Going Home Again

I’m flying back to the Boston area tonight for Christmas with the family and what I expect will be a flurry of friend-activity in the five days out of the year I can see the folks who ended up staying on the East Coast.

I’m sure every college student and twenty-something has experienced the strange dichotomy of the word “home.” My apartment, the place that I selected and decorated and where I cook and sleep on a daily basis, is the home I’ve made for myself. But a few days before flying, “home” switches its meaning and becomes the skinny white house on the corner with the birch tree in the yard. Everyone understands this switch; you know when I say I’m going “home for the holidays” I don’t mean I’m going to sit in my apartment stringing popcorn and cranberries. Around holiday time, this place becomes “here,” and the place I come from is once again my “home.”

I’m lucky, because as much as they threaten, my parents have not yet converted my old bedroom into a home gym. Instead it remains as a kind of shrine to my adolescence. There are still all of the paintings and show posters and postcards up on the walls, the framed awards and plaques, the bulletin boards with phone numbers for people I haven’t talked to in years. In fact, it’s still decorated in a jungle theme from the time we re-did the room and I was twelve and thought living in the jungle would be cool (it is, by the way). My closet still contains costumes from school plays and children’s operas, shoeboxes full of old toys, and far more stuffed animals than I could ever fit on my bed at once.

I can still lock Todd out of his side of the bathroom, but he can still get back in by sticking a straightened paper clip in the little hole in the center of the handle. He’s still got a bunk-bed (OUTED, my dear brother). Our swing-set is gone, though, and my parents have redecorated the downstairs rooms to some degree. The comfy blue wing-back chair I used to snuggle in has been replaced, because it lives in Chicago with me now. I still snuggle in it. The parking lot view I have from it now isn’t really an improvement over my adorable suburban street, but I’ll take it.

I feel lucky to still be able to revisit the house where I set myself on fire at age five. Where you can compare my height to my brother’s by looking at the door-frames in our respective rooms. Where I used to jump on my parents’ bed singing songs written for McDonald’s Happy Meals and where I built some truly sick couch-forts.

But even if I didn’t–even if my parents decided to go out to Bozeman full-time and they burned this mother down–I could do what I’m doing right now: smile at the memories of all the things I did and was able to do because of this house and this family. If it took you this long to realize that this is a sappy holiday post, gotcha. The real thing this entry is about is my family and my community, the friends and neighbors who helped me grow into the happy, healthy, well-adjusted person I am today.

Without all of them–without all of you–that house would just have been four walls. Thanks for giving me a home.

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