“Here we go. Breathe. Prepare. Brace yourself”, and with that I enter. Instantly every part of my being is overwhelmed. Between the laughter and yelling, I am left to wonder how so many loved ones could cram into this humble space? The air is electrified with the aroma of spices from half the world away and with every breath, my spirit is recharged. In the kitchen filled beyond capacity, pots boil and bubble over while strong and opinionated women yell and compete for the role of head chef. “What are you doing? Move, move, you burn the lamb.” Oh, no, it has begun. While my aunts’ bicker over whether or not more salt is needed, I go outside. I know sliding into a seat undetected is inconceivable when it comes to my family. Still I try, and, again I fail. Being spotted, I quickly run around the back yard kissing everyone in yet another filled-beyond-capacity space. Making it back and collapsing into my seat, I look around the circle. Suddenly, I am engrossed in the stories of past adventures, most of which I have heard more than once.
Tuning out the arguments of a prideful Lebanese family is far from easy, but it is a skill one must develop in order to maintain some form of sanity. It is during family gatherings, amidst indescribable chaos, that I have found myself able to think most clearly and ponder the deepest thoughts. “Loud and vivacious, who are these people?” Many times I have asked myself this question and been left without an answer. It was not until I stopped to listen that I finally realized what I was missing.
“When I was your age, my two brothers and I would take donkey rides down a hill. One time we were coming down the hill when all of a sudden a big rock rolled right past us. Getting to the bottom of the hill we realized the littlest brother had fallen off the back. Turns out the rock was your uncle.” In the laughter that follows my grandfather’s animated childhood stories, I find myself most at home. Home is not the building nor the possessions inside but the people who fill it with life. Without my bickering aunts crammed into a kitchen, the clink of backgammon pieces being thrown around, or the unchanged aroma smelt by generations past wafting through the air, I cannot feel truly at home.
As I listen to often repeated stories of my families past, I no longer ask “Who are these people” for I have found my answer. These people breathe life into the cold surroundings, and they breathe life into me. My home is not simply a building on a block. It is an ever-expanding reflection of the trials and accomplishments of generations. It is my family. It is my home. Constantly moving taking new forms yet always somehow familiar; just as there is no family like mine there is no home like mine.