Coming Home

I’m in Chicago now as I type this (well, Bolingbrook technically. But if I had written that instead, most everyone reading would have been like “What?”).

This is my first visit “back home” since moving to Indiana three months ago.

I add “back home” in quotation because during the few moments I’ve had to myself and my thoughts this weekend, I’ve been reflecting on what exactly that even means. I’ve alluded to this sentiment in a previous post (An Indian in India…na), but now that I am actually back in the place that I have called “home” for the past 18 years (not counting my two years in Hyde Park as being away), I’ve been confronted by somewhat ambivalent feelings.

When my husband and I arrived this past Friday, my parents had invited my extended family over for dinner that evening (Well, the ones that live in Bolingbrook anyway. If they’d invited the entire Chicago khandaan, we’d have to rent a hall). One of my cousins asked me, “Do you miss Chicago?” Without pause, I answered “No.” Feeling a little guilty, I later added, “I miss my family of course, but Chicago, the city, never really felt like home.” I mentioned how Toronto is more my home, as I always love to play up that fact; but truth be told, Toronto is still very much a novelty to me. My family moved to Chicago when I was 11.

Ever since I was asked that question, I’ve been asking myself: “What is home?” I refuse to call our Bolingbrook home my “parents’ house” because it is my house, too. It is the house in which I have lived the longest and in which I have the rawest and vividest of memories. Where you spend your adolescence are truly your formative years and those years never really ever leave you. But my new place in Indiana also feels home, too.

Why do I feel this push and pull? Is it really problematic? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having two homes (I mean ‘home’ in the symbolic sense; owning more than one house is another matter altogether). I guess what I’m feeling right now stems from the fact that the expectations I had as a child aren’t exactly unfolding in the way I thought they would. There’s this implicit understanding within the South Asian community that a girl’s home before marriage is only her temporary home; the home she makes with her husband is her true home. I obviously take issue with this notion. What about the girls who don’t get married on a particular timeline? Why should they be made to feel as if their entire life is in limbo? What about girls who don’t want to get married? Is that even allowed? And let’s not even get started on the sons!

Things of course are changing and not all South Asians think this way, but this was the narrative I saw and expected.

I guess I am torn between not wanting to be defined by my marital status, on one hand, and the reality of actually liking my new life as a wife, on the other. In other words, I feel like I am perpetuating that fictional narrative that the feminist in me wants to revolt against.

Maybe I don’t have to define “home.” Bolingbrook is home. Indianapolis is home. Toronto is home. I think, more than anything, what I am learning is that those binary fables I heard when I was younger just aren’t true. It’s not one way or the other. 

Maybe the home I’m actually coming back to is not a physical place at all, but the home of my mind and heart that cannot and should not be confined by any walls.

Okay, I’m hungry, mommy! I want food! As much as I am liking learning to cook, taking a break from having to make dinner and eating your mom’s cooking is such a nice feeling and such a blessing, Alhamdullillah.

17 thoughts on “Coming Home”

  1. Home became independent from any place for me. The home of my childhood is due to a move of the parents not existing anymore. I moved a lot, also changed countries. In summer I will change the country again. But as older I am getting, there is this desire for a place to call home, giving it my personal touch, with things I have selected and not only essential furniture because – I will move soon, no, don’t buy that, when you get married, you will buy everything new and so on. Nevertheless, home is for me also the energy of a place. I lived in cities others call awesome and I was very unhappy there. I lived also in a not really pleasant city but had so many and precious friends there, that it became a real home.

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  2. Lovely Post, reminds me of the old adage “HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS”… I have also moved away from the city I was born and raised in back in South Africa to another city, and now even moved to another country, but the house and place you grew up in, still holds that special place in your heart and will forever be considered HOME.

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    1. Thank you! I so wanted to end my post with that line, but didn’t want to sound so clichéd and cheesy (not taking issue with being cheesy, as I am 99% of the time, it just didn’t fit the tone of my post). I guess I’m realizing home is so much bigger than I thought it was!

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  3. You are so right. I am from pakistan and ow living in new zealand. The first one year i never thought of this to be my home. I just thought pakistan was where home was…with family. But now 2 years since ive been here i feel this is my home with my husband and daughter. I guess home is where family is where you are at peace
    http://Www.hinasworld.com

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    1. I’m glad to hear that you feel at home at New Zealand! Must be beautiful! One of my favorite films, the Lord of the rings, was filmed there. So breathtaking! Feeling peace is a big part of feeling home, you are exactly right! That’s why I think I feel the way I do. I love my mom and dad, but I feel so much peace at home with my husband. Thank you so much, Hina! :)

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  4. I believe is where your own family is, no matter where you live. It may not be your home town, can be anywhere in the world but that is your home. I am not living in my home country since 4 years but where ever I live, I live there will all my heart.

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  5. Congratulations on your marriage! I’ve moved several times as well, countries and between states, and each time it’s always been tough to get setled in, and then harder to leave it behind sA. But like you said, there is not just the physical home, but the emotional one, where we feel, most I guess, ‘at home’. ;-)

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  6. Haha I liked how this post ended — asking mom for food — my mother has a slipped disc in her back and she’s under pain management. i don’t let her cook but sometimes she makes the Chai and believe me! that Chai cannot be compared to any Chai in the universe!
    Acc to your post, I am the South Asian #almost30 woman in limbo! Gah! But my home is my home — this is where I am the boss and no marital ties can change that!

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    1. Hehe, I’m forever the baby! So do you do the cooking then? Wow! Cook for me please!!!! Well, those are not my words, but haven’t you gotten that grief from others? Up until I got married, that’s the only thing people cared to say to me. “Oh, if only Rafia were married…” as if they pitied me or something. Alhamdullilah, marriage is great. But not being married is not a bad thing either. And it’s really not in our hands. You do you, Abbie! You ARE the boss :)

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  7. I have never really had this dilemma. My parent literally 5 mins away and I see them pretty much every day…..and I treat their house as my home too! But as you say it was anyway…my parents house IS my home.

    We looking into moving abroad soon so then I may wonder where exactly home is

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  8. Such a heartfelt article . Even though I haven’t experienced being married and away from my “home” but I do have a lot of my friends who feel exactly what you feel . You cannot just forget the family who brought you up and place you have spent half of your life in and accept the fact that it was never your home and your husbands is.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I always hated that mentality. There is no “one” home for me. I think I have to get past that type of linear thinking where it’s all one way or another, you know?

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