The summer of 2019 has been a long summer for us. Our family moved to Dallas in November 2017. However, after nearly two years and three houses, we don’t feel settled yet. One would assume that the three-houses part perhaps has something to do with the not-settling-yet part. Perhaps that is right.
We move a lot. There’s a saying in Urdu, the native language of Pakistan, ‘Harkat main barkat hai.’ That translates to “there is much blessing in movement.” One would assume that our family would have gained a lot of blessings — or barkat — so far.
However, I feel we have gained a lot of isolation as well. We have lived in four different countries, nine different states and countless different addresses in the past three decades. We have moved because of jobs, education, illness in our extended family and in hope of better communities.
We haven’t stopped moving in Texas either. Our first house in Texas was an older rental in Richardson with a lot of plumbing and heating issues — we had to break the lease and move out. Our neighbors there were older. I feel that the fences around Texas backyards — a feature not found in the houses in the Northeast — contributes to the isolation factor. The situation in our next home, a condo I had bought in midtown Dallas, wasn’t much better regarding our interaction with the community around us. Our final stop in our journey so far in Texas is a single house in Garland. It’s in a brand-new community with relatively few neighbors and rarely seen children. Sometimes, I wonder if the Pied Piper came along and took all the children with him.
That brings us back to this long summer. There was not much I could do regarding summer camps for my children. With three children, camp was expensive and didn’t have qualities I was looking for. So besides some out-of-town trips, we stayed cooped up in our brand-new development trying to mind a teenager and his younger sisters while at the same time trying to boycott cellphones, social media and video games.
I felt that I took a trip to the other side of sanity and back. When the heat would relatively subside in the evenings, our family would walk around the vast and empty spaces among the houses under construction. We would try to figure what connection we had to this land or the people around us. Where do we fit into this large city and all the mega-mosques around us? Wouldn’t it have been better if we were in a smaller city with a smaller population and a smaller mosque? Maybe someone would have noticed us and made us feel welcome.
God says in the Quran: Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow, then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter, there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion. [57:20 – Translation by Pickthall]
Is the life around me really a series of rapidly changing images, an illusion, and is that why I never feel connected to it? Has God destined for me to be always on the move and thus never develop love for this world? Would I get a chance to ever grow roots and call some place a final home before the final home?
I don’t have any answers yet, but I persist finding out what those are.