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To My Parents

To Mom and Dad,

For my whole life, you have been my travellers, leaving home for a little while at a time and coming back home with stories and tales of places I never knew. And when you took me with you, you’d read me little bits from the lonely planet or host a contest at meal times for who can present the best fact about where we went that day. But more than the stories, the little facts, the gifts, the best part of your going away was when you returned home–when you would come in through the front door with bag slung over shoulder, wearing the ways the world had changed you. Dad suddenly had a beard, Mom became a shade darker, the weariness in your faces, the jet lag, the immediate comfort in your eyes when you breathed in your own home.
Slowly time passes, and now it’s my turn to leave home for a little while and come back with stories to tell. And I wonder, what will you see when I come in through the front door? I promise you I have not grown a beard, or lost any fingers, or turned into a dragon. I actually seem quite the same. It is in the things that I have learned, though, in the things that I have experienced, that I differ from the Lily that waved goodbye in the terminal. I have learned to do laundry by hand, to shower using only one bucket of water, to wash my hands and feet whenever possible. I have learned to explore on my own, to be in a group, to share space with others around me. I have learned to form bonds and to get lost and be okay with it. I have felt my weakest, my sickest, my most calm, my happiest. I have found my peace and chaos and curiosity in temples. I have looked at my fears in the face and tiptoed along passes in the Himalayas. I have eaten good food and smelled good smells and learned words with many meanings.

So when I walk through the front door, I will look the same. But no matter how much I wash, or how hard I scrub, I will not be able to remove from my skin the dust from the moonscapes of Ladakh, the mud from the streets of Varanasi, the ash of incense from Rishikesh, the paint from Holi in Sarnath. And those layers will be my stories to give you, Mom and Dad, when I arrive home weary and jet lagged, craving a burger and fries. In some ways, this is the first travels of many. For the responsibility to explore, you have passed on to me. It is my turn now to leave and come back, and leave and come back. And sometimes I will be gone for a long while. But know that I will always return, bag slung over shoulder, trudging through your thresholds, with gifts to give and stories to tell you, Mom and Dad.

See you soon,
Lily