Growing up as a third culture kid has its advantages. You get to travel the world, always have new people to meet, and are constantly exposed to new and different cultures. It’s only when you turn 18 and headed off to college do you start noticing the drawbacks. Specifically, having your family separated by thousands of miles and more than a few timezones.
I lucked out a little since both my siblings and I ended up in the same city. But my parents are still overseas, and the only time we’re all together is when they come to visit in the summers. As a result, my family has grown accustomed to celebrating major events without all of us in one place. All of us kids accepted our college and graduate school diplomas without our parents there to see it. My brother’s entire entourage at his own engagement party consisted of my sister and me. My sister became a mom without having ours around to show her the way. My parents met all of their grandchildren months after they were born. We’ve grown accustomed to it all, but we’ve never been entirely comfortable with it.
That’s why I’m so giddy, and a tad bit emotional, about Eid this year. This will be the first time, in twenty years, my entire immediate family will be together to celebrate. The first time my entire family will go to prayer together. The first time we will all sit down together to have our traditional post-Eid prayer breakfast. The first time we’ll be able to taste those dishes my mom would make only on Eid. The first time ever my parents will be able to see their grandchildren all dressed up on Eid morning. The first time they won’t need me to deliver their Eid gifts to the kids for them. The first time we won’t have to figure out the time difference just so we can wish each other “Eid Mubarak” on the phone. This will be the first time, in twenty years, for all of us to remember what Eid is supposed to feel like.
The excitement of growing up as a third culture kid sometimes gets eclipsed with the realities of being a third culture adult. But despite the steep price, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had growing up in Kuwait for the world. Because not only did it provide me with a unique perspective on the world around me, but it’s given me a greater appreciation for my family and those few precious moments I get to share with them, all of them.
It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t ever be easy. But this Eid, it’s going to feel like home again. And I’ll hold on to that feeling for as long as I can.