War and Happiness

Posted on April 17, 2012

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I have a hard time writing about the war. Case in point: this post, that I was planning to have ready by April 13. 4 days later, I’m still rewriting it.

But I’m not the only one. No one ever talks or writes about the war. Or rather, no one talks or writes about the war enough.

For some, it’s a horrible thing that they would rather not have to deal with. For many, it brings back too many memories. For some, it’s something that is over and done with.

In my case, I don’t write about the war for one very different reason: Because I only have happy memories from back then.

I know that’s a horrible thing to say. It bothers me even more so because I’m a hardcore pacifist today, and I have a hard time digesting my happy memories of such a horrible time.

For me, the war meant no school. It meant having weeks on end where I could go out in the woods, climb on trees, play with my Legos, build campfires, watch Tom & Jerry, go swimming, spend a weekend on the slopes, play with the neighbors, go out hunting (yes, let that irony slide right in), play with my sister’s dolls (yes, let that stereotype settle right in), draw and laugh and play and cook and climb and build and sing.

For me, growing up in war was an amazing time.

Even the bad times are usually linked to happier things in my head.

For example, I don’t have memories of sitting in the darkness for days on end. Rather, I remember that when the electricity did come, I would run to the kitchen to bake, using our brand new electric mixer.

When we found ourselves under fire, being woken up in a panic in the middle of the night by our parents and rushed down to the first floor to hide under the stairs, I remember building castles out of pillows and sheets. When the bombs got really close, I remember playing a game with my brother, where we would try to guess if the bomb we just heard was actually being fired or had just landed (two strangely similar sounds).

I remember once heading back home in the backseat of my parents’ car, at night, and fighting had just broken out. The sky was lit up with beautiful sparks of fire, probably more beautiful than any starlit sky. Of course, the sparks of fire were bombs and shells, but I didn’t see that back then.

These are the memories that I carry with me everyday.

But when I sit down and think a bit more, the more horrible stuff comes out.

Like when the bakery next to my father’s office was blown up (the original location of Wooden Bakery). Standing at the window of his office, seeing people picking up body pieces. I remember a leg, an arm, a headless body, lots of noise.

There are also the stories of kids that would pick up toys in the forest that would blow up in their face.

And the constant fear of snipers when visiting my cousins who lived right on the Green Line.

And walking back home alone one day when a bomb landed a bit too close for comfort, and I panicked and lost my way back home. My father drove around in complete desperation under the shelling, trying to find me.

There’s also snippets of information that would trickle down from the news, from conversations between my parents, from worried adults talking in code around me.

But those are moments, stripped of emotions, almost like a movie I remember.

***

A few years ago, well after the war had ended, in a period of rebellion, I got in a fight with my parents. It went a little something like this: “You lied to me, and by lying to me you made me part of the problem, and the war is all your fault, and I can’t believe you would do this to me, and I can never forgive you for raising me like this…”

I’m a fucking idiot.

It took me a long time to realize that the only reason that my memories of my childhood were so positive is because my parents made the happiness of me and my brother and sister the only goal in their life. In order to provide us with a normal childhood in the midst of complete chaos, they created this world, stuck in a bubble, true, but that was ideal for our well-being.

I think if they were asked about their memories of the war, they would tell a different story. That’s a story that I’d like to hear one day, though I am not sure anyone is ready to share it yet.

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