The inertia of home always surprises me. Even after five months in Jordan. Or after five years in Chicago. After so much time away, you start to think that maybe your home is not just the place you grew up, but rather everywhere you have been, anywhere you have made a space for yourself to be and become.
But really, there is no place like home. Home.
Since I left home, the only constant in my life has been change. New friends, new perspectives, new sensibilities, a new language, and even new countries. But it doesn’t matter how much of the world I see, or how cultured I sometimes think myself to have become. Home draws me into its familiar rhythm. When I visit my family, it takes almost no effort to remember where I come from.
I am still that girl from southeast Michigan, embedded in a net of family and extended relations and loved ones that delight in simply passing the time together. I am still the Lebanese-American daughter of a father from Dearborn and a mother from Caracas.
I am still the student of my high school teachers; the neighbor of the family that lived next to us throughout my childhood; the niece of more aunts and uncles than I can keep track of; the teammate from a handful of volleyball, debate, and tennis teams; the kid who still dreams of big cities and maybe writing a novel one day.
I will walk into my room, and even though my sister inhabits it these days, I will still find my collection of books overflowing across two bookshelves; titles stacked vertically and horizontally, critical theory books intermingling with novels.
I will still remember how to drive and navigate the sprawl of metro-Detroit even when the streets are wintry slick, even after I have spent months solely taking buses and trains and taxis.
I will still joke with my brother and sister as if we have spent the last six years under the same roof, rather than scattered across different states. We will still double over in laughter together, occasionally annoy each other, but ultimately delight in each other’s company.
I will still wander into the Plymouth Coffee Bean and the Northville Barnes and Noble whenever I need a quiet moment to read, write, and reflect.
Though I fall into the routines of home, I am still my changed self, the collection of all my experiences since I have left.
Little things: I can speak Arabic at home now, whereas in the past I stuck to English with my step-mother and theatrical gestures with my step-grandmother. And I now have a few friends to visit in Ann Arbor that I met in Chicago, while in college. Oh, and although I do love that Barnes and Noble that I basically grew up in, my book-purchasing loyalty and book-lover’s heart now belongs to independently-run Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor.
Big things: I cannot help but see my home-world through slightly different lenses, now that my eyes have been sharpened with the contrast of the bigger-world that’s out there.
And I would be naïve to think that home didn’t change while I was away, either.
My childhood neighbor now has a beautiful, big-eyed baby boy. My teachers are teaching new subjects and even exploring their professional interests outside of the classroom. My littlest cousins are now adolescents on student councils and basketball teams. A lot of my friends from middle and high school are pursuing careers we didn’t even know about before parting ways for college. My siblings are forging their own paths in life and I love hearing their stories even more, now that we are all adults. I find myself seeking out the stories of my parents, too, these days. I collect their memories and wisdom like pearls, to keep them safe and admire them in the future.
Even the social and political conditions have changed. So much so, that I actually participated in my first protests in Michigan. I stood with my siblings in Ann Arbor for the Women’s March, and with my father at DTW airport in opposition of the ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. It was amazing to see that thousands of people showed up, from families with children to elderly activists, to peacefully and publicly voice their opposition.
Going home for a short period of time after months abroad can be difficult for some, refreshing for others. For me it was a bit of both.
I went home for just enough time to fall into old rhythms. Just enough time to notice the changes in a place that is so familiar to me. Just enough time to share quality moments with my family, and now miss them terribly upon my return to Jordan.
This coming and going feels sudden and somewhat bittersweet. But I remember where I came from, and I remember that I am living the dreams of a girl who wanted to see the world from beyond her overflowing bookshelf in southeast Michigan.
So here I am, back at Charles De Gaulle Airport after thirteen days, this time on a layover en route to Queen Alia International Airport.
And there is still so much world to see.
[Originally published on Andrea in Amman blog, February 2017]