Awake! For morning
in the bowl of night
has flung the stone that
puts the stars to flight:
And lo! the Hunter
of the East has caught
the Sultan’s turret
in a Noose of Light.
— The Rubaiyat of
My friend Hrair (pronounced her EYE er) was raised in Beirut. While I recall TV images of nightmare violence and urban war there, he remembers it a garden city, the loveliest of Edens. Hrair is a man of many nations. His family is from Armenia and he lives in California. He was raised a Christian, and speaks seven languages.
I can’t imagine a childhood more different from mine than Hrair’s. Yet he’s an enthusiastic reader of this blog. He often privately sends me his responses to the pieces here.
Some weeks ago, I told the story of how we got Nick to school on time. To my mind, the story wasn’t really about school, but an agonizing moment when I had to set a limit for Nick. The tale unfolded over six blog posts and generated a lot of discussion here. After the last post, Hrair sent me an email. He said,
“I wanted to wait and see how your story will unfold before telling you mine.
Hrair told me a story about something that happened when he was four and lived in Beirut. He had an older brother who was seven. During the days, they would often play together outside, sometimes wandering away from their house. Their father told them that was all right as long as they were back inside the home by sundown.
One day as we were playing in the front yard we did not realize it had gotten dark. We were still outside. My father came home, greeted me and my brother, went into the house and locked the door. As we were running in after him we were shocked to hear the lock. We also heard our dad remind us he had told us we should always be home before it got dark.
The two boys started to scream and cry. Hrair’s mother pleaded with her husband, but he wouldn’t relent. The neighbors heard the shouting and came over.
“What are doing to your kids?” one of them asked.
“They will learn to be home at dark,” Hrair’s father said.
The boys huddled together in front of the house. No food from the dinner table was sent out to them. Around midnight, Hrair’s mother came out.
“Hrair,” she said, “You can come in, but not your brother. He’s older and should have set an example.”
Hrair walked toward the house and stopped in the doorway. He wrapped his hands around the door.
I hung on for dear life. I said I either go in with my brother or we will both leave the house. I remember we got physical and my mom must have felt sorry or whatever else you may want to call it and let us both in. She asked us to be quiet because she did not want to awaken my dad. She was doing this unbeknownst to him. The next morning every one behaved as if nothing had happened.
After that neither my brother nor I ever lied to our dad. We were always punctual and obedient.
Hrair doesn’t parent his two children with the old world harshness of this man. He’s a thoughtful, gentle soul. This is what he says about his father:
You also need to know that I worship and adore my dad.
How can I judge the actions of a parent who lived in a world so different from mine? Perhaps being away from home after dark in that place and time was a dangerous matter. Perhaps this father knew things about the city he didn’t want his children ever to know.
What do you think?
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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Children the Challenge — A classic work on parent child relations
Art Passions — The illustrations above (“Morning” and “I Saw the Solitary Ringdove” by Edmund Dulac) are taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, and the Preraphaelites.
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Any thoughts about the this story, or parent-child relations? I encourage, invite, bestir, charge, and exhort you to add your comment below. I always respond here.