The adage “familiarity breeds contempt” suggests that the more familiar we become with a person, the more aware we are of their shortcomings. I suppose that same conclusion can be attributed to a group as well, or perhaps even to a country. Our exposure to Morocco over the past 40 years has engendered a lot of familiarity, but arriving in Fes this past Friday evoked a very different set of feelings and emotions, contempt not among them.
Because we resided in Fes for a longer period of time than any other city, resulting in the establishment of more and deeper friendships, we have spent more time here on subsequent visits compared to the other cities where we lived. Knowing how to navigate the geography of the city, where to go for particular needs, how to utilize the transportation system, the location of people to be visited, all contribute to a sense of security and contentment, even a deep-seated feeling of satisfaction.
The past two or three years during our trips to Fes, I have taken a couple of hours in the first day or two to just meander around the city, acquiring anew a sense of the environment, reacquainting and reorienting myself to that which was an important part of our past. Likely, such a need is a part of my overdeveloped tendency toward nostalgia, and the fact I grew up in a family that always attributed a lot of importance to memories. We often spent a lot of time after meals sitting around the table and recalling events, people, and experiences that seemed to gain additional importance as a result of remembering. When my siblings and I get together each year for an annual reunion, we, other family members, and gathered friends, intentionally engage in that exercise.
My trek this past weekend carried me to former neighborhoods and past residences that provided in my mind’s eye my children playing with friends. I talked with Hassan, who is still the owner/operator of the small neighborhood grocery that provided a destination for me at least once, and more often, multiple times each day for the two years we lived there. It’s been almost twenty-five years since we left, but he still seemed happy to see me and we swapped family news about children, health and general welfare.
I passed the French school Leanna and Jamey attended and mentally expressed a feeling of gratitude they had that opportunity, their academic success after returning to the states indicating they suffered no serious setbacks as a result of their transition to education in another language. Afterwards, I came to The American Language Center where Denise and I struggled to attain the ability to communicate in Arabic (or at least I did) and remembered how much more than language resulted from our time there. Our teachers became friends as well as instructors, and even now we carve out time to spend with them and their families. Indeed, we have lunch scheduled today with one of them.
I returned to the hotel where first we stayed in 1993. We have been active customers there most every year since then. Being greeted each year is like a homecoming, and the resulting welcome from the staff massages our egos, where like the Cheers theme articulated all those years, “everyone knows your name.” Familiarity here signifies acceptance.
Maybe that is why we keep coming back each year. It could be a sign of our insecurity that we question our motives and that we need a rationale to justify this self-indulgence. In the meantime, I am going to continue to try to enjoy the atmosphere, maintain the friendships, partake of the hospitality, and whenever possible try to return in partial measure at least that which we have received. Our objective will be that those familiar with us harbor feelings other than contempt when we are remembered.