“Puppi chaheye?” my two-year-old nephew asks in his tiny voice. (He sounds just like Nibbles, Jerry’s tiny grey nephew from Tom and Jerry). I was saying bye to him and pretending to cry, which he usually can’t stand – his small face wrinkles into this sweet look of anxiety, he wrings his hands and emits little squeaks of concern mixed with comfort. He might offer a hug or he might smack your knee – not quite in control of his emotional expressions. I was lucky this time because he offered me a kiss.
I love tiny toddlers who look just like miniature real people in their real-people jeans, scarfs and sneakers. But they are so small I am always amazed and amused when they speak in almost full sentences and run around. Arhu is the only grandchild in the city so he is always in the limelight. And boy does he know it!
I will miss his parroting of every word he overhears (coffeechai chaheye? Awaz arahi hai? AWAZ ARAHI HAI? as he holds a cellphone to his ear; and everyone’s favorite: yar do na yar!). There are some things that sound absolutely adorable only if a two-foot-tall toddler is saying them, and “chacha yar darwaza kholo yar” is one such sentence.
Leaving home is always hard. My shoulders tense up like someone practiced making knots with my muscles and then forgot to unknot them, sleep becomes erratic, and my stomach whirls slowly like a fan on UPS. It is a murky gray color, the melancholy blues of missing everyone I love, the darker shades of guilt that streak through the mixture, and the wriggly pale yellow of anxiety that comes with travelling on my own.
I’m going to miss hugging my mom. There is no person on earth who I can hug like my mom. The feeling of belonging, love and comfort is irreplaceable – no Snuggy on earth can compete. Breakfast in the guest room because that is where it is the sunniest in the mornings, eating homemade halwa, having tea in the evenings, cuddling in bed on cold Islamabad evenings. The summery winter in Karachi, the beach with its calm, psychedelic waves, warm sand and a good supply of friends. Music from a small car-shaped speaker thing. Biryani, Pakola. Lahore was cold, foggy and misty, rained twice and got even colder. Beautiful wedding, the scent of fog. Give me more.
No homework, no alarm clocks, no job, lots of family and friends – perfect combination for a month long hiatus. Who can blame me for the sinking in my stomach and heart? I’m going to miss home.