So this year, I had the luxury of being able to fly across the country to be home for Christmas. The experience was wonderful, warm, and not entirely unlike some yellow-hued romcom starring Kate Hudson and a handsome guy.
Beyond that, it was Home. That idea means something different to each of us, but for me, it is a very specific set of feelings and identity. Growing up, I had the pleasure/misfortune of never having to move — my childhood, adolescence and embarrassing teenage years were simply split between my mom’s and my dad’s. I grew up with the same friends, doing the same things and revisiting the same places year after year, to the point where the paths in my brain are so comfortably worn in, I can travel to them anytime I want, without a plane. Finally getting to be home for the holidays after a year and a half afforded me the kind of contrast Newt Gingrich’s campaign managers can only wish they had. (Also I went to college with the girl who wrote that article. Deep reference.)
So, here they are: the seven things I think are true that I got to learn at home.
- Keep your friends close…
You’re going to need them when your family gets boring. And having a group of people you can lovingly make fun of while they tell you every time you’re being annoying is the kind of closeness you can find only in those who have seen you at your best and — more frequently — at your worst. They will, however, delight in spending more time complaining about ordering the wrong appetizer than they will in filling you in on exactly how you managed to buy so many drinks last night.
- …And your siblings closer.
If friends are moving with you laterally through time, your siblings are doing so linearly. Middle children, you have the distinct benefit of not only seeing the mistakes you could make play out in front of you, but also, of instructing your younger sibling to not make the same mistakes you did. This goes for everything from saving money to not dating anyone your freshman year of college to not overusing tobacco products. *Ahem.*
- Family is good. Really good.
Make time in your life to reconnect with everybody — cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. They let you step outside of yourself and hold a mirror up to you at the same time.
- Be happy for them, because they’re happy for you.
So, maybe the cousin you got better grades than in middle school is going to make four times the amount of money you make, as soon as he takes his first breath outside of pharmacy school. At least you’re not going bald. It all balances out.
- Know when to speak up…
If a family is supposed to be a group of people who care about one another and look out for their best interests, you have to know when it’s time to open your pie hole and put your foot down. The best thing to do is something we all learned in like, 5th grade: tell the person how his actions are making you feel. With the admonishments out of the way and your feelings on the table, it’s a whole lot easier to find that middle ground and potentially create positive change — if you really do care about each other.
- …And when to shut up.
Maybe you know that one of your neighbors has breast cancer. It’s totally sad and unexpected, and it’s even more of a surprise when you and your brother see her and her husband walking around the neighborhood on Christmas morning. You say it’s great to see them again after such a long time and you ask them how they’re doing. “Good,” they say. “It’s the same old thing around here.” You smile and laugh and wish them a Merry Christmas — and let them enjoy their day.
- Love knows no distance.
Whether it’s a niece who is finally old enough to remember your name, a best friend you haven’t seen in years or a grandmother you might never see again, if the love was there once it’ll be there again. Moreover, it was never gone, you just probably never think about it. I really believe that if you have a solid foundation with someone and haven’t done anything to smash it into tiny concrete bits, you can always go back there. It might take you some time, but you’ll find it again. If anything, I’d say that’s pretty good motivation to at least try. The feeling will be worth it if you do.
What’s weird and hard about all of this, is, like a movie, “Home” now comes to an end for me. It’s not something I can just rewind and watch again — I don’t get to just hop on a plane whenever I want and revisit these wonderful notions, all neatly packed into a visit spanning several days. The places, the people, and the feelings are all so tangible in those visits, but when I’m gone, they exist as shadows, blips on a radar, or that song you can’t get out of your head but don’t quite know all the words to. Groping in the dark, I find them, hold them for a moment and then they’re gone.
So what do we do — we “Homeless” — to keep all of those things alive? For me, it starts with recounting my list of seven. It will end when I see them all again.
Love you guys. Happy 2012.