not ask mom for anything, because she is fully aware of the stress our mother is under. But mom never forgets about her little girl, and the extra love and compassion mom shows her does not annoy the rest of us because we understand that, due to the crisis, she never experienced the kind of childhood we did. Mom does not pressure her when it comes to school because mom empathizes with her. My sister dreams of working in an orphanage or a nursing home, because she’s got a deep affection and tenderness for others.
Now it’s time for my brother, who is the youngest of our family and the only boy. He received a tremendous amount of love and attention from my father, who never said no. Mom says that my father spoiled him, and if we compare his early years to his current life, it’s easy to understand why his temperament has changed. He was an innocent, energetic child who did nothing but play. Now he has to fill the water tank, chop wood for the fireplace and run errands. He has encountered the burden of responsibility too early in his life.
Mom tries to encourage him to study, but my brother does not care to do so. He takes out a lot of his anger and frustration when he’s outside chopping wood. He is always outside and my mom can’t keep him inside the house because there is nothing to distract or entertain him — no TV and no internet. We all love him and care for him because, like us, he has lost everything— especially his male role model. He is only 12 years old. Why should he bear all of this?
We gather sometimes just to talk, laugh and cry together. My mom supports us and tries to help us forget reality, but her efforts are in vain. We have all changed. This conflict has changed us, but it has also brought us closer to one another. We love each other now and we will love each other forever.