The holiday season is here, and, for many of us, that means going home to the places and the people that have been watching us grow up. Returning home means running into everyone I never wanted to see again at one of the five bars in my hometown and having to relearn how to drive a car after months of walking and taking the subway. It means getting to eat my mom’s bombass breakfasts and snuggle with my cat whenever he lets me. It means spending every second with my siblings and every other second fighting about something stupid like the correct lyrics to the final song in School of Rock and whose turn it is to get the Wheat Thins from the pantry. Going home reminds me that I’m still a kid because my apartment does not have a pantry, my apartment does not have a family, and my apartment is not my home.
When I return to Texas from New York, I will cry. A lot. I will tear up on the airplane. I will cry when I get picked up from the airport. I will cry when I hug each of my siblings and my mom for the first time seeing them. I will probably cry when I snuggle with my cat. I might even cry when I see my brother’s dog. I will definitely cry when my mom, sister, and I have our hot tub, wine-drunk night which is historical for the amount of tears shed.
I will cry because I have missed these people who know me better than anyone and who have loved me the longest, but I will also cry because I know and they know that our Christmases are not the same as they once were. We’re all homesick for a place, a feeling, and a person that won’t be there, and these people– my silly, obnoxious family– are the only people that know exactly what I’m missing. We will each try to make up for our dad’s absence in different ways. We’ll grill the steaks he would have made. We’ll wake up to loud Christmas music and fresh coffee, and march down the stairs as a team like he would have asked. We’ll revisit home videos and family photos, sharing memories both old and new. And in our holiday drunkenness we will “pour one out” for dad as we so often do.
Even though this is Christmas number five without him, it doesn’t get easier. We have new traditions now: Instead of a star or an angel on top of the tree, we put a picture of Deb (my mother) because she’s an angel for putting up with all of our shit; since I chose to attend a Christian university, I am now forced to say every prayer at every family get together (a job that once belonged to my dad); we live in a house that has never experienced the spontaneity and acapella dinner performances my dad was known for, and it makes me a little sad. It’s not that these new things are unwelcome; it’s just that I will always feel like someone didn’t show up even after rsvping yes.
Living far from home makes homesickness common- I’m constantly missing my family, my college friends, the Texas weather, and Chickfila, but it’s these times where everyone is on some kind of journey back to their past, to traditions they’ve held since they were babies, that I know part of what I miss and what I can’t wait to get home for won’t be where it’s supposed to be, where it fits perfectly in my memories. Thank God my dad taught us how to laugh and cry at the same time (while wearing a shirt with a golfing dog on it).