The older I get, the more I think about what I will tell my future son or daughter one day about growing up in South Africa and immigrating to the US when I was 12. The sad reality is that I will never get to take my child to Milky Lane Ice-cream like my dad took me every Sunday or meander the malls of Sandton with my daughter like my mom did with my aunt and me every Saturday. When you immigrate as a child, you leave your child self and childhood in your home country.
I love the US and there is no place I would rather live but part of me will always feel like I’m missing a piece of me. That piece of me never boarded the plane to the US. I remember going back to visit- I was a stranger in a familiar place. I felt I no longer belonged to the country I was born in but I never truly felt American. After that visit I had an epiphany. I decided that homes are not places, homes are people and although we may move from place to place, we make our homes in people. When I am in South Africa although the buildings are foreign, the family is familiar. However, there is one building that will always be home, no matter how old it gets or how much it changes-my grandparent’s apartment is home. That little apartment, although it only houses my grandmother now, holds my favorite memories as a child-it’s magical. Perhaps its not the building that is home but the memories made in the building.. the smell of cheesecake baking or seeing my grandfather walk through the door with his briefcase…My grandparents are my home. Although my grandfather has passed, I feel gratitude knowing that I will always have those memories to call home and no matter how many times I move, those memories will move with me.
The smell of my grandmother’s cheesecake baking follows me years later all the way from Bloemfontein, South Africa to California as she visits frequently and has passed on her famous cheesecake recipe to me and I bake cheesecake with her every year and sometimes without her since my boyfriend and dad love it so much. I hope one day my son or daughter smells my grandmother’s cheesecake baking in my kitchen and it smells like home to him/ her.
Homes are not places, they are memories and people.