Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on Home

Like most neighborhoods these days my neighborhood is in a state of flux. Foreclosures pepper the neighborhood like pockmarks. It's strange to walk by a house its lawn once littered with hula hoops and bicycles, now vacant- coated in newspapers baking under the summer sun. My neighborhood like many others- a slowly transforming ghost town between the interlude of abandonment and new buyers scooping up the desperate deals banks are now willing to make.

I've written before of my acute homesickness for Pakistan, a place I've never lived in but whose DNA courses through me thousands of miles away. Salwar kamiz line my guest closet. I speak the language. My manuscripts evoke its dusty streets and groves of kinu. And yet the last time I visited, I was nine. It's strange, this longing for a place I've never lived in, called a bedroom my own, or used as a return address on an envelope. And yet, when I think of Pakistan, I think of home. My grandfather's home where I know I could sit at the doorstep and be recognized by passerbys because I have my mother's eyes, my father's stance. Where they might smile and greet me instead of the blank stares I am accustomed to by neighbors I have lived alongside for nearly eight years; learned indifference. Where home is not a thing you buy and sell to find stainless steel appliances and bigger better cabinets but the land my great-great-grandfather saved to purchase, which my great-grandfather tilled- which my grandfather expanded upon- which enabled my father to pursue an education in a career that led him to the United States changing the trajectory of all future generations, providing me with a life I could never have known otherwise. Every immigrant takes a leap of faith and incredible bravery to leave all they know behind and create a life from something wholly unfamiliar and new. I know this is not unique to those who transfer countries as my friends who have left the American cities of their childhood can attest to, the small towns where generations of family still live, have lived, for as long as anyone can remember, trading gossip over front-stoop rocking chairs, and where they can still return today, familiar faces in the eyes of those they pass by on the street. Loss and gain, hand in hand.

As I watch television shows predicated on the wonder of American mobility, the ability to house flip-hop-abandon-escape I see the freedom gained in being rootless. And yet with everything we gain, there is something we lose. As I look out my window and see the ever-changing landscape, the increasing anonymity and emotional distance from our neighbors despite homes stuck closer together than ever before, I wonder what its like to live in a place where home is not just your marble fireplace and tiled bathroom, but instead extends far beyond the walls of your home, where it encompasses not just where you live but who you are. I could just be dreaming, perhaps places like this simply don't exist anymore, anywhere, perhaps these are just imaginings more closely aligned to mythology and fairy tales than reality, and perhaps we are all better off in this transient new world- but still, today as I paused to glance at an empty home once inhabited by hope and love- its neglect now clear by the weeds growing through the cracks in the driveway- I just wonder what home once was- and what that must have been like.

20 comments:

Julia Munroe Martin said...

This is a great post and an interesting question... I just did a guest blog about my grandmother's house and how I always thought of it as a sense of home -- and wished all my life I could have it! I'd love for you to read it and tell me what you think, it's at:
http://milliverstravels.com/2011/07/summer-vacations-at-my-grandmas-house-poland-ohio/
I also wonder what home once was--and what that must have been like. Great post!

Leigh Ann Ahmad said...

Great post! I live so far from friends and family (my husband's job brought us to the Twin Cities)and I often compare my life to that of other family members. They always had family next door whereas I struggle so hard to make friends with my neighbors.

Aisha said...

Thanks Julia- how funny you wrot ea post on a similar topic- great minds think alike ;) I've bookmarked your post and will read it tonight! Thanks for linking to it!

Leigh Ann, its a constant struggle- the isolated feeling- when you were not there, near family, did you feel like it was more "home" even with neighbors etc?

Tahasmum said...

Hello.. an ex-lurker here :-).
My husband and I were just talking about this yesterday- this feeling of isolation, of not feeling you or anyone "belongs", and it's even moreso with apartment dwellers like us :-S.

Being an Egyptian, brought up in Libya, neighbors and family were a great part of my life- in Libya, our neighbors of 20 years were practically family; it wasn't just about saying hello or socializing, it was more like staying overnight with me in hospital when my mother couldn't, taking care of our apartment when we left to Egypt on vacation, opening their houses in nearby cities for my brother to stay when he traveled, sharing dinners and recipes... I could go on forever! And in Egypt, of course, home was family... and neighbors too!

This may seem long for a "first time commenter", but after living here (in the US) for over 3 years, I am missing the connections we had back home badly, and this post makes me long for them even more.

I love how you write, and have been reading for a while, and insha Allah, I'll be commenting too :-).

C said...

For me home is Delhi, where I was born, grew up, where all my friends and family are. Heard this song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIYebqbF1fo its about afghanstan but when I hear it, i think of Delhi.

kmina said...

For me, home is where my husband and son are. I changed homes and cities and countries too much to have one take front place. I love where we live now, but I don't see us retiring here, unless we have reasons to - if my child/ren settle here, we will be nearby, to help and be together. I want to give them what I don't have now.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand to want to be in a place where our ancestors are from. You can feel it's roots pulling on you even if it's a place you have never been to. I desperately want to visit where my ancestors came from; Europe, specifically Ireland, Poland, and Germany. My husband's family is from Iceland. He mother moved here in her 40s and I can tell she will never feel "at home" here.

Erin

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog when I was searching the addiction to diet coke and the side-effects of it. Ever since then, I love your blog. I myself am also a Pakistan American. I love reading your entries because at some level I can relate to them.

aka the Mom said...

I understand so completely the homesickness and longing for a place you've never called home. For me it is Rome. I've never even been there, but I'm a Catholic and the cathedrals, bells and history just call to me across the earth and beckon me home. I would give anything to live there in the shadow of St Peter's.

Maybe someday....

Aisha said...

Tahasmum,aw thanks so much for delurking and your kind words about my writing and also your insight onto this universal topic of longing for "home" beyond the four walls of one's house- sounds like you had a special relationship with your neighbors I can only imagine how much you must miss that- it makes me remember my childhood and the street I grew up on- I'd watch my neighbor's cats and feed them when they were away, they worried about us, brought by food if someone was sick [and vice versa] it was a nice feeling- and I miss that. Your description reminded me of that. I hope you find what you left behind again someday. I believe such communities still exist, even in bigger cities [my childhood was in Miami] its just a matter of figuring it out. [I hope].

Aisha said...

C, how far away are you now from Delhi? Perhaps it would be nice now to go back to have the support network you have there?

Kmina, you are right- home is where my son and husband are- for sure- I also want a sense of community- and that is lackcing where I live both in my community of faith as well as the community of those I live with as neighbors.

Aisha said...

Erin what a beautifully diverse heritage you have! Do you have plans to go back and visit? It would definitely be worth it.

Anon, you are so sweet to stop by and leave such a kind comment! I'm glad you can relate to what I write- it is the very reason I do so. Thanks for reading!

aka Mom, welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment and letting me know that you can relate- I hope you do get to fulfill your dream- at least to visit it for an extended period of time!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... good question.
I left Pakistan almost 10 years ago... I grew up there so naturally it is very much a part of my identity, as well as my psyche.
All I can say is that immigration comes at the cost of sense of belonging...
Cheers,
A.

Anonymous said...

One of your posts that just...is - for lack of a better word. Can totally relate to that sense of longing for "home." For me, growing up in two countries, cultures, it always felt as if I was caught b/w the two - neither here, neither there....

Ash

md said...

i just moved to india, and am forever missing 'home' -hong kong, my family, the apt i spent my childhood in, my friends, colleagues, mosque, fav bookstore and so on..

from my few months adjusting to life in this new city, i feel that the sense of belonging, of home, comes from familiarity, shared history, shared experiences, shared norms. i tell myself that in some years, perhaps i will find the same here, inshallah!

unlike you aisha, i never longed for india while living in hk. and now that i'm here, i feel little sense of belonging! but this merits a post of its own i believe.. :P

katery said...

the whole situation is very sad, i wish we lived in a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone, but i am not sure if the exist anymore...

raisingbrainchild said...

This is a very interesting sentiment. For me, home is the small, farming community where I grew up. At that time, the same farm families had lived there for generations. Everyone knew everyone, and with that came good and bad, but I never, ever had to search for a sense of belonging. I just did. I don't know that that place is the same anymore. Certainly, it isn't for me - at least not in that way. Most of the older generations who are still living are there, but most of my generation has left and started life somewhere else. I do not have that same sense of belonging when I return. The world has changed me too much, I suppose, for me to ever fit there again.

Anonymous said...

Are you still doing book and movie reviews?

Rasha

Aisha said...

Md- that's fascinating- I hope you find the same too insh'Allah but its interesting that you never felt that connection before moving there- I honestly know that were I to move to Pakistan now, as the person I am, the adjustment would be difficult and I doubt it would feel much like home- but one wonders. I hope you find a connection to India soon!

Kate, I bet they do- but then again the cost of them is to give up other things- its hard to know which way to go.

Raising, how fascinating! That is the truth- a lot of those older smaller towns are vanishing with the younger people leaving in pursuit of more- and while this is good- its also sad- seems like you can definitely relate to this post!

Rasha- I do book reviews on this site once I've read enough. . . and both sites are still up- just not on my side bar- did you check them out? I didn't get a whole lot of traffic so I stopped updating them regularly- but I've been asked a few times- maybe I should reupp the movie/book reviews. . .

Fruitful Fusion said...

Aisha, I LOVE this post! I've been away, so I've only just read it. Not only can I relate to so much of it, there are parts I can't completely relate to but can understand and I really like the way you've written this. I'm pretty much a nomad so I think about these things often. Now, I'm thinking about it more! :)

Post a Comment

I love to hear from you!