Introduction: This essay explores the difference between a home and a house. I told the story of my family coming to the United States to find a new home, after fleeing a war-torn country. I used both scenes of memory and artwork description. I am proud of the amount of description and I hope to carry that for my future pieces of work.
I grew up in a home which was an escape from the bustling and rustling of Philadelphia. A home that always smelled of turmeric and cardamom. A place where we ate Manoushe for breakfast and washed it down with Hibiscus tea. A place where we would make a Lamb Ouzi for a celebration. Anytime there was the Lebanese Festival we would throw on our kaftan and play the Darbuka with Joey Tayoun. On our walls, we had art from the Hurriyah movement, and the blues of the Meditteranean were painted. One of my favorite piece of art is a photograph of a young girl kicking a soccer ball. The soccer ball is very rugged and not pumped up with air. She is wearing clothing that is too big for her, and her curly hair is wrapped up with a ribbon in a ponytail. You can’t see her face, just her tiny eight-year-old frame. The wall behind her is filled with trash and graffiti in an unknown language. She’s a Palestinian refugee playing in a refugee camp. A tent had become her new house, while her home was covered in bullet holes and crackling bricks. The home had always been very important for our family. Home didn’t just mean the place that you lived for a certain amount of time, that was a house. The home was the place where you felt yourself, a place of constant comfortability. We found the sense of feeling home always came when we were together, especially for my father and his siblings. My father and his siblings grew up in Beirut Lebanon. My father loved growing up in Lebanon. It was his paradise. It was a place where you can visit the white peaks of Mount Lebanon, learn the deep history of Byblos, and visit the beaches of Tyre. A place rich in culture and diversity, where you can see a mother covered head to toe in a niqab and her daughter right next to her in shorts and a t-shirt. He loved being with all his uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. He never thought he would leave. One problem with Lebanon was that it never had a stable democracy. In 1975 a civil war broke out. After six months of seeing parts of Beirut crumble, my family left in search of a new safe home. They eventually came to King of Prussia a suburb outside of Philadelphia. They thought that this was a temporary move and that they would be able to go back home, but the civil war didn’t end for another fifteen years and they had to adapt to having America as their home. Right after college, my dad moved straight into Philly into a house in Society Hill. The first day that he moved in, a neighbor of his introduced himself. As they began to start talking he realized that this neighbor was Egyptian who grew up in Lebanon. He found someone that went through the same things as he did. He realized that it was very similar to Beirut a loud city where people honked as much as they talked, a place where people would yell at you instead of talk, and a place which had so much city pride. With the many years that he has spent in Philly, he found a place where he belonged. A place that he didn’t feel like an outsider. This was his new home, but his true and original home was still Beirut. One day I was looking at Airbnb, my dad came up to my room and asked to look for Airbnb in Beirut. I did a quick search and hundreds of apartments and homes came up. I clicked on one that had pictures of the sea which happened to be in a neighborhood called Mar Mikhael. We looked through the pictures and then I read the description for him. “This apartment is a 1950’s inspired apartment on a small street called Armenia, located in the beautiful Mar Mikhael neighborhood. Do you know where this is?” I asked. “ Our home was a block away from that street,” he replied with a smile. A moment passed and the smile stayed on his face, he was reminiscing on the memories from his life on Mar Mikhael. Just looking through the photos he made connections with every little thing. “ Under that apartment used to be the best Manoushe place.” “And we use to race our bikes over that street.” With just a few pictures he was able to give me a tour of his childhood home. He was able to answer any questions I had about his life before the United States. But most importantly, even if it was just for those few seconds he was able to feel at home again.