Looking through my maternal grandmother’s 80th birthday pictures, makes me think about a little dilemma I have every couple of months or so.
Being a student overseas, I travel – A lot (well, at least I’d like to think I do). 5 months at school, and holidays elsewhere (as we are kicked out of dorms). Factor in flights to and from home/summer jobs, with layovers in different places (depending on which airline provides the cheapest flights) – this is especially true when you’re working on development. It can be London one time, Nairobi once and Doha another. So as any intrepid traveler can tell you, it is expected to bring back souvenirs for relatives and friends. This is where it gets complicated. What can I buy for my 80 year old grandmother? My 19 year old brother? Will it fit in my bags? And the biggest question of all: Can my tiny self actually carry all of this? But when I started asking my grandmother the questions, I got some very interesting replies.
When I asked her, months ago, “Do you want me to buy anything for you?” The answer is almost always a, ‘No.’ But then she doesn’t tell you anything else. And I will think, ‘does she actually want anything?’ I’m returning from exotic places, doesn’t she want to see something new?
But as I spend my time abroad, I discuss this with my friends. And we realised, when you’re home, what your family truly wants is present in the way they treat you: They’d prefer it if you stayed at home with them, ate meals with them, ran errands with them, and they shower you with your favourite foods.
So what exactly is it they want?
They don’t want gifts, wines from France, or even lamps from Dubai. All they want is for you to be there with them, spending the short time you have with them. They want you. Your love and in turn they give you theirs unconditionally, if only for four weeks in a year. And then they give you up to the world – again – because they want you to make a life for yourself, and make them proud.