When strangers enter our family house, I hope they realize how much of a home it is.
I hope they pay little attention to the amount and types of cars that are parked, filling the parking space with nary a space for one more vehicle. I hope they overlook the size of the house as well as its attached garden. I hope they pay little notice to the laptops, each belonging to a different owner, that are carelessly strewn on the main table opposite to the front door.
I hope that they, instead, pay attention to the stories lying in wait; folded between nooks and crannies, corners and edges.
I hope they notice the order in which these cars are parked — a clue to not just the number of occupants this house holds, but also to the daily pattern and order in which these individuals come and go. I hope they sense that activity is an understatement with this house; its occupants are constantly on the move, leaving trails of old sneakers, worn high heels, and ragged flip flops as testament to horizons trespassed, roads traveled, and adventures lived to shares endless tales of.
I hope what catches their attention upon entering the house is not the items on the main table, but its condition – it’s like the aftermath of a hurricane. House and car keys, each with distinct keychains, fill the rightmost edge of the table. Days old newspapers, bent and folded from repeated readings, take up the bulk of the table’s surface area. At the center, jars of half-eaten cookies and savory tidbits are randomly stacked together. Arbitrary pieces of clothing are always hung on at least four of the eight chairs of the table; a navy cardigan, several colorful hijab, a shirt… it goes without saying, the table’s a mess.
I hope it’s not the size of the house that has guests surprised, but its state. The house is… extremely well-lived in, to put it kindly. There’s a ton of things everywhere wherever one’s eyes land upon — reusable bags hanging on door knobs; children’s toys on the living room carpets; cardboard boxes containing old books and random knick knacks stacked not-so-neatly directly across from the laundry machine; and books – books everywhere, in every room, upstairs and downstairs.
I hope they realize what a well lived-in house this is. I hope they think, this is a home.
This is the house of a family that was once nine but has since grown to nineteen – and my god, still counting. This is a house that has never once housed a housemaid or helper; there’s a system in this house, albeit imperfect, that has sustained the daily lives of its occupants. This is a house that has patiently welcomed and bid goodbye to countless entrances and exits of its occupants. This is a time capsule disguised as a house, a secret keeper of an unforgotten past yet also a witness to the daily acts of love, in whatever form one could think of – lengthy conversations at the kitchen table whether in the early morning or late at night or sometimes even, middle of the day; the unlocking of the front door, an unvoiced welcome home act, the instance the sound of a whirring engine is heard in the house’s compound; daily congregation-of-sorts at the main table, each focused on their respective tasks while sitting in silence across or side by side each other; piles of books of all sizes and shapes on a multitude of subjects – often wildly different from each other – found anywhere space is available, evidence of what is appreciated and celebrated by the occupants of this house; and more, and more, and more.
This family house is tragically imperfect; cluttered and constantly in a state of the aftermath of a hurricane; aged and worn out no thanks to too many occupants, tales, secrets, conversations, and of course – books; and more, and more, and more.
This family house is a home.
This is home. I’m home.
I wish I understood this earlier, so that I resisted less. I wish I understood this earlier, so that I angered less. I wish I understood this earlier, so that I forgave harder. I wish I understood this earlier, so that I loved more kindly. I wish I understood this earlier, so that I would have chosen and fought to stay. I wish I understood earlier, all that I know now.
I wish I understood earlier; and more, and more, and more.
Home has in fact, indeed, always been a physical place. The family home is The Place.