Surreal things that happen when you're home for the holidays
Two years ago, I made the decision to move to New York City from my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland, where I had lived for 17 years. My life needed a kick in the butt, both personally and professionally. Relocating to a brand-new city in a brand-new state was an exciting challenge, the next chapter in the book of my life. But I’m not gonna lie: It was a little scary, too. I spent those first few months totally homesick, and I still sometimes am. Being without a car means I have to rely on more expensive means of transpo if I want to get back, and as a young adult still trapped under the weight of student loans, visits can be few and far between. Sometimes it’s even a little jarring to return home and remember who I was and what the heck I’m doing here. For those of you who don’t get back to the family crib as often as you’d like, it’s good to know what to expect before walking through the door.
Everything has changed and nobody thought to notify you.
Chances are your parents engaged in some sort of home improvement since you’ve been gone. Mine are avid fans of HGTV, so I have returned to a freshly painted living room, new hardwood floors, and a completely revamped bathroom—in that order. (If you’re lucky, your old bedroom hasn’t been transformed into a home office/craft den/dad’s new man cave.) Even so, your neighborhood offers no such promises. There’s every likelihood the IHOP that served as the late-night hangout spot for your high school friends has been replaced by a CVS. One of the most exciting additions to my town was a drive-through Starbucks, which sort of says everything you need to know about my hometown. But I am going to appreciate it when I have to catch my train back to Penn Station at 6 in the morning.
You suddenly remember ALL the weird quirks of your childhood home.
It’s easy to forget all the differences between your childhood home and your current domicile—too easy. Dangerously easy! Remember that sensitive shower knob in the bathroom? No, of course not. In my current apartment, I’m lucky if the water temperature reaches warmish, especially if more than one person in the building is showering at the same time But, at home, the water goes from lukewarm to scalding in five sec—ouch. Oh, yeah. The only time I have to worry about the water suddenly reaching arctic levels at my parents’ house is when somebody decides now is when they need to do the laundry.
People from your past still live here.
I hail from a small section of suburbia, so every time I show my face in public, I’m bound to run into someone I stood next to in chorus or towered over in basketball. Once I was on a date at the local movie theater and I literally saw this kid I used to babysit for—who was also on a date at the movie theater. This was weird for all sorts of reasons, but hey, other people grow up, too. I just didn’t remember this former-child-whose-upbringing-I-take-some-modicum-of-credit-for’s name. Long story short, we didn’t even bump into each other. In all likelihood, he didn’t remember the small-but-pivotal role I played in his life, either.
Time loses all meaning, and then come the naps.
Time just seems to slow down when you leave behind your normal routine. In my everyday life, I have the internal clock of an old lady: early to bed, early to rise. When I was home for Thanksgiving, I slept in until 9:30 one morning and it was AMAZING. I’d been so used to waking up before the sun that I’d forgotten what it was like for the sun to do the waking first. Also, naps. Oh my god, naps! Those have become a distant dream, so I will happily fall asleep on a beanbag chair in the middle of the afternoon. Of course, those extra Zs mean I am wide awake into the wee hours of the night, relying on stand-up comedians to lull me to sleep. (Fun fact: Chelsea Peretti’s voice is surprisingly soothing.)
Suddenly, nothing else matters but your family.
If your family is anything like mine, there are special traditions you keep around the holidays. This can be anything from picking out a Christmas tree to baking cookies to decorating the cat’s carpet tower. My sister and I start planning which film (or films) we’re going to see months in advance. And once there, there’s a ritual in buying the popcorn and choosing the best seats together. I’m not even bothered by people whispering or the glow of iPhone screens. The most meaningful part about being home is seeing my family, because as certain as some things do change, some things stay exactly the same.