Episode 71 – Mother’s Day

Mother’s day in the Middle East is celebrated on March 21. In this episode, Mariam hosts her mom and asks about her early years raising a family during the dark chapters of Lebanese history that included the 25-year Civil War and 15-year Israeli occupation in Lebanon. It was a difficult period of violence and economic hardship. The effort and sacrifices Mariam’s mom made to protect her family are a testament to the myriad challenges Lebanese mothers have faced to care for their families and give them a better future.

Lebanese Arabic Transcript and English Contextual Translation

مريم: جاهزة؟

Mariam: Ready?

ماما: جاهزة.

Mom: Ready.

مريم: مرحبا مستمعيننا عاللانغويج وايف، معكن مريم من جديد، والصوت اللي سمعتوه عم يرد علي هلأ، هو من أغلى وأعز الأصوات عقلبي. هو صوت الماما. نفس الشي بعتقد صوت الأم لكل حدا فيكن، فإذا كانت إمكن بعدا عايشة واحتفلتو فيا بعيد الأم هالسنة، بقلكن الله يطول بعمرا، ما يحرمكن منا، ويخليا فوق راسكن. وإذا كانت متوفية، فأكيد تذكرتوا بكتير طرق بعيد الأم، وبقلكن الله يرحما وان شا الله تكون بمكان أفضل هلأ.

Mariam: Hello, dear listeners on Language Wave. This is Mariam again, and the voice you have heard replying to me now is one of the most precious and dearest voices to my heart. It is my mom’s voice. I guess the mother’s voice feels the same to each and every one of you. So, if your mom is still alive, and you celebrated her on Mother’s Day this year, I tell you, “May Allah extend her life, may you never be deprived of her, and may she remain always by your side.” And if she is deceased, then you have certainly remembered her in many ways on Mother’s Day, and I tell you, “May Allah have mercy on her, and god willing she is in a better place now.”

الماما معي بهالحلقة، لأن بدل ما أنا خبركن بعيد الأم عن تعبا وقوتا وصبرا بتربايتنا أنا وإخواتي بوحدة من أصعب المراحل اللي مرق فيا لبنان، رح خليا هي تخبركن وتخبرني.  

Mom is present in this episode with me because instead of me telling you about her tiredness, strength, and patience in raising me and my siblings in one of the hardest periods that Lebanon had been through, I will let her tell you and tell me.

تنعاد عليك يا رب ماما بالصحة والعافية والخير، وما نشوف فيك شر.

Happy Mother’s Day mom, may it return again while you are in good health, wellness, and every good, and may we never see you in any harm.

ماما: حبيبتي ماما، يخليلي ياكن ويفرحني فيكن دايماً.

Mom: My dear daughter, may you always be by myside, and may I find every joy in you always.

مريم: ماما شو رأيك بالبداية تخبرينا عنك بطفولتك؟

Mariam: Mom, how about you tell us in the beginning about you in your childhood?

ماما: أنا خلقانة وربيانة ببيروت. ورحت عالمدرسة بعمر خمس سنين. أنا أكبر وحدة بين إخواتي. كنا 5 بنات و3 صبيان، وكان بيّ بس بدو يضهرنا ياخدنا عحرش بيروت أو عالروشة. كنا عيلة كبيرة وكانت إيام حلوة كتير. بيك كان ابن جيراننا بالحي. تعرفنا على بعض بعمر صغير. كنت أنا 14 سنة وهو 19 سنة، حبني كتير وإجا طلبني من أهلي.

Mom: I was born and raised in Beirut. I went to school at 5 years old. I am the oldest among my siblings. We were 5 girls and 3 boys, and when my father wanted to take us out, he would take us to Horsh Beirut or Raouché. We were a big family, and those were very beautiful days. Your father was the son of our neighbors in the neighborhood. We met at a very young age. I was 14 years, and he was 19 years. He fell in love with me, and he asked for my hand in marriage from my family.

مريم: يعني أي سنة خطبتو إنت وبابا وأي سنة تزوجتو؟ خبرينا أكتر كيف كانت هيديك الفترة، وشو أصعب شي مرقتو فيه أول زواجكن؟

Mariam: So, which year did you and dad get engaged, and which year you got married? Tell us more, how was that period, and what is the hardest thing you went through at the beginning of your marriage?

ماما: شو بدي خبرك يا ماما .. خطبنا بـ تموز سنة 1974، كان عمري 14 سنة. كنا صغار ونضهر كتير، عالسينما والمسرح والمطاعم والأسواق. بعدين بلشت الحرب بسنة الـ 1975. وانقسمت بيروت لشرقية وغربية، وما عدنا قدرنا نتحرك. تزوجنا بآذار 1976. أول بيت أخدناه كان عخطوط التماس. صار قصف وانضرب البيت قبل ما نتزوج ونسكنو. إجت قذيفة فيه واتضرر كتير، وصرنا نفتش عبيت تاني. وأصعب شي صار إنو قبل ما نتزوج بعشر شهور، بيّ قتلوه مسلحين بقناصة. كان حارس ببلدية بيروت. غياب البي بهدّ الإنسان، بس الحياة بدا تكفي بالأخير. رجعنا استأجرنا بيت تاني. كانت ظروف صعبة ووضعنا المادي أبداً مش منيح، فاستأجرنا بيت أوضة، ومطبخ، وحمام واحد.

Mom: What should I tell you my dear? We got engaged in July 1974. I was 14 years old. We were young, and we used to go out a lot; to the cinema, theatre, restaurants, and markets. Then, the war started in 1975. Beirut was split into east and west, and we were no longer able to move around. We got married in 1976. The first house we took was at a frontline. A shelling took place, and the house was hit before we got married and moved to it. A shell hit it, and it was damaged badly. We started looking for another home. The hardest thing to happen was that before we got married by 10 months, militants killed my father with a sniper. He was a guard in the municipality of Beirut. The absence of the father destroys the human being, but life has to move on eventually. We again rented another house. It was hard conditions, and our financial situation was not good at all. Thus, we rented a house that was one room, a kitchen, and one bathroom.

مريم: الله يرحمو جدّو. والتاتا كمان ربت بقية إخواتك لحالا، وكانت إم عظيمة وتحملت كتير. عاندت اليأس والمصاعب، وكبرتكن. وبعدا بكم شهر حبلتي إنت بأول ولد، إختي الكبيرة. صح؟

Mariam: May Allah have mercy on grandpa. And grandma also raised the rest of your siblings alone and was a great mother who endured a lot. She resisted despair and hardships and brought you up. And after few months, you got pregnant with your first child, my eldest sister. Right?

ماما: مزبوط. أنا وحامل ببنتي الأولى، اشتدت الحرب الأهلية كتير وصار قصف ومعارك قوية. هربنا برا بيروت. وبس راقت شوي، رجعنا عبيروت وولدت. كان في هدنة بالحرب. وبعدين جبت تاني ولد وتالت ولد بالحرب الأهلية كمان. بيك كان عنصر بقوى الأمن الداخلي، بالدرك يعني، وكان يغيب كتير بمهات ومأموريات بشغلو وضل لحالي بالبيت مع 3 ولاد. ولمن تشتد المعارك والقصف، جهز شوية أكل واحملن واهرب فين من ملجأ لملجأ.

Mom: True. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, the civil war intensified and there were fierce battles and shelling. We escaped outside Beirut. When it settled a bit, we returned to Beirut, and I gave birth. There was a truce in the war. And then I had my second child and third child in the war also. Your father was a member of the internal security forces, which means in Darak, and he used to be absent a lot on missions and assignments in his work, and I would stay alone with three kids. When the battles and shelling intensify, I would prepare some food, carry them, and run from shelter to shelter.

مريم: حميتي عيلة وإنت مرا صغيرة بأول العشرينيات. في شي حادثة ما بتنسيا إنت ومع 3 ولاد لحالك بالملاجئ؟

Mariam: You protected a family, and you were a young woman in your twenties. Is there any incident that you do not forget while alone with 3 children in the shelters?

ماما: إيه والله يا بنتي. مرة كان صرلنا شي 7 ساعات بالملجأ ببيروت. بيك كان بالشغل. إختك الكبيرة كان عمرا 4 سنين. طلعت حرارتا كتير وما عاد قدرت تتحرك أو تحكي. صرت إبكي كتير وما عارفة شو إعمل. في شاب بالملجأ قلي، “قومي ناخدا عند دكتور”. تركت إخواتك تنين مع جيراني بالملجأ، وأخدني الشاب بسيارتو تحت القصف عند دكتور أطفال بمنطقة قريبة. الطريق كانت فاضية وما فيا ولا شخص. شي مرعب ومشهد ما بنساه بحياتي. الدكتور قلنا، “شو مجانين إنتو كيف جيتو!” فحصا ووصفلا دوا. الشاب اللي أخدني يا حرام مات بالحرب بعدا بكم شهر بقصف على بيتو.

Mom: Indeed my daughter. One time, we had been for about 7 hours in the shelter in Beirut. Your dad was at work. Your eldest sister was 4 years old. She had a high fever, and she was no longer able to move or talk. I started crying a lot not knowing what to do. A young man in the shelter told me, “Get up, and let us take her to a doctor.” I left your two siblings with my neighbors in the shelter, and the young man took me in his car under fire to a pediatrician in a nearby area. The road was empty, and there was no one at all. It was frightening and a scene that I won’t forget my entire life. The doctor said, “Are you mad! How did you come?!” He examined her and prescribed medicine. The poor young man who took me died in the war a few months later in a shelling at his home.

مريم: يا الله يا ماما أديش مرق عليك، وأديش تحملتي لنحنا نكبر ونعيش. حرب أهلية، أزمة اقتصادية وليرة عم تنهار متل ما عم يصير هلأ تقريبا، وعفوقن بلش الاجتياح الإسرائيلي بحزيران سنة الـ 1982.

Mariam: Oh god how much you have been through mom, and how much you have endured so we could live and grow up! A civil war, an economic crisis, and a depreciating Lira, almost similar to what is happening now, and on top of these, the Israeli invasion started in June 1982.

ماما: صح. قصفو الإسرائيلية بيروت ونزلنا عالملاجئ. وبعدين جاب بيك سيارة من الشغل وطلعنا من بيروت عالضيعة. وقفونا الإسرائيلية عحاجز بمنطقة الشويفات وحققو معنا شي 4 ساعات! ضلينا 13 ساعة لوصلنا عالضيعة وخيك مرض عالطريق. ما عرفت كيف وصلنا عالضيعة لنشوف دكتور. ضلينا  كذا شهر بالضيعة لأن الاحتلال الإسرائيلي كان محاصر بيروت كليا، وقتلو ناس كتير. العالم جاعت كتير ببيروت. ما كان فيه كهربا أبداً ولا مي ولا خبز، وقصف ومعارك طول الوقت.

Mom: True. The Israelis bombarded Beirut, and we went down to the shelters. Then, your dad brought a car from work, and we left Beirut to the village. The Israelis stopped us at a checkpoint in Chouaifet area and interrogated us for about 4 hours!  It took us 13 hours to arrive at the village, and your brother fell sick on the road. I could not believe how we arrived at the village so we would see a doctor. We stayed for few months in the village because the Israeli occupation was besieging Beirut completely, and they killed many people. People were very hungry in Beirut. There was no electricity nor water or bread, and there was shelling and battles all the time.

مريم: وبعدا رجعتو عبيروت. بتذكر خبرتيني عن صعوبات بالتربية كمان مرقتي فيا بأصغر تفاصيل بالحياة. بتخبرينا أكتر عنن؟

Mariam: And then you returned to Beirut. I remember that you told me about difficulties you went through in parenting also in the smallest details in life. Will you tell us more about them?

ماما: ان شا الله ما بتنعاد هيديك الإيام. بالليل ما أعرف وين بدي نيم إخواتك كرمال القصف والتقنيص. كانو يقولو قذيفة الأر بي جي بتفوت بحيطين. فصير فكر أنا وين ممكن نيمن وفيه قدامن أكتر من حيطين يحموون. قول بنيمن بالكوريدور. بعدين قول لاء بالمطبخ أحسن. وارجع آخدن واقعد بالحمام. وآخر شي مرات كنت احملن وانزل اقعد فين بمدخل البناية. وهيك ما نام بالليل أبداً. وكون قلقانة كمان على بيك. ما كان في مية خدمة أو مية شرب. كنت روح أنا وبيك نجيب مي من بير بأرض قريبة، ومرات إذا هو بالشغل روح لحالي. عبي غالنات المي واحملن عالبيت. وأنا وحامل مرات طلعن عالسلم عتتخيتة البيت. كان فيا البركة اللي منسحب منا مي عالحنفيات. وهيك كنت إغسل عإيدي وما كان في حفاضات. وبس بدي حممكن دفي المي عنار الحطب.

Mariam: God willing these days never return. At night, I would not know where I should put your siblings to bed due to the shelling and snipers. They used to say that an RPG penetrates two walls. Thus, I would start thinking about where I would put them to sleep with more than two walls in front of them to protect them. I would say I will put them to sleep in the corridor. Then I would say no, the kitchen is better. Then I would take them and sit in the bathroom. Sometimes eventually, I would carry them and go down to sit in the building’s entrance. And thus, I would not sleep at night at all. I would be worried about your father also. There was no service water, nor drinking water. I used to go with your dad and bring water from a well in a nearby land. Sometimes, if he is at work, I would go alone. I would fill the water gallons and carry them home. Sometimes, while I am pregnant, I would carry them up on a ladder to the home’s attic. It had the pool from which we drew water to the taps. I used to hand wash laundry, and there were no diapers. When I wanted to give you a bath, I would warm water on wood-fire.

مرة الساعة 2 بالليل صابت البيت أر بي جي. إجت عالبرندة. بعدني لهلأ بتذكر كيف حملت إخواتك ونزلت اركض بالشارع عبيت أهلي اللي كان شوي قريب علينا.

One time, at 2 AM, an RPG hit the house. It hit the balcony. I still remember until now how I carried your siblings and went running down the street to my parent’s home, which was somewhat close to us.

مريم: بس تحكي كل هيدا، بتفاءل بقوتك، وبتأكد إنو ما في شي بالدنيا بيصعب عالإنسان إذا كان عندو إرادة وحب متل اللي عندك. وهلأ رح احكي أنا شوية أشيا ما قلتين. بقلب كل هول كانت قيمة الليرة عم تنهار، وبابا عم يشتغل أكتر من شغل ليحلق عمصروف العيلة. كنتو تحملو هم الحليب والسكر والرز المقطوع، متل كتير إميات وبيات بلبنان بوقتا، وكتير إميات هلأ كمان. ورغم كل هيدا، حرمتي حالك إنت وبابا كتير أشيا حتى قدرتو علمتونا كلنا، مع إنو إنت وياه ما قدرتو تكفو تعليمكن بسبب الحرب. وبعدك لليوم عندك صعوبات كتير بالنوم بعرف، بسبب الحرب. صعب إحكي بحلقة أو 100 حلقة عن كل شي مرقتي فيه وأديش تعبتي وضحيتي كرمالنا، إنت وبابا. بس يمكن حبيت نسمع أنا والمستمعين شوي من قصصك بعيد الأم، وقلك إنو إنت كنت إم ومرا جبارة وعظيمة، ومتلك كتير إميات من جيل الحرب بلبنان. رح تضلي دايماً مثالي الأعلى بالحياة. كل عام وإنت بألف خير يا رب.  

Mariam: When you say all of this, I feel optimistic about your strength, and I become certain that nothing in life is hard on a human being if he had the will and love that you have. Now, I will talk about a few things you did not say. Amid all of this, the value of the Lira was depreciating, and dad had more than one job to be able to cover the family’s expenses. You used to worry about the milk, sugar, and rice that were not available, like many mothers and fathers in Lebanon back then and many mothers even now. And despite all of this, you and dad deprived yourselves of many things so that you were able to educate us all, although you both were not able to continue your education because of the war. And up until today, you have trouble sleeping, I know, because of the war. It is very hard that I speak in an episode or 100 episodes about everything you have been through, and about how much you were tired and you sacrificed for us, both you and dad. But maybe, I just wanted for me and the listeners to hear some of your stories on Mother’s Day and to tell you that you were a powerful and great mother. Many mothers from the generation of war were like you also. You will always be my idol in life. Happy Mother’s Day.

Comprehension Questions (try to answer the questions while speaking out loud to yourself and using full sentences in Lebanese Arabic)

  1. How did Mariam’s mother describe her childhood?
  2. When did the civil war start? And what was the hardest thing that happened to Mariam’s mother before she got married?
  3. Which incident does Mariam’s mother recall about being in the shelters in Beirut with three kids amid the war?
  4. What are some difficulties Mariam’s mother went through as a young mother?
  5. What is something you would love to say to your mother on Mother’s Day?


Vocabulary Table

# Lebanese-Arabic English Transliteration English Translation
1 يرد Yred Reply
2 صبر Saber Patience
3 خلقانة Khala’neh Born
4 خطبنا Khatabnah We got engaged
5  خطوط التماس Khtoot Al-Tames Frontlines
6 قذيفة Kazeefeh Shell
7 يأس Ya’es Despair
8 هدنة Hidneh Truce
9 الدرك Al-Darak Internal Security Forces
10 مأموريات Ma’muriyyet Assignments
11 حاجز Hajez Checkpoint
12 محاصر Mhasir Besieging
13 تتخيتة Titkheeteh Attic
14 حفاضات Hfadat Diapers
15 مثالي الأعلى Miseleh Al-A‘la My idol



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