Last month I took my daughter and my youngest son to Ireland. Since moving to Dubai over ten years ago, it was their first ever trip back in spring. One day, when walking through my parents’ garden, I caught myself pointing out the spring daffodils and crocuses to my kids because those flowers are not there in summer when we usually visit (and most definitely not in Dubai gardens at any time of the year). This gave me pause for thought.
I realised I miss the seasons. I miss seeing golden daffodils and white crocuses peeking through damp, spring soil. I miss the crunch of autumn’s fallen, bronzed leaves underfoot. I miss the bracing, fresh air when the winter sky is cloudless and an uplifting shade of blue. I almost miss the rain. I missed home, and the childhood on which my kiddos were, I felt, missing out.
An oft quoted view of Dubai’s seasons is ‘there are only two seasons; hot and flippin’ hot’. In winter, pretty petals from the burnt orange flame trees carpet lawns and pavements. When the mercury rises, the elegant, pink shaded desert rose proudly assumes her summer domain. Endless blue skies give way to relaxing, balmy evenings filled with the refreshing scent of jasmine, and the orchestral chirping of crickets.
When I think about my childhood in what was a small seaside town, I remember racing home from school to grab the stale bread to feed the fluffy, white swans who would be waiting patiently on the shallow, brown river under the town’s bridge. I remember championing the cause of the garden snail: rescuing them from the trample danger zone of the garden path to escort them to the safety of the cabbage patch (yes, the cabbage patch!). I remember pouring soapy water on grass to tease worms to wriggle upwards through the lush, green grass. I remember running shopping errands to the greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers; running out for that pint of milk or the evening newspaper. I remember fishing for tadpoles in the river that cuts through my hometown, and carrying home my catch in used, glass, jam jars (and often dropping wet, slippery jars on the way!). I remember rummaging through rock pools by the Irish sea, searching for crabs and other interesting marine life. I remember sand peppered sandwiches amongst the sand dunes of Brittas Bay which I imagined were just like some exotic beach destination.
In the desert, my munchkins are ferried everywhere in ‘Mom’s Taxi’, and unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to run to the corner shop when we run out of milk or bread. Even so, in the desert we have taken the chance to teach our kiddos to champion the cause of the gecko, especially the teeny, weeny baby ones. When they come inside the house, seeking refuge from the adverse environment outside, we leave them be. DS1 Googled and discovered geckos like to eat crickets and cockroaches (as well as grapes if in captivity….not quite sure how the gecko could wrap his jaws around half a grape!)…unfortunately for DS1, he is not quick enough to catch those critters (and given we pay exterminators to rid our home of the dreaded pest that is the cockroach, there is no way we will be inviting them in!). Free weekend mornings are spent wading through the clear waters of the Persian Gulf; trying to stealthily creep up on darting, slim, silvery fish, crabs and starfish all the while trying to avoid the jelly fish.
Different countries. Different continents. Different generations. Approximately 6,000KM and an 8 hour flight apart and my kiddos’ lives are, as we would say in Dubai, ‘same-same but different’ to my childhood.