Home moved a lot, but really it never moved at all.
The beating Egyptian sun had barely scorched my face by the time I came to the United States in 1999, less than two years after my doctor smacked tears out of blue-faced me. We lived in Middletown, New Jersey through 9/11, the Iraq War, and mad cow disease before moving to Minnesota in 2004. My first-grade self had just come to terms with the reality of a real-life wintry Narnia before we were back in the civilized forest we call New Jersey. A few months later, and we were new residents in the sleepiest part of the city that never sleeps: Staten Island. But though I now looked out the window to see gray oceans waters stretch beyond the borders of May Ship Pier instead of the breezy green lawns intercut by the fresh concrete parking lots of Masjid Al-Aman, I still continued attend a Jersey school. Every morning, as we passed over the Outerbridge on the way to school, I would look out the car window and in one gaze capture the even and uneven landscape of both New Jersey and New York. Seven years and a parental job transfer later, I once again found myself in NJ, this time in North Brunswick. And yet still I attended the same school, so really I had never left.
While at Yale, I officially registered as a voter in New Haven, Connecticut. In those days, I heard the ringing of Harkness Tower more than I did the softness of my mother’s voice. Was Yale my new haven? Or was that still New Jersey, which my memories, in my college days, gifted a sheen so romantic you could almost forget it was the home of Chris Christie? Shopping with my sister for Shop-Rite groceries, attending Friday prayers at my old private school, and downing french fries at 2AM with my closest of friends while we wax pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-theological—the promise of re-experiencing those memories is what got me through 20-page history papers and Econ problem sets to the next break.
But then what of my longing for Egypt, absent as it has been from the past eight years of my memories? What of my occasional nostalgia for Staten Island, where most of my closest friends still live? What even of Yale, which now shares New Jersey's romantic luster during the summer months? Does longing for a place make it home? Does living there make it home? Is New Jersey more of my home than New York simply because I lived there longer, even if more of my friends come from the latter? Can everywhere I’ve experienced be home?