I’ve been wondering lately where “home” exactly is for me. From age one to 10, it was Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (seen in the photo below). That was easy to understand: I knew the routes home from the bus stop and my way around the Rec Center’s swimming pool, jungle gym and library. After age 10, it was Austin, Texas, with a semester jaunt back in Dhahran because I was so incredibly “homesick.”
“Baba, I’m homesick.”
Those three words worked magic on my father who, hearing how I cried each night, decided to bring me and my mother back to a completely new, two bedroom house. The actual house didn’t feel like home, but once again walking the same bus stop route completely was.
But back to Austin, where I spent most of my adolescence (so much so that my father now calls me his “American daughter”) and college life. It took me a while to answer “Austin” when people asked me where “home” was. I still held onto “Saudi Arabia” until at least high school. Slowly, Austin became home especially the weeks I spent buying decorations and cut-out lettering to welcome a beloved mammo (uncle) to Austin for the first time or the countless dholki’s (dancing parties) my family threw for family friends’ daughters who were getting hitched. I remember the first time six-year old Noor first came to the house as a baby (I also decorated the house then too) that morphed into visits where she would run around and around the living room and kitchen or try to climb up the stairs and fall down. But there were also countless fights, people not speaking to each other, arguments, slamming doors or moments spent crying in the car listening to “Mitwa.”
Somewhere along the way, it stopped feeling like home. There really wasn’t much left for me in Austin because friends have moved on and so had the good memories of the house. I felt grateful to move on to California.
Now, home for me means, unofficially, my sister’s house in the Bay. It’s the closest thing because there’s family to visit and everyone still crowds the kitchen to give their two cents on something while the cook (my mother or sister) are trying to manuver their way around kids and adults. But it’s not my home, really. So the confusion continues.
After more than two years away from Austin, I’ll probably be spending the holidays there in December and it feels…confusing, but sad. It’s exciting because it will be nice to see the youngest run around the house where her older sister first learned how to say my name and see my mother cooking a storm in the kitchen, but sad because pretty soon, the house will be sold and out of our lives.
So, I’m still not sure where “home” is exactly.