What if your heart is in two places? Home and Christmas are so synonymous and yet, for some, these two words don’t seem to fit in the same sentence. As I write this in my Montreal home, and you read it in Beirut, expatriation takes a whole new meaning. During 363 days, living abroad is just a normal state, a happy life, some nostalgia, hard work, and a regular routine. We lead a professional, social and family life just like all of you in Lebanon. We don’t struggle with the same issues, we do not worry about water, electricity, basic rights and safety, we don’t have the same fears, but we do have our share of difficulties and challenges, and we sometimes go through them alone. Here abroad we are often home alone.
In this new life that we have invented, within this foreign format that we took in, we are living a very different lifestyle than the one we grew up with. We have learned to go about our day while using our original values. We have learned to be happy although the instruction manual is different. We have espoused our adoptive country while continuing to love our motherland. Once torn between two cultures, we have learned to embrace both. But on the 24th and the 25th of December, everything crumbles. All our efforts seem futile.
“Homesickness has to be treated like an addiction, if you’re off a drug, it’s best not to smell it or see it.”
Even the Christmas tree becomes a feeble attempt at capturing what is no longer. The country, the family and the spirit that we are mimicking do not exist anymore. Our children don’t even understand what we’re trying to convey, and neither do we.
So we Skype, and we spend some time in your living room, across two oceans. When we hang up, we miss you even more! Homesickness has to be treated like an addiction; if you’re off a drug, it’s best not to smell it or see it. We are in a permanent state of detox from Lebanon and the family. And to make us feel better in our faraway land you said: “It must be so beautiful to spend Christmas in the snow! Niyyelkone!”
Let me tell you about Christmas in Canada. The song “White Christmas” is an understatement.
Whiter than that, and you’ll die of a monochromatic death. There is usually so much snow that it kills the will to go to the airport. The idea of shovelling white hell off the car to manage to put the suitcase in the trunk is enough to stop anyone from packing. So we spend Christmas here, at home…
But what is home?
It’s where you love and feel loved, it’s where your children are safe and happy, it’s where your parents lie in their grave, it’s where your senses are in a familiar territory, it’s where you’re in awe and do not need to take a picture because you cannot forget, it’s where you’re sad to leave and happy to arrive, it’s where you’re at peace, it’s where you shed tears of joy, it’s where you have memories and where you build new ones, it’s where a cedar is planted and where a maple is growing.
May God help the homeless.