Scattered roots

What can I say – I kind of get around.

Having lived in six states over the last decade, the concept of “home” is a bit fuzzy in my mind.

Is “home” where I spent the first 18 years of my life, in Washington state?  And where nearly all of my family lives?

Is it where I live currently, here in North Carolina – a place I like a lot, but where roots are still shallow?

Is it California, where I first lived on my own and made my own “friends family” of wonderful people who were similarly relocated?

Is it Ohio, Massachusetts, New York – all of the other places where the hubs and I still have friends and favorite restaurants and memories?

Home is a complicated concept. I have to admit: I’m often envious of those for whom it isn’t.  For whom “visiting family” means getting in the car and driving for ten minutes.  For whom sports allegiances are an obvious choice.  (Seriously, can I tell you how many times I’ve been accused of being a bandwagoner for attempting to support the local team in a newly-adopted hometown?  I mean, yes, I will always have a place in my heart for the Mariners and the Seahawks and the Sonics – or the legacy thereof, in the case of the last – but I haven’t lived in Washington since I was 18!  And west coast games are never on TV out east!  What’s a roving sports fan supposed to do?)

Most of all, though, I envy people with deep roots because it makes the holidays so much simpler.

Because if there is one time of the year when “home” is most clear to me, it’s Christmastime.  So far, I’m 30 for 30 on spending Christmases in good old Tacoma.  I’ve never even really thought about it.  It’s just Christmas, so I get on a plane and go home.  Christmas Eve with my dad’s side.  Christmas day with my mom’s.  Always the same, for all of my life.  Loud, lushy affairs packed with aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors: my big, boisterous, rowdy family, most of whom I only get to see once a year.  Christmas.

This year, though, I’ll break my streak.  This year, I’m not going “home.”  Like so many married couples, the hubs and I are “alternating.”  So this year, we’ll spend Christmas with his family.

My in-laws are lovely people, so I didn’t think this would really upset me.  Cue: a rather embarrassing episode in which I had to choke back tears in the post office while mailing a box of gifts “home.”

Whoa.  Where did that come from? I’ve always prided myself on my independence.  My wanderlust and six-state roots are badges of honor.  And Christmas is just a day.  Right?

Maybe it’s because 2010 was a tough year for my family.  A couple of months ago, one of my favorite cousins passed away in a terrible car accident.  He was 31, just a few months older than me.  I have so many memories of running around in my grandma’s backyard with him, mischievously trying to cause trouble for the gaggle of younger cousins below us.  He was a firefighter – and a far braver person than I will ever be.  I couldn’t make it back to Washington for the services because I was running the Chicago marathon the following day.  But I should have been home.

Home – there’s that word again.  No quotes, though.  Because sometimes there’s no question where home is.

So whatever home for the holidays means to you: hug your family and friends a little tighter.  And raise your glass to those who are no longer here to celebrate.


30 responses to “Scattered roots

  1. I’m in a similar boat (and in a similar state, both physically and mentally).
    Embracing technology helps. Sending and seeing pictures, voice messages, etc. Think about how better 2011 will be, too! Nowhere to go but up for your family, PLUS you’ll be “home” for the holidays.

  2. Born and raised in Seattle…Seattle is my home for sure. I moved to Portland when I was 19 and I’ve here for 11 years. But Seattle is still my roots!

  3. Big hugs. It’s definitely hard being away this time of year.
    I’d never spent a Thanksgiving OR Christmas away from my family before last year, when we spent Turkey Day with my husband’s family. It was the exact opposite of everything I was used to–instead of tons of people and chaos and shopping and noise, it was quiet and peaceful and relaxing and awesome. So, totally different, but awesome in its own way, and I was totally looking forward to going back this year. I hope you have a similar experience!

  4. ::hugs:: I feel ya. It was easy living in Cali. when we just had to come in and visit both sides in 1 city.
    Home for me is wherever Dan and the chis are. 🙂
    I still prefer to spend the holidays with my parents and family, but I know it’s only right to alternate between the two families.
    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  5. lifeisbeachykeen

    I’m sorry you don’t get to go home this year for Christmas. I suppose I am one of the lucky ones.

    I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I lived in my home town until I was 20, then I moved 45 minutes away, which was pretty difficult at first. Now we live about 1.5 hrs away, but I’m still in my home state, and I’m still w/in driving distance of my Mom, so I suppose I should not complain.

    I’m sure your Christmas will be lovely. You won’t be driving all over the place to get to different family members homes. That’s the only thing that drives me bonkers about Christmas. Rush, rush, rush all over 3 counties to get to various family members homes.

    Happy Holidays, or Merry Christmas, whichever you prefer.

  6. You’ll have a great time with your in-laws and just think how awesome Washington with your family next year will be! You can always come hang out with me in Arlington!

  7. Wow, thats horrible about your cousin. I’m sorry you didn’t make it out there.

    Home is weird for me too….I’ve lived in NC for the last 4 yrs but have no family here which depresses me a bit, lived in AZ before where I have a friends family, WV where I went to college and consider home even though if I only went to college there. Then theres FL where I grew up and my parentals are but I despise Florida. Last is Indiana, where I was born and lived for a few years. Most of my cousins are there and I love it there. I think I mostly consider that home.

  8. hugs to you and your family! home is a complicated word for me too. which is weird because i lived in the same place for 23 years. but to me home is not a concrete location: i have absolutely no problem packing up and getting out of New England (where all my family and most of my friends live). i think home is a state of mind.

  9. You know what’s weird?

    I’ve lived in a three hour radius my entire life, but I still balk at the idea of a “hometown” in large part because I’m not particularly close with anyone where I grew up. Ok, I’m not close at all. I’m within a drivable radius largely because of circumstance, not choice. And it’s weird because for a lot of people I know they literally DO just get in a car and drive somewhere or they’re surprised to hear when I don’t. I’ve had more the last couple thanksgivings NOT going back there and just hanging out.

    I guess I think that a lot of this stuff is…I dunno, a state of mind? I certainly felt weird and uncomfortable when I broke my Thanksgiving streak and am not entirely sure why I didn’t break my Christmas one… because frankly, being here would be more “home”-like. A 30 year streak is a long one; it’s probably not going to feel right til its done.

    This is totally not helpful, is it?

  10. It feels like a real milestone, sad yet understandable…my first Christmas since my daughter was born, celebrating without her presence!
    I will miss you this year sweetheart, amidst all the chaos and fun of Christmas Eve at Grandmas!
    Love from all on the Johnson side of your ‘roots’.
    Love, Dad

  11. I’m sorry sweetie 😦 This made me sad!

  12. Great post Shelby, made me cry…It brought back memories of my first Christmas away from home. I pride myself on my independence and moved out of the country for 2 years. It was too expensive to go home and I didn’t think it was a big deal…until it was.

  13. So sorry for the loss of your cousin, Shelby. Sending prayers for you and all of his family.

    Especially now at Christmas time I find myself acutely missing loved ones who have passed away. Your post reminds me to be grateful that I am close, geographically and relationship-wise, with a lot of my family.
    Even though it’s hectic, we’ll see my and my husband’s families for Christmas and I’m grateful. Sorry you’re missing WA this year.

  14. I’m really sorry for your loss. The holidays following a death are always the hardest. Your family is in my thoughts.

    I haven’t had a stable holiday tradition for years but I always see my family at either Thanksgiving or Christmas or both. But living in Cali means a trip to NYC for Thanksgiving is just stupid. This is the first year my partner and I are not both in grad school together (read: sending every waking moment except in the bathroom together) and so we want to spend our holidays together. So we’re going to her family’s this year, which was so hard for me that I flew home to NYC for 38 hours to see my family. It makes sense that this is hard…it means we have great families!

  15. Thank you Honey……for this post. We are also experiencing new hidden emotions here, knowing you are not going to be home for Christmas. But we are all grown up n0w, right?
    I just want to say that I really appreciate all those times you did make it home and that the hub’s side of the family has been long overdue for having you guys there for the Holidays. Thank you, all of Drew’s Family!!
    We wish you and the hubs the m0st happiest 0f times…. and know you will always be in our thoughts this Christmas! Have fun and make it a good one! You will definitely be missed!
    We Love you!
    Mom & J.
    Who’s gonna pick out the wine???

  16. I feel your pain. This is my second Christmas away from home and it doesn’t really feel any easier. I try to remind myself that it’s just one day… but doesn’t really work since what I miss the most are the traditions leading up to Christmas. However, this will be a really memorable Christmas since it is your first being away.

  17. I’m sorry for your loss as well, Shelby, and though I know it’s meager comfort, you do have a whole network of real people (behind the typefont) who care about you, too. Wishing you and Drew and your many, far-flung friends and family, a happy, safe, peaceful holiday.

    As for my family, we’re all in NJ. And there’s only three of us. Let’s not even begin to talk about what I’d do without them.

  18. your parents are TOTALLY cool. Because what bothers me about “roots” is that sometimes it = “noose.” As in, mom and dad can’t let baby bird fly and so they hang on to the extent that you feel bad doing what a married grownup does…start your own family traditions, switch off or maybe even — have Christmas just the 2 of you. My parents always said “when you get married, the two of you come before everyone else.” Now, my avid pursuit of that ideal meant that they had a few years of me not being around (and them being completely accepting of it at least to me, though I know it was hard for my mother). But as someone who moved around as a Marine Corps kid, roots for me is people and not places. By that standard, based on the comments here, you’ve got some really solid roots.

  19. aww shelby, i had no idea about your cousin. sorry to hear 😦 especially during times like these, being away from home for the holidays has got to be rough. i’m sure celebrating with the hubs’ fam will be lovely though, and make net year all the more enjoyable.

    besides the fact that new york is my home and there’s really no question about it (reading your post made me feel lucky for this lack of confusion), the holidays never cause any sort of interior strife or warm fuzzies for me since hanukkah isn’t a big deal at all and we don’t celebrate christmas at all in my family. aaand i don’t even have extended family, really, except for like three people in jersey and two cousins that live in manhattan who i never speak with or see (sad). so as much as i get the holiday-stress and sadness that many experience, i’ve never personally gone through it. i guess i’m lucky, and sort of left out 🙂

    anywho, thanks for making us think a bit about what and who we have. i like this. and sorry for giving you the pickle-chills with my post yesterday morning. hehe.

  20. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this without going on and on about myself and bawling all over your blog, but let’s just say I hear ya…we lost my most brotherly of cousins last year on the day before Thanksgiving so I have an idea of what your family is going through. Makes the holidays tough, esp when you’re 2000 miles away, but hang in there. It will get better!

    P.S. I love that comment from your mom! =)

  21. I grew up in two different places in Upstate NY, then lived in PA, CO, and now Boston. I’m at least driving distance to home now but I know so much how you feel. There’s something to be said for spreading your own roots and moving from home but every once in awhile (holidays, big family events) I can’t help my depressing crying feeling of maybeeee I’m wrong for being so far. I can’t imagine the first time I spend Christmas somewhere else, meep. I hope you have a lot of fun though and you’ll just appreciate holidays at home even more next year! Feel better!

  22. Oh, I’ve lived in I’ve lived in 3 states and 2 countries in the past 6 years. I feel your pain.

  23. I was born in Washington state, but New England/the general northeast is definitely my home. Gonna be giving some big hugs when I get there on Friday.

    Also, oh boy, this post made me tear up. I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin. Holidays without family can be challenging enough, even without that additional tough stuff.

  24. Awww…your post made me tear up. I also have scattered roots. I like Chris’s family a whole bunch, but it is still weird going to his “home” for holidays when it is his turn.

    Hope you enjoy a new and different Christmas experience!

  25. Your family is so sweet!

    Sorry for your loss. I lost a young cousin in an accident this year, too. He was such a better person then I ever will be even in his short life. Thanksgiving was hard for his family, but I am glad we all together for their sake.

    I don’t envy not being close to family. My brother goes to college here, and my parents and sister are only an hour away. My husband and I constantly joke (sometimes it’s not joking) about moving somewhere with a more moderate climate, but we know we could never be far from our families. His is a long weekend style 6 hour drive away which I complain about, because it means making that drive on Christmas day, but know I shouldn’t because we are able to. At least when the Interstate isn’t closed because of a blizzard!

    You will have a special holiday with the in-laws. I am sure they will make sure it is for you 🙂

  26. I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin Shelby. It’s not fair when someone so young and full of life is taken like that.

    We’re pretty scattered too. We are so tired of the travel we just said screw it, we’re staying put this year. New traditions have to start somewhere right?

  27. Man we were both channeling out Paint skills.

    There are many definitions for home, to me. I feel “at home” in a variety of places–my house, my parents house, my best friend’s parent’s house…

  28. Awful stuff happens and it keeps throwing your life upside down when you least expect it. It’ll be an emotional Christmas remembering your cousin–I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I have the same issues with “home” because I’ve lived in f0ur countries in the last ten years (enough for each to feel like home to me and my husband), plus I moved about a gazillion times with my parents when I was younger. When I go home to Buffalo, it’s odd that my immediate family is there, but not the extended family (which is in Puerto Rico), and that my mom’s house really wasn’t mine for very long, either. However, home for the holidays is where the wine, cheese, and insane amounts of food happen to be; though I’d prefer if that were with the family (in Buffalo? in PR?) we just have to make it happen wherever we are.

  29. I definitely feel your pain. I’m a military brat with family all over – Montana, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Maryland. We are currently camping out on the Washington Peninsula and we are close (ish) to my Dad and some extended family. We went back and forth about what to do for the holidays and we decided to stay home alone. Why? a) we can’t really afford to fly anywhere and b) we didn’t want to play favorites. So, we are hanging out with Pops on XMAS Eve and my grandparents on NYE and keeping Christmas for ourselves – our first married Merry Christmas to make our own traditions and to have a day for us and the beginnings of our happy little family.

  30. I’ve been reading your blog and didn’t realize you were from Tacoma!!! Me too!!! Where did you go to HS ( I went to Bellarmine)? I totally hear you on not being home for the holidays…this year is the second in a row that I’ll be in Atlanta with my husband and his family 😦 Thanks for the beautiful reminder to hug your family and friends a little tighter!

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