My father put the phone down, turned to my mother and said, one 3 a.m. sometime in 1983.
I was twelve years old. Getting up in the middle of the night typically meant Milo
, pyjamas and the All Blacks
. The phone seldom rang in the middle of the night, almost never from overseas.
This night was different. The lives of people we knew were gravely endangered.
A month earlier Ba'ath Party
thugs trashed the biosciences laboratory at Baghdad University
and my father's colleagues were on the run with their families.
In the absence of ineffectual international institutions, Western universities were scrambling to offer positions to get academics across the frontier and into asylum. It was barely enough, so academic families like mine spent what we had to finance alternatives.
It cost us. We weren't wealthy and I'm pretty sure the expenditure accounted for almost all my family's disposable income.
And I am fucking proud of going without.
33 years later, if I were to choose one moment to define myself as a person, I hope it would be that 3 a.m. when my Dad turned to my Mum and said "they've made it to Amman."
If I can live up to that sentence I will have lived a worthwhile life.
Merry Christmas everyone, Goodwill to all.
-SRA. Auckland, 21/xii 2016 (reposted.)