Op-Ed: Searching for ties to the Middle East in my mother’s old photos
By Michelle M.
A year ago, I posted a photo and title that asked: “Where has my Middle Eastern family traveled when they go on vacation?”
My mom’s photos are scattered around my parents’ house filled with black-and-white snapshots from her last trip to Israel, her first visit to Egypt, and her last trips to Morocco, Morocco (again), and Cyprus. There’s one photo from Cyprus. I’ve written on my blog about my mother’s interest in the Middle East, and here I am again, asking where these family trips have taken her.
I’m not the first person to have this question; I’ve heard it from several other moms whose families have been in the Middle East over the past few decades. While in Egypt, it’s the land of the pharaohs; my mother’s father has often explained this from the vantage point of his homeland. In Morocco it was a journey through Arabic and French; my mother’s family was born on a French speaking island and came to the United States when they were young.
So, here’s the thing about my mom’s photos. I believe her trip to the Middle East would have been to visit some of the things in her family’s history that would have been unfamiliar to her. She would have been learning about their history and about who she was. They would have been learning who she was.
I don’t know which of these photos speak to this question – which ones show, for instance, that she was learning about her family’s history or that these were her trips. But I do know that she would have been learning as she was traveling, not just about her family’s trip to Morocco but about herself. She would have been learning that she exists.
She was learning that she is part of someplace, someplace so foreign that it is not yet in her memory, just as she was learning about her family’s trips and about life in America. What her travel has shown her about herself