I scan my six-year-old daughter’s homework folder before sliding it back into her back pack.
I have packed my daughters’ lunches as well as snacks for today and tomorrow too.
I have french braided half their hair so that they look neat for Awards Day at school.
I have cleaned out the fridge, changed the linens, washed the most recent scraps of laundry that huddle at the bottom of the hamper.
I have packed and labeled a bag for my daughters with clothes to wear at home, clothes for school, and even a bag of swimming items for the beach.
I have handed my husband my daughter’s insurance cards.
My mind and phone have been full of To-Do lists.
I believe I am finally ready.
You see, I used to travel to Karachi, Pakistan any chance I got. Almost each season, mainly winter and summer, I would gather my belongings and flock there to see my grandparents, my extended family, and marinate in the balmy yet breezy air.
I would board the Atlanta-Dubai flight, the 16 hours and 20 minutes one, and fall into a deep sleep, sometimes only woken when the wheels touched down again, back on land.
I was single, young, and free to travel the world.
I grew up, got married, and am now the mother of three daughters, alhamdolillah.
I traveled back with my toddler to visit my paternal grandmother who was unable to travel.
Later, she passed away. A root of mine grew fragile and weakened when she died.
Still, I was lucky to have maternal grandparents who were able to travel to me.
But my heart yearned to go back to Karachi. My mind wandered there often in my dreams to the roads, the gardens, the homes of my grandparents. The mind remembers and yearns even when you try to brush it away.
I buried myself in tending for the needs of my children, in maintaining a home (no easy task!), in the flurry of emails with the ISB, and in the occasional manuscript writing.
With my third daughter in utero, cradling my pregnant belly, I still dreamed of going. For a couple of years, I would ask my flight-savvy brother to look up flight deals for me to Pakistan.
I think I’ll travel with my youngest, before she’s two – she can travel for free then.
It ‘ll be a short trip of two weeks.
My husband and mother can watch the children.
It’s so much work on the others to just leave them… school drops off, picks ups, and more…
What if we get sick? (that happened with my first daughter and the stomach virus was HARD).
The journey is so long, the distance so far, and then there’s jetlag….
So many but’s….
I zipped the worries away as I packed up my suitcase, fat with gifts and full of hope and prayers.
I took the leap.
I flew back from Karachi on Wednesday night.
Alhamdolillah (praise be to God), we were well. Thank you Nana for your constant prayers!
I was lucky to have the resources and family support to make this trip, and I wish I had made it more and before as well.
But also going after seven year break, made the destination sweeter too. Moms need breaks too.
–My jetlagged toddler enjoyed greeting my grandfather after the dawn prayer. She would wake up saying, “Aajao NaBooBoo! Aajo Chiryai!” (meaning Come on Grandfather father, come on Birds!)
–my family traveling to the sandy shores of Sands Pit Beach with full dekchis (pots) of delicious, savory biryani.
–riding a camel and teaching my daughter H the word oont (camel in Urdu)
–not doing the school drop off and pick ups, not packing lunches, and all the menial tasks of caring for a home… didn’t realize how mentally tired I was from all of it. (Thank you to my American family for filling in for me and for my Pakistan family for hosting me so beautifully…)
–shopping at a mall where the clothes fit me, where the clothes were modest enough for me to be able to wear without needing to layer them, finding shoes that were my actual size!
–bonding with family. Even though my extended family travels a bit and I get to see them, it is sweeter to see them in their element. I loved seeing my grandparents enjoying their tea-time treats, watching my grandmother work on her Qu’ran calligraphy and art
seeing my grandfather confidently walk with his cane to the car that would take him for prayers
seeing my aunt host parties effortlessly in her garden, seeing my aunt overlook her children’s studies, seeing my cousins toil away on making beautiful art work for their submissions, seeing my uncles and aunts eat dinner with my grandparents, flocking from one store to another with cousins and aunts, eating Baloch ice cream from the car with family, and more…
–visiting the school my grandmother founded and reading my book there! It was surreal to see so many children learning with such love and I was taken aback by how enlightening it was. I was greeted by smiling faces of the Head Girl and Head Boy who then proceeded to give me a tour of the school. The campus was immaculate and the school materials were neat and organized, no easy feat! As a former teacher, I know the challenges in being organized! The bulletin boards had colorful work displayed and the classrooms were inviting. Most importantly, the children were confident, polite, inquisitive, and friendly. They paid attention, asked questions, and greeted me fondly. They looked happy and seemed at home in Happy Home School! Thank you for making us feel special! More photos here.
–going to my Chacha (father’s brother)’s art exhibition. If you are in Karachi, stop by Koel Cafe to see the art gallery of my chacha (father’s brother) ! His art is vibrant and colorful and has lots of layers of depth. I was so glad I got to be there in Karachi at the opening night of the exhibition. My chachi (aunt) passed away from cancer last year so when I saw my uncle’s dedication to her, it made my heart simultaneously swell with sadness and hope.
Duas for my Dulhan Chachi (she is missed!!) and Moeen Chacha for continued success in this life and the next!
On my way back to Atlanta, I am standing in a long line toward the Jetway of the plane and I hear a mother scold her daughter, reprimanding her to use a tissue, to remember her manners.
I have not scolded for almost two weeks, not reminded my older children, not told them to brush their teeth, pack their bags, GO TO BED…the mental break is refreshing.
Yes, traveling internationally is hard.
Thinking of traveling?
A wise word from my grandmother.
“Say, “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then God will produce the final creation. Indeed Allah , over all things, is competent.” (Quran 29:20)