My summer in America has begun, and as I mulled words and tried out sentences while writing this post, it became clear to me that every pleasure I have enjoyed since I landed a little more than two weeks ago, from taking a walk in the soft morning sunshine, to the quiet comfort of my parents’ house, is dotted with the odd pebble of something that feels very much like regret. Regret for what I have been missing, regret for what I will leave behind.
I often think with wonder about the roads life makes us travel. Is there a map out there somewhere? Who could have told me I would one day live and raise my family half a world away from home in Pakistan? I would not have believed it had I been told, and sometimes when I walk the narrow, dusty walkways of an ancient market in Lahore, I marvel at my being there at all, like a character in a fantastic story of genies and magic lamps.
It’s been an adventure that has enriched my life, to be sure, and while I admit that many times I feel out of place, and I cast my eyes with longing to my other life in the United States, that isn’t the fault of the place, for it is I who belong somewhere else.
Being in America again after an absence of three years, I look at everything with fresh eyes, and I’m savoring every sight: the color green, the pink geraniums by the entrance in the supermarket, the excited shrieks of my daughter on her first trip to the dollar store, the slow, patient walk of my neighbor and her two elderly dogs, the flags waving in the breeze, the smell of apple cake freshly baked, and the familiar, well-remembered faces of people who have known me since I was fifteen.
I get a soft, gentle feeling of contentment from being at home again, like the comforting, soothing touch of worn-out jeans and fuzzy slippers. It’s the feeling that everything is right with the world, and with my place in it. My mother is busy cooking, my daughter is happy and healthy, and my baby son is learning to walk. There are no alarming news, no power cuts, no scorching heat, no mess, no loss, no feeling of displacement.
I am lulled by the familiar scenes, and the tender embrace of my loved ones feels like a renewal. The days will pass quickly, I know, and the time to leave will arrive before I’m aware, but I will take with me a wonderful sense of belonging and a precious, newly-formed bond between my parents and my children. Life is good.