My Relationship with the Floor

Me and my niece Taiba before a wedding ~ July 2007 Homs, Syria

Me and my niece Taiba before a wedding ~ July 2007 Homs, Syria

One common theme you will continue to find in my "Self" section is cleaning.  This is because I truly believe that maintaining an inviting and hygienic space is one of the best indirect ways of developing the self and perfecting our beautiful qualities.  

But what is specifically special about the floor?

We are told in life to always look upwards--the sky is the limit, shoot for the moon, aim high.  But I found that when I focus on the floor space instead a whole new, humbling, inspiring, and real world opens up to me.  

Over a decade ago as a teenager, I found myself in Syria playing the role of the sole woman of the house, just me and my best friend--my beloved jiddo (grandfather).  He used to always say, "Cleanliness is beautiful," and I would spend hours each day scrubbing his 20,000 square meter villa and garden (I was really skinny back then).  I remember the beautiful white marble flooring.  I remember being down on my hands and knees, heart pounding, soaking wet, sweating, exhausted, and happy from the innermost corner of my being.  The smile on my jiddo's face was especially radiant when he would come home from the old souk, where his shops used to be before he gave them to his sons, and find the house sparkling clean and lunch hot and ready.  

And there I would be sitting quietly in the kitchen with my hair wet, just having showered and ready to eat my first meal of the day.  He would always recognize my work without me ever bringing notice to myself.  He would chuckle and say, "Khanum cleaned today, is Khanum tired?"  Khanum is Turkish for princess, and this was the nickname he gave to me.  He would always tell me that I was like my Turkish great-grandmother; he always relayed to me stories of my grandmother who passed before I ever met her.  He never took off his wedding ring, even a decade after his beloved wife's death, and he never remarried. 

I focused so much on keeping things tidy and fresh despite the harsh, dusty climate.  In the process, I wound up memorizing those beautiful floors.  I can still see the marble patterns in my head now, and how I would think of all the history that took place on those tiles.  My uncle was born in that house--my father used to fry him potatoes and eggs in the middle of the night, joking forever after about how much he spoiled his kid brother.  Those floors saw five generations of my family--my grandfather took care of his parents on those floors.  My great grand-parents, grandmother, grand aunt, and grand uncle died on those floors (God have mercy on them).  My aunts, uncles, and big sister held their wedding reception on those floors.  My sister's children learned to crawl there.  So much history, so many memories, so much beauty and pain and growth and life happened. 

And in the process, the varnishing faded and the gorgeous, decades-old floors became worn and weary.  I remember feeling tears drop out of my eyes looking at the damage on the floors from a half a dozen of my male cousins, who played soccer inside the formal rooms and entryway after getting charcoal on their shoes from a family barbecue in the gardens downstairs.  I fought to restore the floors to their closest condition to new.  I fought to maintain the beauty in the floor, out of respect for all the memories that it bore for my family.  I noticed every single time a marble chipped off the floor even if it was as small as the eraser on the pencils that I would slave away with learning Arabic.  Those floors represented my firm grounding in this life, and all the emotions and memories and meaning that life has to offer.

I strongly suggest that anyone wishing to develop himself or herself take a humble seat on their hands and knees and begin maintaining, clearing, caring for, and nurturing your floors.  My approach to life is bottom-up, and I stopped aiming for the stars.  I don't know if stars yearn for the believers in their absence.  Instead, I choose to focus more on the ground, the earth that will cry over me after I, God-willing in a state of pure faith, die on it.

Dena AtassiComment