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.