Defining home: Part I

Perhaps it’s the natural instinct of an immigrant to want to make the new country his home.
Yet he continues to fail with every attempt because the birth country cannot be replaced. The definition of home becomes diffused, molded, and mended as time moves forward, and the immigrant grows in his new place. And what is home really, but a smell, a feeling, a memory, and we cannot recreate such precise elements. So the search for a “home” is not only impractical, but also simply impossible. The new land will certainly bring with it its own unique smell, feeling, and memory.
My first “home” in Virginia was on Arlington Boulevard. My feelings then, and now have remained to be a mix of anger and embarrassment, for the place never felt like home. It never felt like it was mine, like it belonged to my parents. It was a starting point, a roof, a space that lacked anything resembling what I had left behind. It was a like a long dream, where every morning I longed to be woken, and not in that space. But we lived, as any family did, by buying a few pieces of furniture, a rug that later I began to despise as well, not only for its poor quality, but its lack of elegance. We paid rent, or my parents did. We had plants, my mother did. And I slept where the dining room table would ideally be, and my parents in the one bedroom.
The smell I remember now, is a not-so-pleasant odor of the long hallways, the shared space of strangers, the meals they cooked, the meals my mother cooked. The memory of it is present in my mind, for I have a strong visual memory, but it is one I don’t like recalling, retelling, or even writing. But in order to move on, I must write it, and describe how I felt, and why it was so filled with sadness that even now it brings me to tears.
I was then 11, and spent my first year of immigration in a state of ignorance and impermanence. I asked my mother if we could return. I don’t remember whether I used “we” or “I.” But I made this point clear that I was neither happy, nor willing to pretend. She eventually broke it to me that there was no returning, that this would have to work, that I would learn English the best I could, that I was young, that Tehran had nothing to give to me, that I had nothing to give to Tehran.
I spent the first two, three years writing letters in that space, after school, at night, on weekends, whenever I found the proper solitude. I wrote my letters in Farsi of course, and addressed them to various cousins, and each of my siblings. The letters always began with “I miss you all,” and ended with, “I hope to see you soon, or I hope that soon we’ll all be reunited.”
And with this statement, I moved on, and ahead, my English improving, my social life improving, and eventually there were no letters, and the “reunion” took so long that it felt like an after-thought.

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