Noura is the sweetest, funniest and warmest child I have ever met in my life. Noura is this tiny little person with big, bright eyes and silky black hair who brightens my every single minute with her soft nature. Her curious innocence touched my heart in places I never knew existed. I cannot look back at any memory of Noura without a smile on my face. She has been my first and last thought every day for the past four years.
I remember the trip to the hospital. It was, October 12th 2012 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we were going against the traffic at peak hour. We didn’t know the gender yet, but we were guessing in the car. Before Noura, I always thought baby boys were more charming than baby girls. Though for some reason that day, I really wanted it to be a girl, maybe because my uncle and my aunt really wanted a baby girl.
I had never felt unconditional love before, at least that’s what I hope it is, because I don’t have any other words to describe this feeling that captured my heart the first time I saw her little face.
Anyone who has seen a newborn will know that it’s far from smooth and soft. They are wrinkly and slimy for the first few days before they have their first real bath. They are so delicate that you are afraid to rub them or move them too much. Noura still had greasy, stinky, dried up substances from the womb in the folds of her neck after a month.
However, Noura was no different than any other baby on their very first day in the real world. She was a scarily small little thing. Unusually white, wrapped in a white hospital blanket. I almost had a panic attack when I got to hold her the first time. Now, I come from a big extended family that is constantly extending and I have held babies countless times before, but this child felt so delicate and fragile. Her weight was lost in the ridiculously soft blanket. She was tinier than my forearm as she nestled close to my heart, trying to hold on to my thumb when I touched her. Her skin was powder soft. It was a two-minute meeting that is forever etched in my mind. I fell in love with this tiny little being who began to teach me to love and hold on from an entirely different perspective.
I never knew the calm and comfort of watching someone else sleep. The need to hold her close to my heart, as she slept so she would know I had her and I would do anything to protect her.
Noura was a typical baby. She would sleep through the day and wake up in the middle of the night, demanding attention. She would survive on milk and wear her emotions on her face. Nothing set her apart from any other babies out there, but an unrealistic attachment to each other. She was just so innocent and real.
Noura grew up like all of us, amidst toys, voices and faces she learnt to identify. During her mumbling years, she was introduced to television as an attempt to distract her from her always-moving-and-touching-things phase. Toopy and Binoo became her all time favorite, filling her with awe and happiness. She watched Toopy be silly and funny while teaching her the invaluable lesson of friendship. Toopy, however, wasn’t so much funny or goofy to the three adults in the house. To us, Toopy was an annoying, fat rat, who always wore the same red and yellow stripped shirt, could fly, do magic tricks, sing underwater and had a cat as a pet/best-friend. After watching Toopy’s ridiculous monologues for hours every day, tolerating his raspy high-pitched voice was a challenge. But, to Noura, Toopy was happiness, and their Rock-a-bye-bear became her lullaby. It was our song, me and her, the song that we would sing to each other while holding hands in bed every night.
At two years old, the birth of her baby brother graduated her from the crib to my bed. My day would start with my face squished between her two tiny little hands, eyes staring into mine, with her hair all over my face, urging me to wake up. Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops were Noura’s favorite cereals. She would sit in her pink booster chair and fish out the rainbow fruit loops from her bowl. Unlike me, Noura loves milk and didn’t stop her formula until she was three and half. After washing off her milk mustache and eating all my buttered toast, while sneaking sips of my coffee by distracting me, she would run to the family room to get her pink stool, positioning it right in front of the cutlery drawer. Noura loved putting away the spoons, forks and knives from the dishwasher. She would pick and choose the shiniest and set it apart on the counter, to later play with them at her miniature kitchen set. After a few warnings she would agree, unhappily, to put them back in the drawer. She would then help pick up her loitering toys from the family room floor and then insist on holding the vacuum that is way too heavy for her. On laundry days, Noura would voluntarily help put away the clothes. Her clothes folding skills amazed and amused me. She would ambitiously start with the sheets but then finally settle for her tiny underwear, out of frustration.
Growing up, Noura was the gentlest and calmest kid I have ever seen. She was the emotional baby, who would cry her heart out because I had to go to work. Most days I had to sneak by while her mom or dad distracted her. Noura loves with all her heart and enjoys being loved back. She was happy just sitting on my lap watching Frozen while singing Let it go over and over again. She was never a trouble maker. Her favorite stuffed animal was Olaf and ‘Noura’. Olaf talked and sang. Her face would light up when Olaf would say:
“Oh, I don’t know why, but I always like the idea of summer and the sun. It’s always hot... Sometimes, I like to close my eyes and imagine what it would be like when summer does come.”
She would burst into giggles when the song In Summer followed.
On a Costco trip one day, Noura refused to give up a stuffed talking tiger because it said her name. It actually said ‘Roar!’ but Noura was convinced it said ‘Noura!’ instead, so her parents decided to let her keep it because it had a soother just like Noura. Noura never went anywhere without her soother. She had her “kiki” when we visited her crib at the hospital and became dependent on the orange rubber. She would refuse any other ones but her ugly orange rubber hospital soother, giving her parents a hard time to replace it when she loses it. Her dad bought her pretty, girly ones that were never used more than once, as she would spit them out. After a year of juggling the hospital soother, we finally found a store selling them and bought her a bunch in prettier colours after, biting the tip off her orange one. The purple one was her new favourite, because, purple was her favourite colour.
On one of her trips outside Canada, her parents returned home slightly annoyed that she refused every other shoe in the store for a pair of bulky, hideous Mickey Mouse shoes. And so began the years of Noura’s choice-making phase. Amongst the things that have faded away with time, her Elsa nightie remains the freshest in my memory. In her Frozen-crazed period, her dad got her an Elsa nightgown from Mauritius. She loved it the minute she saw it. She slept in it that very same night and refused to take it off. She would shower and put it back on. Her mom would have to sweet-talk Noura into letting her wash it. She would refuse to wear proper clothes to daycare and nothing would convince her.
During her earlier years, I was ‘Yushua’ like all the other ‘r’s in her words she turned to ‘u’. Everyday as the moment she would step in the house, she would yell “Yushua” at the top of her lungs and wouldn’t stop until I responded. I was her safety net when she would make her parents upset. She would run to me when her parents refused to give her chocolates or popsicles at night. She would sometimes slip away quietly into my room and lie with me on the hardwood floor as I wrote and she drew. The countless drawings, I stacked safely away in my treasure box. For a brief minute, it was our world, just me and her. She always told me I was her best friend; I don’t know how true this is, but I know for sure that she was my BEST FRIEND.
They say a best friend is a confidant and someone who will always have your back no matter what. Noura was that person to me, the dearest and warmest person that healed my pain and listened to my muffled cries while holding my hands and crying with me, when my best friend died at the age of 23 last November.
Noura and I have always been close, and it broke my heart when I moved out on my own. I tried being in her life as much as possible. I imagined her being at my wedding one day, my graduation, and all the important moments of my life, because I know I want her to share these moments with me. I wish I am still in her life twenty years from now, sharing her happy moments. But distance crept in, and while I still wake up and go to bed with her on my mind, I know she won’t remember our special bond five years from now. It is no longer possible for me to walk into her house and sleep with her like we used to.
I walk down the street with a heavy heart, because I know it would only take a few more steps to see her, but a lot of things have changed. As suddenly as I disappeared from her life, I can’t re-appear. She is only a kid, and her confusion should only extend to which cupcake has the most icing. It is not fair to anyone, the way life decided to turn. We went separate ways and I’m not proud of it, but there is not much I’m willing to do about it.
Noura will always be the most special part of my life. I will always remember her as the sneaky little girl who would sit on the counter near the icing machine as her mom baked cupcakes or the one who would drink all your coffee/tea when you are not watching.
She is a ray of sunshine in all the lives she has touched, and taught the happiness of the little things.
Yushra Khodabocus is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. She is originally from the tropical island of Mauritius, where her love of words was inspired by the various languages she grew up speaking. She is passionate about writing and reading and strongly believes in the right to speak and be heard.