Since the first marron glacé melted on my tongue when I was ten, I vowed to have a chestnut tree in the garden. The box was flown from Paris to Beirut then shipped to Amman. There were ribbons, cellophane paper, and melt-in-the-mouth, glossy candied chestnuts. The box triggered a desire for unsampled delights: visiting imagined cities, exploring unknown alleyways, sitting in cafes in St Germain, listening to music in the Latin Quarter.
My Circassian mother hummed a song about faraway lands as she cut the chestnuts open, roasted them on the kerosene stove, peeled them, cooled them down with her breath, then put them in a bowl. My siblings and I were huddled around the stove waiting for our share.
They were soft, buttery, sweet in the mouth.
No amount of nurturing, wishing could make a chestnut tree survive in my garden, could bring her back. That futile pursuit is a search for her, me, for the aroma of roasted chestnuts lingering in the winter air.
Looking through the window I could see a maple, its leaves, which are riddled with age spots, tremble in the wind then tumble to the ground.
Tilt your head so, bow, even kneel to see the rays slanting through the leaves. There must be light somewhere.
Boxed by the choices I have made I abandon Paris and hold a falling leaf up against the sun. Green, gold, orange, brown. A gleam rather than a gloss.
Written on my mother’s second death anniversary