I envy the people who can close their eyes and picture home. Of a place they can go back to and feel like they belong, even if for a little while. Don’t get me wrong, my problem isn’t that I’m unhappy where I am; my problem is that I’ve been happy in many different places. It’s a good kind of problem to have.
I was born into a home that was bursting at the seams with noise: laughter and over-lapping, nonsensical conversations. We lived in a sort-of joint family setup with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins – living in a fluid state between two floors in the same apartment block. I’m still not sure who lived in which house. Some nights I slept in my room, some mornings I woke up wedged in between my grandparents and most days my parents had to pry me away from my cousins to go to bed anywhere – as long as it was apart – just to put an end to the incessant giggling.
After we fled Kuwait during the gulf war, I never saw the inside of that house again; my happiest place in the world.
I read somewhere that you see your grandparents’ home in your dreams because it’s the place where you got away with mischief, where love was abundant and judgement lenient. I entered my grandmother’s house in India as a refugee and even today, in my most stressful times, I dream of being in her home. It was a large modern house for a small old-fashioned lady. We jumped from the terrace to parapet to veranda. We played and prayed. We climbed trees and claimed deserted cocoons. We ate, ate and ate.
When the war ended, we returned home. Now my grandmother’s home keeps someone else safe. Strangers live there and love there.
I spent the next few years being the most confident version of myself there ever was. I was back home in Kuwait, my home turf, my Queendom. If school was where I held court, home was my royal chambers. Teenage invincibility and high-school popularity made our tiny, loved-up 2-bedroom apartment my new happiest place on earth.
There were 2 cities in India where I spent most of my time after I completed school. One where I couldn’t get out of fast enough and another where I got out of too fast. Both gave me immense happiness and loneliness. Neither felt like home.
Then Melbourne happened to me. At first I found it too sterile, too proper and too quiet. Then I found the dirt, the quirks and the noise. I was in love. Wildly in love. The kind of raw love you feel for the earth and air and sun. We (my husband and I) built our first home and fell in love with it every day. We built our family (the kind we choose and the kind we have) and fell in love with it every day. Everything was perfect.
It was too early for perfect.
I went for the people, I stayed for the place, I left in search of more. But I’ll be back, because while I still don’t see a single home when I close my eyes, I may just have found my true north in Melbourne.