In life, a number of places can be called home. Our first home, where we grew up, our first apartment when we left the nest, the home we built with our loved ones to start a family, the apartment we moved to after a divorce, a retirement home (not really-I don’t think that can ever be home). In my case, there are a number of places that I have called home. My parents’ place in the North of Lebanon, my house in Geneva, my aunt’s house in New Zealand where I stayed and worked after graduating from University and had one of the best years of my life, my home in New York after I divorced where very sad memories were made, or my place in Beirut when I lived there with my ex-husband and two little daughters, also evoking a mix of sad and a sprinkling of happy memories. While my home in Geneva has been my permanent home for several years, nothing beats going back to my parents’ place for a real home feel. Not just because my parents are there, or because of the familiar sounds, scents, views, conversations, jokes. It is because I become a kid when I cross the threshold. Sometimes even when I call them to tell them I am coming from Geneva, I go back to being their underage daughter. “Drive carefully “(I used to be shot at in Beirut and Iraq, I know how to be careful – but they don’t know that), “What should we prepare for dinner when you come?” I always ask for the same thing, but it became a ritual to ask. “Did you remember to bring PJs?” Ha. I am a professional who is strong, confident, and well-travelled, and my mom does not think I can pack jammies. Funny that. My favorite is: “Did you remember to pack everything?” Well, duh. Actually this time I did forget vitamins for my aunt, and a few other things I meant to bring, including their favorite chocolates, but I am never admitting to that, it’ll open the floodgates of reminders for when I have to leave. I swear, I think my Mom will try to pack for me if she learnt that I forgot something.
Entering my parents’ house is like stepping back in time. I am transformed into the lanky mischievous 12-year-old kid with parted teeth, a constant laugh, and a permanent sense of being in trouble – usually well-founded. I don’t think there was ever a day when I didn’t do something wrong. I was the one who jumped from the highest trees, who always had a scrape, break, or some kind of injury at the end of the day. I never remembered to come home before sunset. I got lost while visiting the Jeita Grotto with my parents and ended up with an African family of tourists to be found hours later. I once ran away from home at 16, but that’s material for a separate blog. I set fire to a closet, almost caused my younger sister to drown when I convinced her to jump with me in a well (I jumped in and saved her, which was lucky as this year I could go to China to visit her). I also hit my visiting New Zealander OLDER cousin, twice my height, because he dared point out to me that New Zealand was bigger than Lebanon. He even brought out a MAP to prove it. That was a mistake. I had to teach him a lesson. No country was bigger than Lebanon in my view. I used to take coffee grounds, sugar and matches to make coffee with my friends at age 8 by tying a basket to a rope and dangling it from the balcony to the garden. I also smuggled cigarettes to try these things out. I almost passed out coughing. I went to military training with a militia at age 14 without my parents finding out until a month later(but that’s also material for another blog). hmmm, I was not an easy child, I set standards for my siblings as the oldest child that my parents were never comfortable with. A rebel with a very good cause. I had to have my way. Simple.
Now they seem so happy to see me, which is sort of sweet after all I put them through. When I am here, I am told to take my shoes off to relax, drink lots of herbal tea to keep warm,I am not yet told when to shower, but that might be coming soon. My dad took my order for breakfast right after dinner tonight, his idea of asking me what I wanted was to tell me he will make me omelette pies in the town bakery. “But I don’t eat wheat Dad”. “It’s okay, just eat the egg bit”. I have learnt not to argue. Some people in my life will find that hard to believe, me not arguing when I don’t agree to something, but at my parents’ place, I seem to listen and enjoy them fussing over me. I have to eat two or three helpings of food, which I am trying NOT to do, but my mom takes it personally and considers it a hurtful affront if I don’t binge eat while at her place. I starve myself before and after my trip here to keep fitting into my clothes.
I like the feeling of security that floods my being when I am at my parents’ place. I feel that everything is fine, we can figure anything out. My dad playfully teasing my mom, my brother coming in just for cracking one of his awful jokes, my sister, as usual, never on time for anything, my aunt fretting over me and telling me she lit a candle for me in church-just in case I get sick. Home is all about your people fussing over you and making you their business. That’s what I get when I am here, people who despite all their idiosyncrasies and maddening habits, care about me. It’s that simple. Home is where you are always welcome and where people genuinely care about you. I am grateful to have a permanent place I can always call my home. I hope you have one of your own. It is good for the soul.
Happy New Year to everyone. I hope this coming year will fill your heart with joy, peace, and a sense of contentment. May you get everything you need, and not necessarily everything you want.
Here’s to 2010.