This post is the second in a series which starts HERE
The graveyard is littered with plastic bottles. They are piled around the inside of the low wall. My sixteen year old daughter is crying at her father’s grave as she watches her uncle pour water from his plastic bottle onto the tomb stone. ‘The water symbolises our tears,’ he says in French. To his credit – perhaps because he now lives in Paris and knows that Europeans disapprove of littering cemeteries – he doesn’t hurl the empty container over his shoulder onto the debris pile.
My daughter looks pale; she’s been weeping on and off since her arrival at the Tunisian village a few hours earlier. In that time she’s experienced every emotion possible: from grief at the reality that her father is dead and she will never meet him, to joy at meeting his – her – family for the first time. Four aunts, startlingly similar in appearance to her, say she is like their fifth sister as they fight over who will sit beside her. Grandparents, unused to European visitors, embrace her with fierce warmth, simultaneously overjoyed and devastated once more at the loss of their son by this walking reminder of him.
I have wondered what it must be like for my daughter to be brought up in an almost exclusively white town in the north of Scotland with her Arabic features, to be ethnically different to her only surviving parent. It shouldn’t matter, but maybe it does. It is fascinating to see her with these warm friendly people I knew so many years previously. Their faces are familiar. But almost sixteen years have passed and they seem like strangers now; they don’t look like me, they don’t dress like me, they don’t speak my language or understand my culture. And yet… they are my daughter’s blood relatives.
Next: A village far, far away
If you would like to try my novel, set in the same area of Tunisia, Daughter, Disappeared is REDUCED to £1.99p on Kindle from 14-21 October 2018: http://amzn.to/2eCnZRf.
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There’s also my facebook page: Fiona MacBain – Writer – thank you