1 in 900: The feeling of home

By

Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020

This is not some diary excerpt, I promise.

I woke up in the charming town of Palo Alto for the first time. The sun was tinting the windows with a seamless coat of glitter. The sky was painted with surgical-face-mask blue. Summer was dusting its feet on the doormat, unwilling to flee.

I opened my eyes and blinked thrice to properly inhale reality coated with dreams. That day, I opened a new page of my personal book. I held my pen and waited for its tip to tickle the paper. I wrote “Chapter 2” and took a deep breath as the gates to my new life opened wide. At 12:45 p.m., the car rode into Palm Drive as my heart waltzed from a tree to another. No, I was not Emma Stone in La La Land dancing her way through California. At least, I made it to Stanford University — or what I like to call, “The Huge Happy Town.” With my heart dancing, I feel as if I’m at my very own La La Land. *slaps her face to double-check that this is real* The wind brushing my cheeks and the scent of intellectual brilliance gave me nothing short of goosebumps.
Four bags of luggage in hand, I stood in front of Escondido Village Residences for the first time, nervous and amazed. “Welcome home!” chanted an upperclassman. It made me think of Beirut, the city that raised me, the city that watched me grow.

I think of my heart like a puzzle. The first piece, I left behind with my mother’s smile, my father’s singalongs, my friend’s midnight talks, my last poetry verse, and the remnants of the Beirut Blast. The second piece traveled 18 hours, 11,745 km, and across a river of tears to find a new roof — another sweet home. Staring at this magnificent building, I couldn’t help but think back about Aug. 4, the day that shattered many lives. I could see myself surrounded once again by broken glass and rubble, hands splashed with blood, witnessing the apocalyptic aftermath of this ticking bomb situated a few miles away from me. I could remember the cries of a mother who ran barefoot on the glass to grab her bleeding daughter, the fear in my grandmother’s voice after losing her home of 30 years, all the roaring voices that yelled “help.” I remember desperately pleading, “I don’t want to die.”

Everything went through my mind like a nightmare. Healing this open wound started with cleaning Beirut’s streets — with rebuilding destroyed homes, preparing hot meals, and packing necessity boxes. Healing became about finding refuge in a place you never expected, in a place that stretches its arms out and carries your burdens. I survived the blast, and I am eternally grateful for the chance to glimpse into my future — a future that is so far, yet so close to home. Moving in … well, as you would expect, was not a piece of cake, especially because my parents could not travel with me due to their canceled visa appointments. But, oh well — a semi-broken back later, it was all worth it. 

As I unpacked the piles that smelled of the sweet scent of my house, I was reminded that home is a feeling that can exist in any place. I sat on my chair, spinning round and round, mimicking the whirlwind of my thoughts and feelings. Taking in the newness and the magic of this place, I felt a Stanford tree being planted in my heart, right next to my cedar.

Contact Tiffany Saade at tiff24 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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