The Crocheted Hat
Ayah Aldeeb (+Video)
In the bleak Jordanian refugee camp, Syrian-born Aya Aldeeb’s sister Rozeen crochets a pink and blue hat. After Rozeen dies, the family moves to Calgary. Can a hat be a spiritual mediator, letting Rozeen know of Ayah’s scholarship and dreams of medical school and how much she is missed?
I am lucky to still have a blue and pink crocheted hat that reminds me of my beautiful and optimistic older sister, Rozeen.
Rozeen loved crocheting dresses for little girls. She was my closest sibling and the best friend I have ever had. She had a liver condition caused by her weak immune system. In Al Qunaitra Syria, where we lived, she was reasonably fine as long as she took her medications.
When the war forced us to leave our home and move to a refugee camp in Jordan, Rozeen’s health started to slowly collapse due to poor conditions and lack of medication. One day at the camp, there was a demonstration about the need for electricity. A demonstration that we didn’t participate in just like in Syria where we didn’t participate in any demonstrations. The police who controlled the camp threw gas bombs at the protesters. That, felt exactly like living in Syria where you hear bombs exploding and they shake your town and you smell the scattered dust. But in this case, it smelled like propane, even from inside the house. Breathing that gas caused inflammation in Rozeen’s lungs. With every breath, she felt pain in her chest, and that made her cry. I watched her suffer for 15 days. She breathed like a bird waiting for food, her mouth half-open for hours and hours trying to get some air. Rozeen was 22 and I was 16.
My family took Rozeen to a camp hospital where a doctor said that her lungs were perfect, she just needed some rest. The next day, we took her to another camp hospital, and she was urgently transferred to the city hospital where she spent the last two days of her life. My father was with her. The rest of us were stuck in the camp because of the rules that were put in after the demonstration.
While she lived in the refugee camp, Rozeen crocheted two different hats for my parents. She taught me the front post and back post double crochet stitches and let me crochet a little part in the blue and pink hat she made for my mother. The other hat was white and light orange, and she made it for my father. After Rozeen died, we were broken and missing one member. This made us agree to come to Canada after the first call that my father received from the immigration organization. My mother gave me her crocheted hat to help me heal from the immense grief of losing Rozeen.
We came to Canada in January 2016 hoping to have a life without bombs and rockets raining above our heads. A life where we could be together and recover from the loss of Rozeen. A life where war does not obstruct my education.
I attended James Fowler High school in Calgary and wished that my sister was around so we could share our high school experiences, such as having new friends from different nationalities and backgrounds. And I wish we could have shared our success stories. In three years, I learned English, earned my high school diploma, and got a scholarship.
Living without my sister is not easy. I often see Rozeen in my dreams. The last time I saw her, she was tenderly playing with my hair just like she did when she was alive. When I look at the crocheted hat and think back to those days of 2015, in Jordan, when my sister was dying, my heart beats in a random and rapid way. I wish that the hat could act as a spiritual mediator and send my sister my news and warm greetings, and then come back with her greetings to me. When I close my eyes, I see her, and when I open my eyes, I miss her.
Ayah Aldeeb is a Syrian refugee who came from Jordan in 2016. Ayah graduated from James Fowler High School last year and earned a scholarship that is worth $5500. She currently studies at Mount Royal University and plans to study medicine after finishing her degree in Science.