planes, trains, automobiles

These next few weeks, millions of young professionals are heading back home for the holidays. These are funny times for us; we’re used to our own agendas, our own apartments, a faster pace, and spending more time with friends than family. But without our own little families yet, we inevitably head back to the warm nest.

My parents divorced when I was 13, and my childhood home was sold when I was about 16. Since my dad moved out of state, holidays are even harder. For me, “going home for the holidays” mostly means being wherever my sisters are. Nothing tastes quite as sweet as when we were kids, but there are still warm fuzzy moments and enough “fun” in the dysfunctional to bring everyone back home, year after year.

It goes something like this:

me and my ma

Everyone declares there is too much food, but we must eat all of it, and have to change into sweatpants. Our parents always make us suffer through a twenty minute photo session in coordinating colors to get just one decent shot for the family Christmas card. (Funny, my sisters and I have no problem taking 18 million pics of ourselves for Facebook, but somehow the family portrait is like Chinese water torture.) Someone always pours her mulled wine a little heavy and has an emotional breakdown. One of the little kids always gets hurt. (And then we always say “its not a party until somebody cries….now it’s a party!”) One person always wanders off and takes a nap. And there is always that weird moment when I realize I’m quite old enough to be at the grown up table, but I still think its more fun to sit with all the rest of the “kids,” where our ages range from 5-27.

Despite then many changes that have occurred in our family make up, and there are more miles to cover to reach home, whenever we’re all back together, everyone eases into their assumed roles. I’ll always be the oldest of the family, the one who talks too much, the baby will always be the baby, even though she’s 22 and graduating college. My mom will always want to snuggle on the couch and dig cold toes under our legs.  At some point, all the women end up in the kitchen, telling stories and laughing together about the men, and the men are outside looking at a lawn mower or a car, or snoozing through the football game.

Everyone thinks her family is crazy. And she’s right. Sometimes at these large family gatherings, I imagine what it will be like to bring home a boyfriend to this mix for the first time. How would I explain our cast of characters and familiar activities?

96 years young!

This is Grandma Great…every year we say it might be her last holiday. Make sure she always has a blanket and a Corona, ask her stories about the Depression. She won’t remember you in five minutes…..feel free to change details of your life every time you speak….

This is the part where the grown men have had just enough wine and are willing to play Dance Off on the Wii for our entertainment…..

This is the part where the little boy cousins get too excited and someone gets hurt and cries. Put the guilty party on timeout….

Now this is when the grown-ups send the kids outside because we’re making too much noise, and we play “three flies up.” Make sure you let the youngest cousin win or he will cry.”

thanksgiving 2010 - when Giants were champs!

I’ll have to have that conversation with a poor, bewildered boy someday soon, but for now, I’m concentrating on soaking up these holidays when it’s still just me, my sisters and cousins sitting at the kids’ table, with no outsiders to explain ourselves to. We’ll play Apples to Apples, sing along to Christmas music, snuggle up to watch “Love Actually,” be kids all together again. And I’ll be thankful for these times.