Current tunes: See You Again/Love Me Like You Do/Sugar Mashup, Megan Davies
Well my San Francisco assignment ended a few weeks ago and I have been basically living out of my car with a carry-on that I keep in the trunk at all times. It’s a weird life, house hopping, but still full in that I am able to spend time with all my people. I’ve accumulated house keys to multiple locations throughout the Central Valley and feel so blessed to have such generous friends and family. And it’s really got me thinking about “home,” or rather what home means to me. I am finding it’s not so much a physical space but can be better described by the roots that have grown me into the person that I am. With the idea of home in my mind, I’d like to shed light on where I have come from rather than where I am going in this nomadic nurse life.
I grew up in a tiny suburb outside of Fresno, Ca on a small vineyard. Kingsburg, aka the Swedish Village, is an adorable farming town with a church on every corner and bursting with more fruit than people. The streets are pretty safe, the gossip travels fast, and I think it is one of the only cities left in the US that thinks Kmart is still relevant to have around as a shopping facility. I mean seriously, I guarantee the Hot and Ready Little Caesar’s Pizzas are the most purchased item from that store. The demographic is mostly families and retired folk, with the bulk of them being of Caucasian and Hispanic descent. So you can imagine that being the biracial minority child with immigrant parents from vastly different cultures made me feel a bit out of place. It was an atypical childhood. I mean no one else in my class whipped out moussaka from their lunch pails or had sideburns down to their jaw lines. But like most, a large part of who I am derives from my parents.
My father, whom my male high school friends jokingly swore was Wario from Mario Kart’s real life clone, is Syrian and immigrated to the United States at 18 years of age. He is one of the hardest working people I know and while his strict Middle Eastern household rules seemed overbearing and suffocating to his four teenage daughters, it all makes sense when his culture and story are considered. Upon graduating high school in Kuwait, he recalls giving himself two options- fulfill the two year military requirement in the Syrian Army or move to America to go to school. His father had achieved about a fifth grade education and to this day my grandmother is still completely illiterate. So he was determined to be the first of the eight children in his family to pursue and complete a college education (…and thinking about what my life may have looked like if he had chosen the other route makes my head spin). My father is also basically a rockstar. In addition to being a civil engineer, he is a farmer that insists on making everything with his own two hands. He brews beer, makes wine, he hunts game, has his own chicken coop for fresh eggs, farms raisins…I mean he could open a mini Casa de Fruta if he wanted to. And when it comes to house remodeling or fixing things, he takes extra pride in avoiding the use of professionals. I remember complaining and struggling with using a wet saw to cut bathroom tile in our front yard and helping plaster them down as he ranted, “Why would I waste money on a professional when I have four daughters to do this?” On that note, please don’t examine the guest bathroom floors too closely if you come over for a visit. Although I am sure this is where my sometimes overpowering stubborn determination derives, his work ethic and generosity never fail to impress me.
My mother, a tiny nugget barely reaching five feet, on the other hand came from the Philippines at the age of twelve. She is the oldest of seven children and recalls spending much of her childhood being a third parent rather than getting to be a child herself. From what I have been told, my grandfather refused to receive aid from outside sources upon moving his large family and instead had the kids spend summers picking tomatoes or doing other field work and side jobs to help support the family. Because of this, my mother grew up very strong willed and independent. She also has always been fascinated with other cultures and foreign languages and I attribute much of my wanderlust and independent tendencies to her. She made it a point to speak to us in other languages (languages other than the Filipino dialects she grew up with I might add) and her foreign postcard collection is so big she could probably send out one a day for years and still have some to spare. She taught me to not sweat the small stuff, she believes life is too short to deny yourself a Famous Star from Carl’s Junior once a week, and she shamelessly rocks her not one, but two pairs of bright pink faux Crocs. My momma truly is one of a kind.
And while my parents were very different and later parted ways, they both agreed that their main priority was to provide love, support, and discipline in a way that encouraged us to live to our full potential. Which further equated to the Mahfoud girls adhering to three main things- to bring home unblemished report cards, to keep a 10 feet radius away from males at all times, and to love Jesus and our siblings with everything we had. Because of this, my sisters and I have formed an unbreakable bond and feel blessed by their friendship and counsel every day.
Yup, that old blue country house of ours taught me a lot. Like it is still entirely possible to make friends even if your parents wanted to save money by cutting their daughters’ hair with a Flowbee Machine (side note, if you are unfamiliar with this tantalizing gadget from the 90s, imagine a “hair vacuum” that is likely sold on infomercials or on the clearance section at your local drug store). That food appreciation and consumption is more than for sustenance but a way of life. That it is possible for five year olds to wake up at the butt crack of dawn for a school bus pickup at our country stop and then proceed to do this every school year for almost eleven years straight. But in all seriousness that home taught me that a strong work ethic and integrity go a long way, that people, not things, matter most, and that this life is empty without knowing our purpose is to serve our Creator by using our blessings for His Kingdom and loving others above all.
However, I must admit, after my parents separated, that place didn’t feel much like home anymore. I even avoided staying there for that first year of change. Yet the thought of my family ever selling it still makes my heart wince. Because in reality, home is a feeling. A feeling of safety, comfort, and just being understood even when I am acting a fool. It’s the feeling of familiarity I get when my mom and I sit down to watch Jeopardy and shout out answers that are wrong about 75% of the time. The feeling of warmth I have when my dad pops open a bottle of homemade wine before eating an enormous Middle Eastern dinner, selflessly prepared by himself and my wonderful stepmom. The feeling of complete bliss when my three sisters and I happen to be in the same part of the world at that same magical moment and find time cram into one bed, and stay up late talking about important life matters like how we all agree that Matilda is still one of the best films ever created and that Harry Potter continues to be a relevant part of our lives. That is home. Home is when the heart is full.
If I have learned anything from nursing and this migratory lifestyle, it is that life is too painstakingly short and one of humanity’s greatest faults is to not communicate love and encouragement to each other while we still can. So go pick up that phone, make that drive, or do whatever it is to appreciate those who make you FEEL home.
With that being said, when on assignment, I now realize my homesickness is actually just loneliness and the lack of being truly known. I love meeting people but finding people that become more than surface acquaintances is exhausting. This next stent will be spent on my own so prayers and good vibes my way is much appreciated! But that isn’t for a few weeks as I am currently in Honolulu helping my best friend start her new one year adventure as a dental resident. Thank you travel nurse life! One of the only jobs that allows the flexibility to pick up and postpone work on a whim. It’s time for some Vitamin Sea and D ;]
Cheers and keep on wishin’!