1 Nigis

Write A Descriptive Essay On Your Fathers House

Sweet mint tea

My father’s house in Cairo, Egypt has always had a special place in my heart. It is the place I always felt most at home, the most myself. My memories of him are all tied to that house. The memories are so plentiful and consuming that sometimes I just sit and close my eyes and play them in my mind. The summers and holidays spent there were some of the best times in my childhood, with cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles all surrounding me. 

Box full of magic

 I always felt so at ease there, able to really be me without having to explain it to someone. I was surrounded by history and culture and it was all mine. I close my eyes and I see my father sitting in his chair reading, pretending not to notice the constant incessant arguing of my obnoxious brother and me. I can hear my sisters playing and laughing in innocent girlish splendor. Perhaps the sweetest of memories is of my grandmother in the kitchen, begging me to come learn how to cook. I can hear her saying “habibti you will never find a husband if you cannot feed him”. I always obliged her and she carefully taught me everything she knew. The old house danced with the exotic essence my grandmothers cooking. I would take the lessons learned from my grandmother and on Saturday mornings my dad and I would listen to Bob Marley, talk about the world and its problems as we cooked a massive, fancy breakfast for everyone. His lively laughter remains so vibrant in my mind that I swear I still hear it echoing in the halls sometimes. We would always pray together as a family for the 5 regular prayers and even now every time I hear the call to prayer it instantly places me in my father’s house and I hear his voice calling my name to come join him. The sound of my dad’s music or the call to prayer conjures up smells, sounds and feelings so distinctly real for me.   We always had extra people show up at mealtimes and the big wooden front door didn’t even have a lock let alone a key. People would knock and walk right in the door, whether they were a neighbor or a relative. The smell of cumin, cinnamon and rose water lofted from the house like a gas, luring people in.


Ornate Middle Eastern tile work

The house itself was old, seemingly ancient to me as a child. The terra cotta colored stone stucco and red roof were so typically Mediterranean. I can smell the history that leaks from every mysterious crack and lurks in every crowded corner. The ornate colorful tile and indigenous wood work always amazed me with its elegant intricacies. Each piece of tile had been laid by my grandfather’s youthful hands with pride at being able to afford such a home for his new doe eyed bride. The furnishings were not purchased at a big box retailer, but rather hand made by diligent, skilled, local merchants we knew and whose kids were my friends. Everything had a story of how it was purchased after much manly haggling and negotiating on its worth. Photographs of family covered the walls and tops of tables. Some of the pictures were as old as photography itself and others as recent as the previous holiday. It was an eclectic mixture that showed our big family’s entire history, so far as we knew it. 


A bowl of Jamsine

My room was seemingly simple. It was all white, yet had a precious innocence.  White stucco walls, a white wooden canopy bed with a white quilt, white desk, white dresser and white framed mirror, a white ceiling fan kept it cool on hot sticky Sahara nights. The furniture may have been white but it was far from plain. It had detailed hand carved scroll work on all the edges with the faintest tracing of gold paint on the edges. The afternoon sun would catch this gold trim and cast a shimmering glaze over the room. The windows were a century old and opened up onto the garden below, allowing the night blooming jasmine to lull me to sleep. The scent was so intrusive that I would awake in the morning in a jasmine cloud, and my hair and skin would carry the sweet scent all day long. I felt like a princess in this room. It was so distinguished and it had been all my aunts’ rooms, even the room my aunt had been brought into this world in.  I had one picture on the wall. This was a photograph of my grandmother as a teenager a short time before she married my grandfather and first inhabited that very room.

An immigrant physician’s daughter defines her American dream.

The kitchen of my Manhattan apartment used to contain multiples of the same cartoon potholder. On it, Ziggy is pictured sitting in the waiting room of “Dr. Lee, Acupuncturist” and contemplating a cactus.

The house I grew up in was filled with those potholders. They accumulated next to the decoratively painted circular saws, crocheted slippers, a freezer full of game—all from patients expressing gratitude for my father’s services as an anesthesiologist and acupuncturist in Hibbing, the northern Minnesota mining town of my childhood. In the heyday of Ziggy, no one could come across the “Dr. Lee, Acupuncturist” potholder and not get him one.

Growing up in Korea under the Japanese occupation, my father dreamed of being a doctor and being an American. Both goals had seemed impossibly far away. But somehow, after the war, my father accomplished both, coming to America as a refugee in 1953, and cementing his citizenship through his work as the sole anesthesiologist in a small town in the north of Minnesota. It was natural that his dreams would carry over to his children, and he did everything he could to encourage us to love and pursue medicine.

I still have the book of drawings from Vesalius, the Renaissance master of human anatomy, that I received when I was five, and the tome was probably bigger than I was. My older brothers were given deluxe chemistry sets filled with inflammables, while my sister and I played the game Operation. For our weekend family entertainment, we would watch surgical films—full of live-action blood and gore—borrowed from the hospital’s library.

But at age nine, I began to nurture my own dreams—I wanted to be a writer. I never wanted to disappoint my father, so I decided I could try to be a writer and a doctor. In high school, I wrote an essay that was published in Seventeen. But I had no natural talent in the sciences. I was saved from flunking my physics class only with the help of a clever lab partner.

My first college class—some kind of chemistry—made it clear that I couldn’t walk both roads. The professor began writing equations on a set of blackboards that were motorized, allowing him to write without a pause. I spent the class trying not to burst into tears.

It would take a decade, post-college, but I established a writing career. My father tried to put on a brave face, and even once asked me to help edit an academic paper about acupuncture. But his secret hope never quite faded. He’d point to doctor-novelists such as Michael Crichton and Ethan Canin. He’d note that, see, some writers managed to go to medical school too.

My father passed away unexpectedly when I was in my thirties. Not long afterward, my last Ziggy potholder went up in flames.

When I was going through his effects, I found the diaries he’d kept since the 1940s. In one passage he wrote that if he didn’t have a family to support, he would have liked to become a minister, a composer or… a writer. I found transcriptions of dialogue, simple interactions at the hospital that he had captured with a canny ear for truth.

Not long after that, I began my next novel—a story exploring two generations of doctors. To help me with the research, a medical school dean embedded me with some third-years. When I reported for duty, I saw he’d even arranged for me to wear an attending physician’s long white coat. I looked down at the name tag.

I had finally become Dr. Lee.

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