A few days ago I came across a blog about fountain pens. The article, a great one at that, was written and posted by a pen lover and collector. Being a fan of fountain pens myself I couldn’t help but leave my comment. A few seconds later I got an email from him saying, “You have the fountain pen bug for sure.”
I have the bug. What an original way of putting it. Now I have been accused of not being normal by my friends and colleagues. I have even heard a colleague’s husband ask, “Why can’t you be normal and like gold or diamonds like any other woman?” Maybe there’s something wrong with me. There must be right? Thank God my late husband didn’t see it that way.
Here’s how it all started.
When I was a little girl in elementary school, I used to accompany my late father to downtown Beirut on his business trips. After he’d finished his work, he would either take me to what seemed to me to be the biggest bookstore, Librairie Du Liban, where I used to lose myself among rows and rows of books on shelves. And in the end choose only three because that was what I was allowed to buy each time. Or he would take me to this shop on the corner, that sold the most beautiful Parker pens ever, to buy me cartridges for my pen. I loved to write with fountain pen, even though the ink would stain my fingers. The joy I felt when I filled the pen with ink, the smell of the ink when I wrote… My mom thought I was crazy, maybe I was or still am. Anyway, I remember the glass counter with all those nice pens beautifully arranged in special display cases inside. The silver pen with gold trim in the poster above was my favorite. It was so beautiful that I used to ask my father, “Can you buy it for me when I grow up?” and he would reply, “That will be your graduation gift, and if you make the honor roll I will buy you the complete set; the fountain pen, the roller ball, the ball pen and the mechanical pencil.”
Back home I worked hard to be on the honor roll, making the list every term of every year until my graduation. The day came when I graduated with honors and was valedictorian. But I did not get the promised gift, my dream pen set. Instead I received a Parker pen set from our village bookstore and that’s because long before I graduated from high school the civil war had started in Lebanon. The first place to get destroyed and turned into rubble was downtown Beirut. The streets that were once the business hub had turned into a battlefield for different militias and the shop, the Parker shop in the corner, was no more.
Years passed. The war continued and spread to almost all parts of the country. By the time I graduated from university, I didn’t even have a graduation ceremony due to the dire situation in the city. I collected my Bachelor’s degree and my Education diploma from the registrar’s office on campus.
Life went on and not long after, I got married and moved to Dubai to work and start a new life away from the dangers of war. The first weeks and months were hard. We had left all our friends and family behind and we waited anxiously for their news of safety.
I started teaching in a school. I had Thursdays and Fridays off. Every Thursday I roamed the streets of Dubai. Fahidi street then in the late 1980s was a shoppers’ paradise. I walked along the streets, went into shops, looking for a familiar face, or something that I could relate to, that would remind me of my home, the place where I belonged. Then one Thursday I needed ink for my pen. I walked around as usual but this time I knew what I was looking for. Hidden in a corner off the main street I found this shop, King’s Traders, and on the display window was my dream pen of my childhood years. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Without much ado I rushed home to tell my husband about it. The next day we went back together.
A few weeks later on my birthday my husband surprised me with my dream pens. The pencil was discontinued at the time but Mr. Karani, owner of King’s Traders, had made special arrangements with Parker Pens UK and had it specially manufactured for me, so I received it after exactly ninety days. Then my set was complete thanks to Mr. Karani and Parker Pens and my dearest husband of course, and after more than a decade my dream had come true. The shop itself, King’s Traders, didn’t resemble the shop I used to visit with my father, but none the less it became my corner shop in Dubai and Dubai became a home away from home.