She stood in the corner hiding behind her sisters and watched closely as I carefully pinned my hijab in place. I could see curiosity written all over her face reflecting from the mirror I stood in front of fixing my self. As I peeked over, she would smile shyly and look away-- especially in front of me, she was really shy all the time. Whenever she mustered up the guts, she would ask to hold my SLR camera on our way out or drop a sweet innocent compliment as to how I looked Pakistani-ed out :) That’s my sweet 5-year old cousin Rania.
Every morning she came upstairs, hair combed, bangles colorful and matching, saying salaam and good morning with a smile-- sometimes I would hear a light low knock on the door and I knew exactly who was here to visit. She would stand there outside the door until I would ask her to come inside and make herself comfortable. Most of what we spoke about was exchanged through smiles and giggles and seeing her, talking to her, truly warmed my heart.
Going to Pakistan for two weeks was one of the best decisions I have made- of course the shopping, the festivities of Eid, touristing around, and the food were all some of my memorable highlights, but nothing beats seeing family after almost ten years. All biases aside, my cousins are some of the most caring and good-hearted people I know. It was such a pleasure seeing them all, spending time with them, and exchanging the few words I was able to fit in my two weeks there. Aunts and Uncles, from both my Mother’s and Father’s side, are the ones that truly made me home-sick because they reminded me of my parents. Whether it was my Mom’s sister who’s expressions and the words she uttered were just like my Mom, or my Dad’s brothers' who cared for me like their own daughter, love was all around. On one hand, I was given so much with this family in Pakistan, where strangely the only thing missing was the physical absence of my own family.
Leaving this home away from home was quite difficult and perhaps the only thing that made it easier was the thought of having been away from my own family for what felt like eternity and to finally play my life on the pause it rest on for three months. Walking away, I hope to keep these two weeks in the depths of my heart, always remembering the hugs, the laughs and jokes with my eldest Aunt, and the smiles of family all around.