Fresh pine trees, crisp winter air, the smell of chimneys and the hope for snow are how I spent the last 19 holidays of my life.
This year, for my 20th birthday, I have no childhood home waiting my arrival with a tail-wagging black and white Sheltie to welcome me.
I don’t even have the dog.
My mom always promised she would keep our home until I graduated from high school. I swear the day I did, she was planning her way out of our 3,000-population town.
Wrightwood, Calif., my favorite place in the world, I am now a visitor rather than a local.
For the last two years of college, some of my most ecstatic moments were the days I got to drive up the curved road to my mountain. Some of the more heart-broken were the days I had to return to school. Even though after about 24 hours of settling back into the realm of Chapman I was fine, the change between home life and school life was hard for me to embrace.
Now, having no defined home, those lines have blurred. I now live in a house in Orange where I have all of my things, even packed boxes of childhood memories in the garage, so that serves as home for the most part. Then, there is my mom’s new house, which I like to consider a home even though she rarely cooks for me now, and I sleep on a futon. Then there is Wrightwood, which I will forever call home, even if I have no physical place to rest.
But where does that leave me for the holidays? Where does that leave the rest of us when decisions are made without our consent now that our attention is focused on this new life called college?
For me it was the move. For others it could be a parent’s divorce, a grandparent’s death, or being unable to afford a plane ticket home that will make this holiday a challenge.
I guess the best solution is to embrace the environment you find yourself in this holiday season. Or, make plans to do something you know you love. This December, I’m taking a road trip up the coast instead of sitting in Orange while my friends are all over the country.
Now is the time for new traditions. This age brings freedom and the choice to spend time where we want and with whom we want. I still choose family for the holidays. That road trip is with my mom. Good friends and family are still cherished regardless of location.
See this holiday’s challenges as an opportunity to grow, to become stronger and more independent, to create a life of your own.