To those with dreams to pursue or a loved one to support, to those packing their life in a bag to call a foreign land home, to my friend Hanan who recently moved to the U.S with her husband,
I am writing to you.
Two bags, thats all we checked in when my husband and I decided to move to England in 2014.
Packing for lengthy periods of time can be difficult, it is hard to decide what to take and what to leave behind. I had boxes filled with pictures so dear to my heart, tangible things from my travels, my favourite books, our first movie tickets and my son’s first scan pictures. While all these sentimental belongings were things I wanted to bring with me, I ended up taking none.
Not to mention the clothes, shoes and bags I wanted to pack. Because really, how are you supposed to leave behind your favourite things for such a long period of time? Clothes will go out of fashion, so will shoes, bags and jewellery .. what a waste right?
It was during my last week in Abu Dhabi, I was sitting between a pile of clutter when my father walked in, he stared, put his hands in the pockets of his Kandoora and asked if I was planning to take all this with me.
The sigh I let out at that moment was painful. My sore felt dry, my lungs tight my eyes stung. I don’t know I told him.
“Pack for a week,” he said.
Little did he know, it wasn’t the clothes I was unsure about leaving behind. It was him, my mother, my family, my friends, voices, scents and basically a lifestyle that I was comfortable and happy with.
A few days later, I did as I was told and packed for a week. I left behind 24 years of memories to make new ones. As difficult as it was, I felt liberated. Nothing to hold on too, but a lot to look forward too. I thought of all that was waiting ahead of me as words that will soon fill in the blank pages of a new chapter in my life.
I was homesick for month’s, my heart felt as heavy as the weight I was carrying in my tummy (My son and not a burger). I was longing for everything I left behind. Anything I would have brought with me would not have lessened the pain I felt so often. I missed our family gatherings, rooftop nights with my cousins and cruising around with my friends. Looking back, everything I was yearning for was not something I could have packed in my suitcase anyway.
A little more than a year later, I have pictures of my son filling our apartment, a few more of our recent trips around England and over a dozen books filling our shelves and windowsill.
While I do miss the smell of Arabic coffee in the morning and Dukhoon too, the aroma my morning coffee leaves behind is growing on me. So is the smell of the baked cinnamon apple chips i made this morning.
Home has become a feeling rather than a place to me. A feeling that grows with every memory we are making. It is the feeling I get when my son is seated in his highchair, my husband and I at the dinning table enjoying a meal or deep in conversation. Place me anywhere in this world with my little family, and it becomes home.
Surely, it all depends on the person you are, how long you’ll be away for, what you consider the essentials and what you think is important for you to have. Some their spices, other’s photographs, perhaps their dukhoon or arabic coffee. Whatever it is, know that wherever you are in this world, you will find what will make you feel at home and less homesick. Sooner rather than later, that void in your heart will be filled, it might be a new ritual, a coffee spot, the corner of a library, a friend, a lover, who knows what will come along your way during this journey of yours.
And it might just be that the next time you pack to leave for your next permanent or temporary destination, that lump you felt the first time you left a place you called “home”, you might feel again.
Hanan, I hope it doesn’t take you so long to feel at “home” and once you do, will you write me to tell me all about it?