Coming home

I was so excited to come home from university for the holidays that I forgot to think about what it would be like when I got here. I was so focused on the idea of eating home cooked meals and sleeping in an actually comfortable bed and seeing my friends and family that I forgot that coming back after four months might be a little weird.

For starters, I think that my cats took a day or two to remember who I was, which was sad. They used to mob me whenever I walked through the door after school. There was other little stuff too, like the way my cereals are missing from the pantry and replaced with strange granola mixes that I assume belong to my dad’s new girlfriend. My car barely started because it had gone undriven for so long, and driving itself felt really strange after spending all semester travelling in buses and on foot.

Visiting my high school was the weirdest experience. I went with a bunch of friends, and we all agreed that we felt distinctly like we shouldn’t have come. The students all looked so young and the school felt so small. Our old teachers seemed mostly surprised and weirded out that we had come.

That being said, I had a nice time talking to my English teacher, who now tells me she is studying to get her PhD so that she can become a university prof. She says that her new AP class is not as good as ours was; she misses the noise and how I would always argue with her. English was a big part of my high school experience; I had the same teacher for three years and almost all of my friends were in that class. It was certainly a rowdy class. We had some intense debates about everything from Shakespeare to dystopias.

Ms. R: Kay they agree with everything I say! I keep trying to provoke them to argue but they don’t even react. One time I told them I thought we should drug everyone the way they do in Brave New World, and they wrote it down.

Kay: What? No one had a problem with that? Plus, I don’t think any of us ever took notes in your class.

Ms. R: Exactly!!

So that was nice. Also, seeing my friends was wonderful. I thought we would have nothing to talk about because we’re all doing different things this year and we haven’t seen each other in four months, but if anything we have more to talk about. I love hearing about everyone’s respective university experiences. I have a bunch of friends in engineering at Queen’s University, and from what I understand it’s basically a cult. They have these purple jackets and they get badges for them by doing stupid stunts like drinking their height in beer and jumping into freezing Lake Ontario in the middle of the winter. They have some great stories to tell.

I think it’s hard for the friends who stayed at home for university. It’s really different than residence, where there’s always a party going on and it’s really easy to meet people. I feel bad talking about it too much with people like Jan because she gets this wistful look on her face and I worry that I’m making her wish she had gone away this year. She says it’s been hard to meet new friends when she’s only at school a few hours a day.

It was nice seeing everyone, but it also made me realize that an era of my life is over. It’s hitting me now what presumably we were supposed to realize at graduation, that high school is really over and there’s no going back. Sure, I intend to stay close with some of my high school friends, but it will never be the same as it was. Never again will I drive the half hour to school in the city every morning. Never again will we hang out in the hallways by our lockers, or in the journalism room. Never again will we have all be doing the same things in the same place. Will we even have anything to talk about years from now?

I’ve always liked  new things, but giving up the old things is hard. I wish that having all of the new friends and experiences at university didn’t mean giving up getting to see my high school friends all the time. I guess it’s part of growing up though.

I think that the most important thing I’ve realized this week is the importance of home. I get what all of those Christmas songs are about now and why Christmas traditions are so important. It was so wonderful to just be at home with my family and putting up the Christmas tree and drinking hot chocolate. My first day at home Pal and I spent the whole day baking Christmas cookies. We were determined to make them exactly like our mom did for years. All those years I remember being annoyed that she made us help, but now I’m glad that she left us a tradition to share.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope yours is full of friends and family and food and laughter. Most of all, I hope you get to be home for the holidays, because it is the best feeling in the world.

A happy (and weird) holiday

I just got home for the holidays, and I’m so happy to be back, but I was also prepared for this to be a pretty crappy Christmas. Or at least a weird one. My dad started dating an old friend from college in the summer, but she lived in a different province so I had only met her like once for five minutes. Two weeks after I left for university, she moved in.

Here’s the thing: I always meant to be happy for my dad when he started dating again. I knew it was what my mom wanted, because she told me. I also knew that my dad was lonely. I seriously thought I was going to be a grown up about it.

The problem is that you can’t control how you feel. In spite of the fact that I knew it was a good thing for my dad, I was mad.  I was mad because she moved in right after I left. I was mad because I barely knew her. I was mad because she wasn’t my mom.

Of course I would never let my dad know how I feel. Not only would it make him upset if he knew, but it’s also completely irrational. I decided that I would just be an adult and be nice to his girlfriend over Christmas holidays in spite of how upset I was.

And okay, so far it has been a little weird. Like it’s weird that there’s pictures of her kids sitting next to the ones of Paul and I. It’s weird that when I can’t find stuff in the pantry she knows where it is. It’s weird that my cats curl up next to her on the couch. But what I’ve realized is that her being here is also so good. The first sign was this morning, when I was listening to my dad work. He works from home and spends a lot of time on conference calls, which can often be really frustrating. I got used to hearing him yelling and seeing him throw up his hands in despair. 

He hasn’t been like since I’ve gotten back. I hear him calmly reasoning with people and that’s about it. That’s just one thing though; there are others. The house is cleaner, and full of more healthy foods than my dad would normally buy. And he has so much to say. He and his girlfriend have all these stories to tell about places they’ve visited and stuff they’ve done. They’re both musicians, so they’re in the church choir together and write music. 

He’s happy, I realized. Really really happy for the first time since my mom died. I forgot what he used to be like; for so long him being sad was the norm. Knowing that she makes him happy makes it really hard to be mad.

It’s still going to be a little weird, but I think it’s going to be a good Christmas, possibly the best in years. It’s been a long time since there’s been real joy in our house at this time of year. I’m ready to enjoy it, I think.