Very few get the way I grew up. Do you have any idea how few people understand the reality of my childhood. The way the compound snack-bar smelled. The skin rash you got from the pool sometimes. Being evacuated out of country during the first Gulf War. Camping in the desert and finally hiking that crater everyone always talked about. The way the dirt kicked up on the softball fields during field day. Bowling after school, or playing pool in the rec-center as you swatted at flies. The House of Donuts van parked by the theater on the weekend. Pancakes from the dining hall, or buying spring-rolls from one of the enterprising ladies on a folding-table in front of the rec center. Wild cats roaming everywhere. The taste of fresh Tameez and honey. Eating a shawarma with extra mayo as you walk back to your car from the souq. The smell of incense emanating from the souq stalls as prayer call begins and shops start to close. Being excited to eat at Wendy’s on your next trip to Jeddah. On the road to Jeddah, seeing thousands walk the road east toward Mecca wearing the white sheets of Hajj. Camping by, and snorkeling in, the Red Sea. Snake Road. See! Maybe less than a few thousand people on the planet have any idea what I am talking about. And most of those people experienced it as adults. People with my shared childhood though? There are probably less than 500? 600? I don’t even know. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? And trying to explain it to my kids? I have no idea where to start.
–Rich Cohen, Lake Effect