As very young children my brother and I lived with our parents in an apartment in a residential area in Cairo. It was a lovely apartment and one of its best features was a working fireplace in the salon. This was opened onto another room which made for a spacious area for all of us. The following incident was relayed to me as I was just a baby at the time and definitely do not remember it.
It was a cold winter evening and my parents loaded the wood and coal in the grate and lit the fire. One of the pastimes was roasting chestnuts in the ashes of that fire. My Mom did the honors while my Father kept the fire going. My brother, as a child was roaming about the room, playing with his toys. I was in my crib, probably dozing.
Once the chestnuts were done, my Mom started cooling them a bit then started peeling them carefully and called my brother to give him half a one. He refused to have it put in his mouth, he took it in his hand, looked at it then slipped away to go and play with his toys again. A short time later, he came back for more chestnuts. This kept up for a few minutes, but my Mom noticed that the rate of his coming back for more seemed to accelerate. So on giving him a bit of a chestnut, she kept her eye on him to see if he was eating it or just parking it somewhere. To her horror she saw him approaching my crib and stuffing it in my already full mouth. She gasped and jumped up to dig her fingers in my mouth and dislodge a good handful of half chestnuts that my brother had been systematically feeding me.
That could have been one for the Guinness Book of records : death of baby by chestnuts. If anything it shows my brother’s love for me when I was still very young. Of course this changed and developed and we were fighting like cats and dogs right through our growing years, but thank God, after growing up, the love that was there in childhood returned with understanding, respect and fondness. Not once, since we grew up did he ever try to choke me with chestnuts again.
When we were a bit older, maybe even in school, those lovely winter evenings continued by the fire, but the mode of entertainment differed. My Mom used to tell us the story of Jesus. A fascinating story and the best way to introduce religion and the concept of it to young minds. I remember when she was trying to teach us the words of prayer : “Our Father which art in heaven …” She started, the the telephone rang, so off she went : “Hello? … Oh hi” it was her sister. Short call, just checking in. She came back and started anew: Our Father which art in heaven … The telephone rang again. Off she went : Hello? Yes he is here hold please” a call for my Father. She started again : Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” . My Father finished the call and left the room. The telephone rang yet again, she threw up her hands and in a huff went to answer : “Hello! … No wrong number!” Banged the receiver down, came back took up her stand and in a loud firm voice began : Hello God! She gasped in shock as my brother and I collapsed in laughter. And that was the end of that lesson for that evening.