My brother wrote to our family this morning, around 5am my time. He sent 20 pictures of our home that we left last year, that now sits in renovation ruins. These were his words:
We expect for what we know and cherish to remain the same, to remain preserved. It’s ours so why is that expectation so illogical. But then we’re reminded so what we thought to be ours, never really was. The only things that remains ours are the memories. That no one can take from us. Everything else…time is the owner. And with that I present our house of 29 years where most of our childhood and a decent portion of our adulthood were spent. Where new relations were formed and where new generations opened their eyes. Where there were ups and downs and the countless tales to accompany them. Where tireless and endless efforts from Ammi and Abbu yielded such fruitful experiences and the memories that will forever remain.
I haven’t really written about this and thought maybe I could, but I still don’t feel words can hold it. I’m certain my family feels the same. It can’t even be put into the ‘one-of-the-most-difficult-things-I’ve-ever-done’ category. Leaving our home lives in a realm on its own.
The pictures were, to say the least, horribly painful. We had one of the oldest-plan houses in the community. I believe management no longer even carried some of the parts used in it. Naturally its facelift after we left has led to entire walls behind knocked down, all carpet torn out and replaced with unfriendly tiles, counters gone, walls stripped to reveal the framework—I couldn’t even recognize some parts. I don’t know how to imagine what my brother feels like going back and walking through all of that, when a few months ago the same house was live and standing on a 29-year presence.
I’m not here to write very long, because I’ll get lost. I started this post on a simple thought about angles. There’s something interesting about the pictures my brother sent. Many of them were the exact same places in our house that I took pictures of on my last trip home, except from a 180-degree difference. The two sets of images exist in what feels like a mirror. The ones I took were from when we were still living in the house. In a way they were taken from within. The ones now are still in the house but the truth that all of us are outside it now seeps through the pictures.
In the many years past, I’ve lived in different places, but the only place that I ever thought of as home is Saudi Arabia. In a sense, what Aramco does is teach you very directly that the whole world is an ocean, the whole world is a desert. Things are temporary and movement is built into the universe. A world that’s essentially been created ends up teaching us one of the biggest lessons of life. We grew up knowing that the option of staying in this place forever does not exist, yet it becomes our home.
Our house has changed completely since we left it. It’s almost comforting in a way: only we lived in our home, because now it’s a different place altogether. And like my brother said, no one can take that away. Even when we leave it, it doesn’t leave us. We are born into the desert—we are like the bedouin, who step out of their tents into one solid truth. All the desert is their home, and all the world their desert.
Different angles present us today with two sides of the same thing. It’s layered, and promising. Somewhere in some dimension that we maybe are too limited to see right now, our home exists, in forms we’ve not even seen yet. And I pray we find it in its very best, very soon.
Allah is greater, always.