Almost every single year of my 23 year-old-life, I've gone "Home: 1" for summer vacations to Islamabad, Pakistan. In my childhood, I would leave "Home: 2" (Udhailiyah, Saudi Arabia) and spend about two months there. As I've gotten older, it's become more like two weeks, and the departing point has been from various places across the globe. This summer has been no different: I was fortunate enough to return back to Pakistan, even for a short while, and see my beautiful country and my family members again.
There are two facts about my Home: 1 that make it particularly unique to me. Firstly, it is in my passport country, and while I have not officially "lived" there (I only count living in a place if I go there for a purpose, such as school, work, etc. and not for vacations or holidays, and for over 5 months at least), it is the only place in the entire world where I have a physical home and memories inside of it from my entire life.
Our house in Islamabad was built when I was around the age of five or six. I still remember my Dad asking me what colour I'd like my bedroom and bathroom to be painted. My answer? Pink, obviously. The pink toilet haunted me everyday of my (slightly) rebellious pre-teen years, when I swore to be a tomboy and loved every colour but pink. Now, as an adult, I love the overwhelming strawberry-milk colour everywhere! But it's quite strange to me that something from my childhood, from when I was just starting school, still affects me in some ways today.
I don't have a permanent address. I do not have markings on the walls of my singular home showing how tall I've become over the years. I don't get to sit on my singular bed in my singular bedroom and remember reading The Berenstain Bears when I was five, and then the Harry Potter series when I was twelve, and then textbooks on Psychology at 23.... That is, I don't have that anywhere except for in my home in Islamabad. But, the thing is, I don't live there. I never did. It is a "summer home", of sorts, but (unfortunately) has never been my real home because I have never "lived" there.
I didn't realize how much that physical home would mean to me, until I started to move around the world, and the concept of home became less of a word to me, and more of a grad school thesis paper lol. When I was growing up, and moving around constantly, it wasn't as if I knew what to expect. I didn't know that years later, I would miss those physical houses and apartments that at some point I called home. I didn't know that those places would be lost forever, never to be the same, and yet those memories made at those places would continue to haunt me forever, simply because the physical places remain untouchable. There's something almost seductive about not being able to have something; I am not able to return to those houses/apartments that I've lived in (and even if I were to, it is not like they would look the same as when we lived there). But yet, that is the exact opposite for my home in Islamabad. Every year, when I go back, it remains the exact same as the year before, with my pink bedroom and bathroom, My Little Pony curtains, stains from old memories, markings on the walls, notebooks filled with drawings and a child's handwriting, photos on the fridge, the same smell of "home" in the furniture, the same yearning to stay yet knowing soon I will leave again...
It is so significant to me, because it is the only place for me like that. Which, as I'm writing this, makes me realize that most people only have one place like that, because they have one home. But what makes it different for me is that I've had so many homes, but yet this is the only one that remains absolutely as is, and is ours. It is the only one I can return to.
It's strange, honestly. It's a weird feeling. It feels like you are watching a movie. You walk into your bedroom, and remember memories from every single year of your life. The good, the bad, and the ugly all there together, staring you in the face. It's almost as if you are looking at your own body, and seeing how it has grown or changed. You see where the scars remain (the memories that stick with you, like that summer when you stayed up all night, every night, MSNing that boy who would soon become a stranger to you, or that summer when your cousin lived with you and you both would stay up talking and laughing the night away, or those summers filled with having secret facetime sessions with the love of your life) and what caused them. It's such a unique feeling that is hard to put into words for me.
I have a secret place in my bedroom, where I hide things every single year. In it, I have plane-letters from my friends from the first time I moved in 2005, I have a leaf from maybe 2000 or 2001 when our house was finished being built, I have daily planners, I have love letters, I have photographs... I have bits of my entire life, shoved into a 3 foot by four foot space, telling the story of my life. Each year, I add to it.
I have memories from literally every room in the house, and often physical things to go with those memories. I can almost see myself walking those hallways, running up the stairs to the roof when it rains or running down to the cool basement when the electricity dies and we're all burning in the heat. I have a collection of some of my favourite books from my lifetime. I have VCR tapes, DVD's, and BlueRays. I have broken jewellery. I have old clothes. I have so many memories there...
When I say that it is strange, or feels weird, I don't mean it in a negative way. It feels strange because it is so foreign to me to have such feelings or experiences, as it is the only home that is so. When I walk those halls, I feel nostalgia, serenity, peace, happiness, pride, and so much more. I see my entire life and feel proud of where I am now. I whisper to younger Ayesha, telling her that everything will be okay, just in case in some parallel world, both of us are there together and she needs to hear that. I wonder if older/future Ayesha does the same for 23 year old Ayesha. And then I think I'm crazy, but so is my life, and I love it :).
Being a TCK is certainly not easy, but having somewhere I can always go to and completely be at home makes it so much easier. I am so grateful for that.