My friend Marty had a birthday the other day. I haven’t lived close to Marty in years, but just the fact that she had this birthday brought back beloved memories of this friend, and of the many times spent together, often on her balcony. So I remembered this piece that I wrote when I first began blogging, and I thought it fitting that I should repost it, and remember – because there is strength in remembering.*
The picture could be anywhere. It shows a balcony railing, two roses in a slender vase on top of a table, and a votive candle. Sunlight shines through dusty flame trees. The caption underneath it reads: “Breakfast on the balcony — my favorite place on a summer morning while it’s still cool!”
One simple picture brought on many memories from around the globe.
It was my friend Marty who posted the picture on her Facebook account. Marty lives in Maadi, an area about 20 minutes from the center of Cairo in Egypt. An international school is the hub of much of expatriate life in Maadi. While the school is called Cairo American College, it boasts a student body from all over the world. Maadi itself is an area heavily populated with expatriates raising global nomads from Holland, Germany, France, Lebanon and too many other countries to name. Along with Cairo American College there is a British school, a French school, and a smaller international school.
Green space is a luxury in the city of Cairo, and Maadi has much of it. By western city standards it’s still sparse, but for those who live in Cairo it feels like Kensington Park. We once heard someone describe the grounds at CAC as “almost like Wimbledon!” I remember laughing with my sister-in-law wondering if he had been to Wimbledon recently or perhaps was making the comparison based on 10 years living in Tahrir Square.
Maadi has been an extraordinary place for many people. While it is criticized for being “15 minutes from Egypt” and there is no doubt the area enjoys many luxuries that the rest of Cairo lacks, many have experienced life-changing events surrounded by an international community located a metro ride from downtown Cairo. As you walk around Maadi it is almost impossible not to run into someone that you know, whether you walk to Road 9, a major shopping area or head toward Gomaa Digla Supermarket to pick up groceries. The area is rich in friendship and community.
Whether you’re there for one year or twenty, both Maadi and Egypt are unforgettable and you are destined to return.
If the community in Maadi is unique, Marty’s balcony is extraordinary. It has been a place of peace and blessing and seeing the picture evoked those memories in many people.
One person attested to the talk and tears that the balcony had held; another mentioned the many memories; another remembered “lots of coffees and tears and good conversations and prayers.”
I remembered being saved from many a melt-down through the peace and comfort of the balcony along with the laughter and strength of Marty’s presence.
A lot of people have balconies in Cairo. It’s on the ‘must have’ list when looking for rental properties, but this one has served an uncommon purpose through the years. Marty brings people not only to her balcony for tea or coffee, laughter or tears, but also to her heart. She is exceptionally gifted at listening and being fully present. Marty knows that life is messy at best, downright impossible and intolerable at worst, but continues to live with purpose and a remarkable sense of humor.
It’s these friendships that give us time and love, and guide us into truth that are uniquely precious. And that is what Marty does on her balcony.
As I wish Marty a happy birthday, I am acutely aware that Cambridge is over five thousand miles too far away. My response? I went immediately online and priced tickets to Cairo to make the balcony and Marty a little closer.
Happy Birthday Marty! Thank you for your heart and your balcony.