Taskeen Yar Khan joins her mother, Naazish, on Thanksgiving to discuss college, community service, and transitions. Their conversation highlights issues of connectedness in the technological era, and the universal importance of family–regardless of how we define our own families.
This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps. Story production credit: Sydney Jarol
Naazish: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We might not have everyone from our family able to come tomorrow, but our friends have been our family the last two decades that I’ve been here and I think I’m so, so, so grateful for that. I think that makes it so special to be surrounded by the people we really love, and Thanksgiving is such an opportune time because one of my biggest blessings is having you and Yusef for my children. And that’s a lot because when I wasn’t married and I was still in college, I didn’t think I wanted kids. You know, there’s an idea that, yes you have children, that’s the thing to do, but I never saw myself as a Mother, and you and Yusef doing all our activities together, it’s been such a pleasure. Do you remember all the times we did those service projects and I would take you, whether I was doing Meals on Wheels, or I would take you to do stuff with the refugee families?
Taskeen: I remember when you worked with RAP, the apartments that the refugees lived in were always at the top of lots of staircases, so I remember walking up all of the metal staircases to get to their houses to give them whatever we were delivering.
N: So, did that all scare you away from service, or did I pull you closer?
T: I don’t know…Yusef likes service so much and you did all of that stuff with him, and I was not a huge fan of service until I got to do it at the soup kitchen earlier this school year. I enjoyed that service, I don’t know why I wasn’t a big fan of the service that you had us do–maybe because someone was making me do it.
N: What would you say is one of the biggest surprises you got living on campus?
T: College is supposed to be, like, fun and exciting, but it’s not. It’s a little bit like high school–it’s not supposed to be like high school but it is, and no one told me that!
N: You know, my college years were my best years. I still keep in touch with a majority of the girls that I was friends with. Just yesterday I spoke to a friend of mine after twenty-two years, and we were saying how we were in college just yesterday! And now, our children are in college…It’s just surreal because when I think of [my friends], I don’t think of them as mothers with kids who are twenty or eighteen, or whatever. I think of us as we were classmates. We fell right back into a conversation as if there was no gap, and I think that’s what I love most about relationships: we’re friends because we connect at the heart. I love that, I love that part about human relationships because, you know, having moved here, I had to invent my relationships from scratch. When I moved here there was no Facebook. Making a phone call [home] was, you know, once in a month because it was so expensive. Now, being able to call my parents whenever I want, because of “WhatsApp” or Skype, in one lifetime? It’s pretty amazing. You guys are pretty lucky that you have parents here. When I look at you snuggling with Daddy all in the big bed, it really warms my heart to see how close you guys are to your grandparents, your father’s parents here, and I feel so happy that you have that circle of love, you know? Your grandparents have been really, really special. If I were to say ‘thanks’ to one person, it would be your Grandma. She’s really been a second mother to you guys, you know?
T: I was telling Baba, I don’t know what I would do in college if this instant communication wasn’t possible.
N: I’m wondering…you know, when you were cut off we had no choice but to make everything from scratch–we had to do it. I don’t know whether us being a phone call away, a nanosecond away, is what makes transitions harder for kids, because I’m hearing from other friends also that it takes about two years for their kids to adjust to living on campus.
T: I don’t think that’s what it is, because when I stayed away from home for three weeks, I formed more relationships with other people because I was away from home for longer. And there’s people who go home more often than me, and I don’t think that they’re progressing towards independence at a slower rate. They’re still able to make friendships and things like that.
N: Hmm…That can make sense–that emotional stability, maybe there’s something to that. You know, you live close by, maybe you still have that emotional stability but I think the trade-off was that you learned to pick up after yourself, and wake up early, and get your day started; and I think those are good results you’re seeing there
N: It’s always, always a pleasure to have you around. You always make our house a home, Taskeen, you know? You take good care of us, and you’re so chipper, and you just make our house so special. You are the most, most, most perfect daughter
T: Well, you’re the most, most, most, most perfect mother.
N: I love you so much.
T: I love you too.