This will be my third- THIRD!- year in a row that I’m unable to travel home for the holidays.
Since I no longer work a 9-5 job with set time off (though my last 9-5 only gave me Christmas day off- yes, they were conservative Republicans), money and time make it difficult for me to travel home to New York. Neither Austin, Texas or Syracuse, New York, the cities I fly out of and into have large airports, so the cost to travel between the two can get mighty expensive. Sprinkle in the fact that me and my family (my mother and grandmother) are a bunch of neurotic weirdos (I have a fear of flying, they have a fear of driving 45 minutes away in the snow to pick me up from the airport) and the whole experience becomes more stressful than it needs to be.
None of this takes away from the harrowing guilt (we’re Jews that celebrate Christmas) I feel associated with not going home for the holidays. However, home for the holidays has taken on a different meaning these days. Going back to my very small hometown in Upstate New York in the dead of winter, to no longer see friends due to them moving away or creating families of their own, and to have my mother still put out my stocking as though Santa visited (this part I like) and for us to sit, with my grandmother, and open gifts while our knuckles ache from the cold and our faces look as pale as a polar bear’s ass just doesn’t entice me. We should all be somewhere else, in a warm and more forgiving land where the ICE CLOAK OF DEATH doesn’t befall everyone.
I didn’t understand until recently that this is why I’ve been so depressed during my holiday visits home. That the cold weather and distance from my childhood caused me to write super-emo diary entries and blog posts about how devastated I was to feel something short of extreme happiness during “the most wonderful time of the year”.
For the past 30 years, my family- the three of us- have tried to hold onto my childhood with a vice-like grip during the holidays. Without children of my own, I’m still the child, but without a child home for the holidays and no one to treat me as a child away from home and no child of my own to celebrate with, what is Christmas?
It’s Adult Christmas, that’s what it is.
“Christmas no longer means anything to me without you here,” my grandmother says to me more and more lately, and with each time she says, a tiny piece of my heart crumbles into dust.
I spend a great deal crying over my distance from my family- my mother and grandmother in New York, my father in California. I cry because I’m an only child, and before Geoff, they were all I had. I cry because I kind of like them in addition to loving them (I talk to them daily). I cry because they’re getting older, not in front of my eyes, so when I see them the one or two times a year, it comes as a great shock to me; I’m in complete denial that my mother’s hair is thinning, my father’s skin is wrinkling and that my grandmother can only walk for set stretches of time.
When did it all change?
While I was away.
I’ve been away for eight years.
The momma’s girl, the grandmother’s girl, the girl they were all afraid was too sheltered to leave home, left. She has never been back, but she constantly looks over her shoulder.
But what is there for me back home in Upstate New York? Nothing. No career, no Geoff, no hope. Yes, I said “no hope”! If you’ve been to Upstate New York, you know what I mean.
My family is Upstate New York though and isn’t family everything?
For all of you who live geographically close to your family, count your blessings. You are very lucky to being seeing your family for the holidays.
Now when I hear Christmas music in the stores or watch a holiday-themed movie, I want break down. When I drive by a house decorated in the warm glow of Christmas lights, with a sparkling Christmas tree poking out from behind the window curtain, I can’t help but think, “What happened to my childhood?”