“Please Do Not Touch”

“Thank you.”

These signs could be found all over our hotel rooms, in between moves, when my sister and I were playing a very creative (not to mention expansive) game of barbies. Yes, barbies. In a hotel room. But let me start from the beginning to explain this somewhat odd behavior.

These photos are unfortunately not the actual hotel photos, but they are the contemporary and creative work of my brother, Rawi Fayad. Expect more barbie posts simply to showcase his talent.

My sister and I are 2.5 years apart and we loved barbies. Obviously, as we grew older we played with them less and less, but they were still a measure of childhood comfort when we found ourselves in a new and foreign place. A lot of the moves we did usually required shipping our household items by boat, which meant that we would arrive in the new country before all of our things. This in turn meant that we would be staying in a hotel for a couple of weeks at least or a couple of months at most. We would be in a totally foreign country, starting in a new school, without even the comfort and familiarity of home. So our wonderful parents always tried to ease this difficulty by allowing us to select certain items to send by express freight (along with clothes and other necessary items) so that they would arrive earlier, while we were still at the hotel. The barbies were always part of that express shipment.

As we got older, the barbies became less of a game for us, but more of a symbol of comfort, of home, of having each other as friends during these tough times. We didn’t play with them as much anymore, and yet we still created an extensive and elaborate domain for them in our hotel room. Every available space was used to create bedrooms, living rooms, pool areas…We used hand towels, vases, flowers – everything that could be used to create their spaces was used. Hence the signs. We knew that housekeeping would clean everything up if we didn’t explicitly ask them not to. So we politely asked them not to. Poor housekeeping – we must have made things so complicated for them, even though we truly didn’t realize it at that time. They kindly left our crazy creations where they were, and we appreciated that so much more than words can say.

Yes, our barbies are in varying catastrophic states. They have had limbs broken, heads popping off, they’ve been held together by tape, had their hair cut (this was never a successful endeavor), travelled the world, and made two little girls very happy, time and time again.

The time spent in hotels was often trying because it was either upon arriving somewhere unknown or when leaving a place that was home. Memories stick from certain hotels, and for some reason I have a lot from the hotel we stayed in when we first moved to the Philippines. Those barbie memories are from there, but there are other things that immediately trigger thoughts of that hotel. When we stayed there, the movie of the month on HBO was Maverick with Mel Gibson, which meant they played the movie several times a day. I’ve always loved that movie, and since then, whenever I see it I have a clear picture in my mind of the hotel room. The same goes for The Fugees’ song ‘Killing Me Softly’ – it must have come out around that time so MTV played it over and over… It’s amazing the little things that trigger memories. And it’s astounding how much the little things matter – having something constant on TV was soothing in a way; at least we knew what to expect when everything around us was a whirlwind. And having our barbies with us was a source of comfort in the upheaval.

We had to make the hotel our temporary home and the barbies helped do that, as odd and childish as that may sound. It helped to have those few familiar items around us and to play with them as if we were home. They entertained us, but most importantly, they comforted us.

So, please, do not touch. Thank you.

Despite the obvious wear and tear (and lack of hairdresser appointments), these barbies were loved very, very much. The proof: we still have them.