Chapter 1: Early Childhood
I was born in Basra, Iraq in 1946. At the age of ten, in 1956, my parents sent me and my brother alone on a plane to live in the United States. That day was so traumatic that it shaped everything to follow for the rest of my life. After reading this book, I hope others will understand how one single event can impact and thus, shape one’s entire life. That’s a frightening thought considering that I, myself, was not able to overcome this chain of events even with the training I have had as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Still, it has required years of psychotherapy for me to clearly identify the truth from the fiction in the set of circumstances that held me captive so very long ago.
The day before this traumatic set of events, my father came to my brother and me announcing that we would be leaving for America the next day.
“What is America?” I asked. “Why are we leaving?”
There was no explanation. Instead, he giggled – a nervous giggle.
I asked if I had done something wrong. Was this a punishment? I then started to negotiate enrolling in a boarding school run by nuns in Baghdad, something my parents had mentioned previously for a second, then never again. That idea was so foreign then, I don’t even know why I remembered it.
My dad did not bother to reply. He had none. How could he explain all of this to a ten-year-old?
Still, I kept hoping that what he said was not true. But soon after, he whisked my brother and me to the U.S. Embassy to get visas. I remember he was nervous. We could sense that this was an extremely important matter for him. Years later, I understood that his fear was that we would not be given Student Visas to come to the U.S. If that were to happen, what would he do?
Sensing that this was a matter of great importance to him, we sat quietly as the consulate stamped the Visas, giving us a feeling of great relief and happiness. The next day, my father, brother, and I said good-bye to my grandmother and grandfather with whom we lived. They were more like parents to me than grandparents. They took care of us from day to day and showed love to us all the time.