Leaving Home Behind to Come Home | by NJ Family Photographer Pamira Bezmen
That place that is warm and safe. That place we run to for protection and love. The one that comes to mind when we close our eyes and imagine happy memories: HOME.
Having grown up in Istanbul, cradled in the secure arms of my loving parents, I only had abundant confidence and passion to fly solo, be free, explore the world, and stand on my own two feet. After college I came to the United States for my master's degree, and refused all helping hands and gentle suggestions from my parents to reach out to their influential friends in case I needed help with anything. I was pretty sure I would not have a situation that I could not solve on my own. Time proved me right.
18 years later, I am still in the United States, now as a proud American citizen and a mother, who has ridden a corporate career only to exchange it for the immeasurable satisfaction of family photography. When the plane lands at J.F.K. International Airport, I get butterflies in my stomach. I love that roast coffee smell and the buzz and the immigration officers with the crew cut hair and serious faces. I love coming home to my Verona, New Jersey studio, my breast-feeding crunchy mama friends and the convenience of finding organic food with ease. I love filing my taxes properly and the honor system we have here where other than a handful of corporations, organizations, and politicians, for the most part the general public is made up of good citizens who try to do the right thing. Yes, it's home all right.
But a part of my heart keeps tugging at me. Early in the morning, with the first rays of the sun, I feel a nervous excitement that twists my stomach. My heart has a little hole in it. Distant memories of unconditional love and cheer buzz through my mind's corridors. The people I love. Those I have a soulful connection with. My family... They are far, far away and I am missing out on precious time I could be sharing with them.
I miss my HOME.
... My other home...
The image on the left is my beloved brother and I, in our backyard (1980)
The image on the right is my daughter and my niece, in our backyard (2014)
Our backyard in Istanbul is a nostalgic place for me. Our dad used to take us there to water my late grandmother's rose garden. He cared for those roses as if he could bring back his beloved mom one petal at a time. He would take us along. We would help him water the garden, pick mulberries, and learn that you should never touch a magnolia flower - otherwise it would turn dark where you touched it. We would smell them ever so gently, without touching the tips of our noses on the delicate white petals.
We would pick up figs in the summer and our dad would always bring a rose back for our mom.
35 years later, we bring our own daughters to the back-yard. It's a way for us to travel back in time, to the smells, sounds, loves, and feelings of our own childhood, and also making fresh memories for our children.
Going back alone or with anyone is not the same. Only going to the back-yard with my brother feels this way.
He was my partner who shared those memories and has the same sad-happy sparkle in his eye.
We don't have to speak a word when we go there.
We just BE.
Here and now. Here and in the past. Both at the same time.
Regardless of how American I become and how much I love this land, I will always miss my first home. Regardless of how deep and meaningful new relationships I build, I will always ache for the closeness of my family and first friends in life. And regardless of how much I love being home with them back in Istanbul, I will then miss my life in America!
I am officially, incurably and desperately trapped in the 2-home syndrome.
It's a richness. It's a blessing. It's a privilege. To have two places on earth that I can call HOME. To feel equally loved, loving, and comfy in two places. But it comes at a cost: a part of my heart is always longing for what I left behind in the other home.
(beach bonfire. my sister in-law, my daughter and niece, enjoying the fire after a family dinner on the beach.)
Whether it's a good thing or not, I sucked my daughter into this dilemma as well. I wanted her to grow up feeling at home at each of her homes. So, she has a home in New Jersey, where we live with her father and our cat, another home in Istanbul, where her grandma, uncles, aunts, and cousins live, and she has a third land where her father's family lives, in Puerto Rico.
At 3.5 years old, she is highly aware of the value of her loved ones, and the limitations of space and time. We spent the month of January at our home in Istanbul. At a time she missed her Papi (daddy) she told her grandma that she missed her Papi (daddy) in the US, her grandma tried to calm her down, saying:
"You will soon return to the US and be re-united with your Papi."
"No, grandma, I don't want to go back yet because if I do, I will miss you and my cousin."
Then later at night, as she got very sleepy and craved her night time routine, she'd get sad and nostalgic for her Papi again.
I feel her pain. This poor little baby girl has to split her heart into pieces and always sacrifice the time she could be having with her other loved ones, in order to be able to be with any given relative. If she is with her grandma in Istanbul, she can't be with her cousins in Puerto Rico, and when she is with her Papi and cat Troy in New Jersey, she cannot be with her uncle in Istanbul.
(the girls sharing watercolors in my daylight studio in Istanbul)
(you can see my brother's guitar in the background - it's surely a home full of the arts of all sorts)
My sweet daughter, I apologize to you that this will forever be your reality. We have made choices that make for a tough reality and a scattered family. It may be that you may never ever have all your loved ones at the same birthday party in a given place on earth. For that, I am truly sorry, and I feel your pain.
On the other hand, you will have at least 3 countries on earth that you can call home. You will be guaranteed to be loved and cared for deeply and unconditionally in any one of these places. You will have family who receive you with open arms, and they will share what is theirs with you, and give you a shoulder to lean on. Whether you are physically with them or not, they will always love you from across boundries, mountains and oceans. You will have their memories and hearts with you for life. For that, I am happy and excited for you.
After a month of deep love, special dishes made for us at her grandma's, sleep-overs with her cousin, hanging out with her uncle and aunt while I held photo sessions in my Istanbul studio, Shaya had to pack up and say goodbye to her loved ones.
After a 10 hour flight, she was excited and thrilled to be re-united with her Papi.
We had once again left home, to come home.
Until next time, everyone. We miss you already, and we know you miss us. And soon, we will leave home again and come back home to your arms.