My home away from home

October 11, 2022

As we landed and stepped out of the plane, the hot, dry air slapped me in the face. The strong aggressive sun screamed “hello”. I heard the comforting sound of people speaking my native tongue. I was finally home. Where I grew up. Where my family was. Where I fit in. 

When I stepped into my grandma’s house, the memories hidden in the walls came back to me in flashes. The corner where I ran my head into when I was six. The couch I was sitting on when my mom came home from the hospital with my baby brother when I was four. The chair where I found my grandpa sitting every morning when I woke up. The memories that I grew up with and made me who I am. I was finally home. I hadn’t been home in four years. I hadn’t seen my family in four years. I hadn’t had the comfort of my childhood or the familiarity of people knowing how to pronounce my name in four years. 

In theory going home to my home country of Egypt sounds awful. No internet, no air conditioning, intense heat. It sounds horrible. But something about being surrounded by family, even when they make me want to slam my head into a wall sometimes, makes it all worth it. Something about the way everyone sleeps all day and then stays up all night. Something about getting street food with my family at 1am. Something about going to the touristy locations even though we’ve been there hundreds of times. 

The months I spend in Egypt over the summer every few years bring me enough joy to last me until the next visit. Except, the more time I spend away, the more things change. Most of the time I come home and I find a few more babies around, and my cousins who were once little are grown up. Except this summer I came home and I found one person missing. The backbone of our family. 

I found out my grandpa passed away in April but it never really hit me. I mean I didn’t see him on a daily basis anyway so it didn’t make any difference in my life. Except when I showed up in Egypt and he wasn’t there to greet me, it finally hit. When he wasn’t there every morning calling me by the nickname that only he called me. Or making fun of me for my “American accent” that I had, or yelling at me for being on my phone. It finally hit. 

Being gone for so long, I miss a lot, and it makes leaving even harder. When we leave there’s always tears. A lot of tears. I never know when I’m going to see them next, or if I’ll ever see them at all. On top of the family I miss out on, I miss the comforting environment filled with my memories and a sense of familiarity. And as I leave, after 20 hours of traveling, and a lot of tears later, I land back in Charleston and am greeted with the humid heat that fogs up my glasses, and I return home to my cat, my bedroom, and to reality. 

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