This year I will not be going home.
This Christmas is the first time in my life I will not see my family.
The combination of new job and shameful flight prices to Upstate New York is causing me to travel to Los Angeles instead to see my father. I’m very excited to see him, but considering the unconventionality of our relationship, it will be interesting to spend a holiday with him typically devoted to my mother and grandmother.
Before the arrangements were made to travel west, the idea of maybe being alone for the holidays struck me very hard. It made me contemplate what the holidays mean and made me aware of many newly formed realities in my life. Am I getting to the age where I should be creating my own holiday traditions? Am I at the age where I should actually be interested in finding a partner and having children to form these traditions?
Another reason why I was unable to see my family for the holidays is that my mother and grandmother could not travel down to Texas because of my Grandma’s recent, but chronic back pain. All of these observations have made me realize that life never stops changing no matter how hard one may try to hold onto the little girl who couldn’t wait to see what Santa left her.
Looking back, each year when I would travel home for the holidays, I experienced an array of emotions. My first year away in California found me feeling completely alienated from everyone back home in a self-imposed manner. I had just started working in the film business and was stressed and falsely believed I was somehow better than the town I came from. I felt that no one back home understood my daily struggles in LA, so what was the point of talking about it with friends and family? I found myself missing Los Angeles and wondering if the word “home” could be multiple locations.
After that Christmas in 2004, each subsequent holiday would be very good or very bad. Some years I found myself cursing the only liquor store in my hometown because it closes at 9PM. Some years I found myself care-free and enjoying each moment. Some years I yelled at my mother because I couldn’t yell at anyone else. Some years I just sat in my childhood bed crying and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.
Other emotions and events started to trickle in over the years as well. Watching my hometown regress with intensity. Not recognizing the young people walking through our abandoned downtown with the look of complete apathy on their faces. Sitting in the only coffee shop on Main Street, staring at all the empty storefronts through the falling snow and wondering what town I was in. Realizing that my entire family consists of three people. Feeling Aunt Stella cling to my waist from her wheelchair because she knew it would be the last time she ever saw me. Watching a boy that I thought I loved act with total indifference towards me at our graduating class holiday reunion. Having the 19 year-old son of a diplomat pick me up from the front window of my Grandmother’s boarded up business that she had for 35 years and rocking me to sleep. Sitting at my Grandmother’s perfectly decorated dining room table, trying to drum up feelings of a time long past and wondering why they wouldn’t come. Feeling more and more disconnected from my childhood. Realizing that I am balancing the fine line between childhood and adulthood, even though I’m twenty-something years-old and can’t understand where all the time all went.
After moving to Austin, Texas in 2008, a sense of maturity and hope replaced the feelings of confusion and isolation I felt while living in Los Angeles. These sentiments trickled over into my visits home and with my family. Though dealing with life changes is a never ending battle, I’ve found a way to manage it better than before. This Christmas, being away from my family, will show me how true that statement is…or not.
What does Christmas mean to you now that you’re an adult?