“WHEN I WAS YOUNG I HAD MY VERY OWN LEEFEH”

Lebanon Traveler - - GOING TO THE SOURCE -

Jour­nal­ist and direc­tor of Agenda Cul­turel, shares his child­hood mem­o­ries of leefeh The leefeh is a mag­nif­i­cent plant. An­nu­ally, it grows one, even two floors high to spread it­self over the rooftop. The leefeh is chil­dren’s de­light and hap­pi­ness. Imag­ine my joy when plant­ing a seed in March, only to play with its big leaves on the ter­race by Septem­ber. The leefeh is a gift from na­ture, cov­er­ing any cracked or badly painted walls as it snakes over them. To my child’s eyes it climbs at the speed of the toy rac­ing car that Santa Clause of­fered me that win­ter.

Emile Nasr

The leefeh doesn’t need wa­ter to grow beau­ti­fully. It only needs good soil; it re­fuses to grow in a pot. The sun and the sea are its al­lies. Plant it in Beit Meri and it will refuse to grow. Any child can of­fer th­ese sim­ple con­di­tions and grow their leefeh. Noth­ing com­pares to the child­hood hap­pi­ness of count­ing the yel­lowed leaves to tell my mother that my leefeh had kept its prom­ise.

One sum­mer, an un­cle of mine rec­om­mended that I hack my leefeh at its base to in­sert a clove of gar­lic. That sum­mer, my leefeh grew won­der­fully and all of my neigh­bors ad­mired it. I was so proud of my un­cle but most im­por­tantly of my leefeh. To see it blos­som so rapidly, whilst chil­dren take years to grow, the leefeh cre­ates a sort of com­plic­ity with a child that no other plant can pro­vide. But the leefeh is not a kid’s plant alone; par­ents also love it. To get a glimpse of the in­ter­est that grownups have to­wards the leefeh, you should have seen my mother tak­ing her morn­ing cof­fee with the neigh­bors un­der my leefeh’s leaves. Its death en­tails the painful task of rip­ping the leefeh that clings onto ev­ery facet of the wall.

I don’t share the artist’s point of view of turn­ing the leefeh into a lamp­shade de­spite how pleas­ant it might be, for the sim­ple rea­son that it is not the leefeh’s proper func­tion. Let it be known once and for all that the leefeh is chil­dren’s sum­mer joy and the only way to stay clean through­out the year.

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