This will be the first year of my life that I won’t be home for the holidays. A surprising fact, actually, considering how much of the past 4 years I’ve spent traveling. Somehow I’ve always managed to tumble back home after months on the road, just before Thanksgiving, slightly tanned, sun-bleached hair, exhausted and so ready to be home. Then, after a whirlwind holiday season of dinners, get-togethers and much-needed family time, I’d be off again re-energized for my next adventure.
“It’s not the same over-commercialized holiday that I hate to admit I love back home.”
This year is going to be a bit different. This year I’m in Australia, some 8,000 odd miles from home. The long trip to California is too exhausting, both mentally and physically, not to mention expensive. I wish I could jet home for a long weekend, but its just not going to happen.
The warm weather here has been a sort of mirage, allowing me to trick myself into forgetting about the holidays. We’re gearing into summer here and although the shops downtown have a random collection of decorations and the grocery store plays the occasional Christmas song, it’s not the same over-commercialized holiday that I hate to admit I love back home. Instead of bundling up to go Christmas shopping, sipping hot chocolate around the tree, Australia is donning their sun gear and hitting the beach. This transition into summer has allowed me to blissfully ignore the fact that the holidays are actually approaching.
That is until my mom sent me a photo of my 3-year-old cousin sitting in our favorite café back home, a big Christmas wreath hanging in the window behind him. That one photo was enough to send a sharp pang of homesickness right through me. And I finally had to admit to myself- I won’t be home for the holidays this year.
Luckily I’ll be having Christmas with Jules’ beautiful and welcoming family. And honestly, Christmas in a sundress, BBQ-ing in the backyard, sipping chilled white wine doesn’t sound too bad. Thanksgiving is going to be the tough one. Thanksgiving dinner is always held at my parent’s house. Aunts and uncles come out from the woodwork to celebrate being together. This year my cousin and his family are coming out from Colorado. There’s always even a few orphaned strays that get thrown into the mix. The more the merrier.
The day starts early with my mom working tirelessly, baking and mixing and mashing. There’s always a few turkeys cooking at once, one always ends up burnt (it’s tradition). Another is slowly lowered into a deep fryer in our driveway by my dad and brother while we all secretly pray the whole thing won’t explode. The boys play beer pong in the garage while the women gossip and sip wine inside. There’s always a mad scramble as we realize our 4 o’clock dinner has turned to 5 and then 6:30. We eat until we’re stuffed and almost forget but always remember to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. It’s pretty much the perfect holiday.
“A whole decade of laughs, leftovers, toasts, games and some of the best damn friends I could ask for. “
But Thanksgiving doesn’t end there. The day after is Second Thanksgiving. This small tradition of our few close high school friends reuniting for a thanksgiving feast during college breaks has now turned into 30+ people crammed into my friend Corey’s dining room and living room. This is the tenth year in a row we’ve had this event. A whole decade of laughs, leftovers, toasts, games and some of the best damn friends I could ask for. A proud Second Thanksgiving veteran, I’ve been to this event every single year since the first. Until this one.
But I’m not going to sit here and feel bad for myself. It’s not called Sadgiving, its called Thanksgiving. And even though I won’t be home this year, I have a whole lot to be thankful for.
I’m thankful that I have been able to be home for so many years to celebrate the holidays. I’m thankful that I have the best family I could imagine waiting for me whenever I do and that I’ve had the same supportive group of friends since freshman year of high-school (or earlier) and that we’ve added some truly awesome additions since then. I’m thankful our bond is strong enough to keep us continuing our traditions well into adulthood. I’m thankful that even though I can’t be home this year, I have such an incredible boyfriend who is putting together a dinner party American-style to celebrate T-day here! And I’m thankful he has such a supportive family who has whole-heartedly taken me in and will be a lovely group of people to celebrate Christmas with.
Sometimes it takes a bit of distance to really appreciate everything you have. Travel has always given me perspective on how lucky I’ve been growing up where I have, with such a great support system. Next year when I’m able to celebrate the holidays back home, I definitely won’t be taking it for granted. Happy Thanksgiving!