Monday, December 5, 2011

Home for Christmas

The snow was frigid and dense, so cold it crunched under our boots, that winter in Ann Arbor. Frozen sidewalks in the residential neighborhoods surrounding campus were still thickly plastered, barely bisected by a meandering single file trail packed down by trudging boots heading to and from campus. The streets were empty. The once fairly nice houses in this neighborhood were now all haphazardly cut into apartments and inhabited by students, most of whom were hunkered down with piles of books and notes still studying for exams.

We walked in darkness, except for a few dimly lit front doors or dilapidated porches, the occasional street light and a few strands of randomly placed Christmas lights. It was my Junior year at the University of Michigan, and my roommate Jessica and I were trying to find a fabulous new off-campus apartment for our much anticipated Senior year. This was easier said than done since we were in a town known for its slumlords, apartments the size of closets, and insanely expensive rent. Nonetheless, our future was exciting, we both felt it.

As the path widened, and I stumbled alongside my friend, our giggles and excited banter echoed through the desolate neighborhood streets. The potential apartment we just visited had been unusually amazing as far as student apartments go. It was an old Victorian home, split up into apartments, complete with a huge porch, a once grand staircase to the upper level apartment and a living room that afforded a view of Ann Arbor through a turret. Too good to be true (and it turned out that it was, but that's a different story!). Our pace was quick, honed by miles of treading through campus all day like nomads, while lugging our book-laden backpacks. We were quickly heading back to our apartment, because I was going home for Christmas vacation. My dad was already waiting to give me a ride.

At that time in my life I had two homes, my crummy, yet exciting off-campus apartment and the comforting, unadventurous home of my childhood. During the transition from teenager to adult, I referred to both as “home.” As much as I was torn between them, during Christmas, it was no contest. I craved the home of where my stocking hung over the blazing fireplace, my mom and grandma cook an amazing Christmas dinner, and my whole family gathered to celebrate; I yearned for the home of my childhood.

Every window was lit when my dad and I finally pulled down the driveway. A wave of sweet smelling warmth surrounded me as I stepped from the garage into my mom's bustling kitchen. Even at that hour, she was still finishing the Christmas cookies that she bakes every year. My dad added more logs to the fire in the living room, as my mom warmed up a plate of dinner for me. That year, we celebrated Christmas like many others, eating Christmas Eve dinner around the family table, gathering around the twinkling tree to open presents, holding blazing candles in a darkened church for Christmas Eve service, and then giving up any pretense of adulthood, my brother and would run downstairs Christmas morning.

Though my husband, children and I have made our own home, we still gather around the same table at my parent's house for my mom and grandma's Christmas Eve dinner. No matter where I've gone in my life, or my travels have taken me, I always end up back at this “home” for Christmas.

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