Looking around at the bare closets, empty shelves, and boxes of books that dwarf our dusty suitcase of clothing, it’s evident that our caravan is pulling out. Four years–the longest stretch of time our family has ever lived in a single residence or city–has come to an end. For two years, we lived out of our suitcases in Yemen and Algeria, but here in Oman we had a reason to unpack. We hung our clothes on hangers, bought bed sheets and spoons, and put our backpacks out of sight. We nested ourselves into a cozy home, just in time for Lil’ Z’s arrival.
The quietude and serenity of Nizwa was the perfect first home for our daughter. Urbndervish’s work schedule that year was light which gave us long hours to revel in the miracle of a little human form growing and changing in front of us every day. We watched her eyebrows and eyelashes grow and stroked her silky black head of hair. We kissed her at least 100 times daily and cuddled her even more. The pace of any other place would have vied for our attention.
Our apartment had more space than we were accustomed to and gave us ample room to tuck and put away stuff–the kind of stuff you keep only because you can. Three weeks ago, we started to confront our stuff and sifted through the clothes and items to keep or give away. Most of what we accumulated belonged to Lil’ Z, who had no attachment to anything other than her curious cloth diapers and books. Unlike her, a flood of memories engulfed me when I recalled the people and events connected to her little outfits and dresses. Part of me wants to hold on to them but practicality trumps my nostalgia when Urbndervish points out the signs of wear and milk stains on the collars. There is little room for sentiment in the life of a nomad.
I’ve grown a special attachment to this particular apartment because of the memories each room holds. The first time Lil’ Z raised her head was in the bedroom, the first time she reached up to touch my face was in the hallway, and her first steps were in the guest room. I can’t separate her from this space. When she thinks of home, this is the only place she will conjure for some time. Last night before going to bed, she asked how much longer until we return to the US. I counted ten days on my hands and she squealed. “Then, we come back home?” “No, not this home. We’re not coming back to Nizwa”, I tried to explain. Naturally, she responds: “So, where?” And to that, we have no answer yet.
Every adventure is tempered with some amount of anxiety. Much like riding a roller coaster, some grit through fear, some reel in exhilaration, and some can’t stomach it. Fortunately, we can make peace with this uncertainty because we’ve prepared for it. We made special efforts to soak up all of the Oman we could- through personal connections, road trips, and hosting guests here. This has been a welcomed resting place for us but it is not likely our journey’s end. We may return but regardless, the process of mentally preparing to leave for good has been cathartic. With every bag of clothing we set aside for donation and every book we decide to leave with friends, I feel lighter. Our possessions are manageable without being overwhelming. Perhaps we will find our home one day—a little piece of God’s green earth that we’re content to return to and find respite in. Even then, the same principle applies for us, whether resident or migrant:
“Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler” –translated saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)