Heading home in the winter and in my veins there is a singing in the same familiarity that confuses you when your dog knows the car is almost home; I never understood that instinctual compass that made them whine and wiggle and physically not be able to contain their joy at where they’re headed until I booked those tickets.
Basking in the certainty of finally feeling home under our feet, my mother and I started to cry into our breakfast.
The story I told her to explain myself, to help her understand how I could miss a place so much that she tried so hard to save me from, it didn’t help matters.
I was young when we returned to Jordan, barely 11 years old, with minimal arabic understanding and zero understanding that people are different in places. The first morning we woke up, my cousin had stayed over, to help us adjust to the house and find things in the neighborhood. Her and I went down to a corner store, which as a concept already baffled me. The clerk knew everyone by name, shouted at the boys playing football outside that he’d tell their parents if they weren’t careful with that damned ball, he was the raw essence of coming home and my formality made him laugh, because he knew my father and used to help my mother open her sodas when she was a child.
The first interaction in that shop is what defined what it was to come home for me, that time and every trip after it. My cousin Luna, she opened her mouth and let the arabic out. My first instinct was a shock of panic, here would come the dismissive confusion until we remembered ourselves and spoke to him in the only language I ever knew to be spoken in public, the only acceptable language I had ever been taught to use in public, the obvious choice, english.
I don’t know why it meant so much, but she asked in arabic and he answered in arabic, both of them as if this was nothing, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be speaking your mother tongue in public. Thinking of how warm those words sounded, the way the language sounded the first time I heard a stranger using arabic outside my family and my home, it breaks my heart. For something so simple to crack my world open, in its own quiet way, showed me how little I knew about what home felt like.
I know home now, I feel it singing in the marrow of my bones, it calls to me, and I am going home.