Isn’t there something wonderful about going home? For me it’s one of the best things about the holiday season. But after living in Iraq for several years, home has come to mean a lot of different things. Now, it’s often the place where I am not.

When I’m at my parents’ house “home” is the place I live and work when I’m not on holiday. During the workday “home” is the living room easy chair and a good book or TV show.  When I am in North Iraq, “home” can be America, and the reverse can also be true. As a consequence of these multiple “homes” I nearly always have another “home” that I’m looking forward to.

This coming summer I will be going “home” to North Iraq. I feel like I have been gone too long. My mediocre Kurdish has become nearly nonexistent. I have forgotten what it’s like to have frequent power outages or to have to go to multiple shops to get my grocery shopping done. I miss the offers of overly sweet chai, fresh baked bread, and hours of conversation in a mix of languages. I’m excited about returning to the challenge of teaching my students to use their brains to the full capacity and learning the glories of spelling all of the words correctly in their papers. My heart is yearning for that home.

This is nothing compared to the yearning of those who are about to return to their homes after being chased out by violent men with violent minds. Some of the Yezidi are now returning to their towns for the first time in almost two years. They will step in to spaces that need rebuilding, lives that need restoring. Both physical and emotional parts of their lives were destroyed. All aspects were disrupted. But they are eager to go back, to put life back together. Who doesn’t want to go home?

It’s not a fair comparison really, my return and theirs. Mine will be fairly easy. Get off a plane, take a taxi, unpack suitcases, and resume life. I have very little rebuilding to do. Theirs will be much more complex and must less of a sure thing. But both of us have at least one same thing to look forward to. We have the same somewhat life stabilizing force–school. The familiar grind of a day of learning, adapting, writing, and trying new things. That commonality between our lives makes me happy. I rejoice to know that, for some of those families, home will now include a school and a better future for their kids. I’m glad that something can be normal for them.

After all, normal is part of what makes “home.” Familiarity, comfort, routines and patterns. And so, sometimes “home” is a classroom — desks, chairs, books and pencils. I know my classroom is a home for me and my students. I look forward to my home in North Iraq. And isn’t that how we all should live—looking forward to our eternal home?