You know the one about being home for Christmas, if only in your dreams. You’ve seen that Folger’s commercial where the guy is home from college or the Peace Corps or prison or whatever and he sneaks in and makes Folger’s to surprise his family. If someone snuck into my house and made me Folger’s, I would kick them right back out into the snow and tell them that Starbucks was just a few blocks’ walk, but the commercial family seemed all excited so there’s no accounting for taste I guess.
Anyway, holidays and home are apparently like peanut butter and chocolate only even better (although it’s not physically possible for anything to be better than that) but I just don’t feel it. I have exactly zero urge to be at some vague location known as “home” for any period in December. I think of home as, well, my house, but I’m thinking that’s not what the song means to say, because how hard is it to just be at your own house? You simply have to not go anywhere. I’m really good at that.
I’m assuming that “home” is where you grew up, or barring that, where your parents live. Although I also don’t get why grown people would consider their parents’ house their home when they have homes of their own. It’s not that I’m judging, I just can’t relate.
We moved a lot when I was growing up. And by “a lot”, I mean we moved all the time. It was as though we were on the run from the law, but I don’t think that was the case because we seemed to end up back in the same places again and again. At one point, the moving got to be so much that my parents decided that going through the trouble of looking for a place to live and then dealing will selling the house with every moving whim was too much and they bought a fifth wheel travel trailer so we could live wherever we happened to drive.
Looking back, I realize my parents were crazy people. My sister and I shared the roll-out couch in the teeny living room as our bed. And if you think that the roll-out couch of a travel trailer is comfortable, then you’re as crazy as my parents. I don’t even know where we kept our clothes, although I know we didn’t keep much else in that place.
Taking us in and out of schools would have also been too much trouble, so instead my mom home schooled us. You don’t know how funny that is if you haven’t met my mom. We did our school work at the flimsy table in the tiny kitchen. You know the table I’m talking about. All the RVs have them. They are covered with this plastic fake-looking wood grain, flip over to provide additional sleeping space, and have a little curvy booth for seating. This is where we sat, all day every day, and did our school work.
It’s not a home I really care to go back to.
So, forget nostalgic memories of home pulling me back for the holidays. There is no home. There is no nostalgia. And there isn’t really even a “place where parents currently live.”
When I think of my parents, I think of my mom and my stepdad. They got married when I was four. However, they divorced when I was 18 and I haven’t heard from my stepdad since. Actually, I did talk to him on the phone for about five minutes ten years ago. He was probably too drunk to remember it. I couldn’t tell you how to find him. Or for that matter, how to find any of the people I called aunt, uncle, or cousin while I was growing up. So much for family.
I also couldn’t tell you how to find my biological father. Or any purported family therein. Actually, I could probably figure out how to find him, but I wouldn’t want to, so I won’t. Not many thoughts of home there.
Which leaves my mom. She doesn’t actually have a home at the moment. She’s living with her parents after a spectacular burst of deciding not to work anymore. Because it didn’t make her happy. Of course, living with her parents doesn’t seem to be making her happy either, but you take what you can get when you decide the working life just isn’t for you.
So, there is my grandparents’ house. Actually, I love their house. I think I love it most for staying put. My grandparents lived there when I was born; they live there now. Some of my earliest memories are of that house. My mom lived there when I was tiny after she split up with my biological father. When I think about that house, I can understand a little what people mean when they say they’re going home for the holidays. It’s just glimmers though. We moved around too much for me to have spent any length of time there growing up. But every time I went back, it was always there. The same as it ever was. Same as it still is.
My mom called me tonight: “So, I guess we’re not exchanging presents this year.” Huh? I told her that of course I didn’t want her to get me anything, as she’s short on money with no job and all. “No, I want to buy presents, but I don’t have any money. So, I guess we’re not exchanging. That’s why I called.” I told her that I got her presents and they were already mailed, but that I didn’t get her things because I was expecting an exchange. God, why does Christmas have to be about obligation and reciprocity anyway?
I’m not going to my grandparents’ house for Christmas. I would like to see my sister and my niece, but when I think of going there, I don’t think of going home. I think of the overwhelming stress of my mom and relatives I never see and playing some part that I don’t know how to play. I can visit my sister when things are quieter, when we can spend time together without all the distractions of the holidays.
Instead, I’m going with P. to his parents’ house. I don’t think he thinks of their house as “home”. It’s not even the house he grew up in. But the house will be full of his family, and we can relax in our pajamas all weekend. Last year, we even made a liquor store run in pajamas. It will be warm and comforting. The stay I mean, not the liquor.
It’s not as though I feel like I don’t have a family. Well, actually, sometimes it does feel that way. My mom, for all she tries, needs parenting herself. I’ve been closer to my sister this last year than I ever have, but that’s still new. “Family” and “home” don’t bring up warm, fuzzy memories for me. Instead, they make me feel alone. And if I went “home” for Christmas, I would feel alone there. I don’t feel alone with P. I feel loved. I don’t feel the pull of obligations and roles being the responsible one. I feel like me. And it feels like home.