This morning I went for a jog and stopped by a tree to stretch. Across the street was an elementary school playground filled with kids in high spirits. One young girl in particular caught my eye. She had curly black hair, a sweater that is too large on her, and an addicting enthusiastic smile. As she ran around playing tag with her friends, I wondered if my future daughter, God willing, would look like her. Then, I realized that the little girl was the memory of me. When I attended elementary school, P.S. 69, in Jackson Heights, Queens, life seemed so simple and safe compared to the constant threats of war I had left behind.

I actually looked forward to getting home from school, finishing my homework, and catching all my favorite shows on the W.B. and Cartoon Network, while I waited for my mom and dad to get home from work. My older sister would come back from her college classes and bring me a cinnamon pretzel as a treat. It was my favorite. It made me feel special and loved.

Many days, if I didn’t have too much homework, I would go through all of the closets and come up with a costume so I could imitate a scene from the last movie I had watched. Other days, I would have chalk from school and I would use our kitchen cabinet doors as chalkboards and teach my teddy bears what I learned at school that day. As soon as I heard my parents ring the doorbell from downstairs I would buzz them in and rush to clean up the mess before they climbed the steps to our 3rd floor walk-up apartment.

Even though my parents never had any extra money for me to have the latest toys or clothes, I don’t think I would remember those things anyway. My memories are of those carefree, fun-filled, hours as a little girl with a big imagination.

We all feel the pressure to get out our credit cards during the holidays and buy things that we feel our loved ones would want. But, that happiness is temporary. It’s the memories of feeling safe and loved that are priceless and lasting.

– Rima Fakih