Home for the Holidays

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Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I knew the holiday season was upon us when my parents pulled out the cardboard record jackets and turned on the over-sized console in the living room. The familiar sounds of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis filled the house, though my favorite was the Carpenters’ “Home for the Holidays.” Maybe it was the idea of being “happy in a million ways” or the anticipation of “homemade pumpkin pie,” but that song told me the holidays were here. Even as a child, dancing along to these tunes with my brothers, I felt the comfort and security of being “home” and of the simple joys that came with it.

Over the years, returning home continued to be a comfort for me. Whether it was traveling back there in a station wagon packed with laundry from college or taking the train into New Haven from my first job 300 miles away, I saw the idea of going “home for the holidays” as more of a certainty than a privilege. The same music would be playing, the same people would be gathering, the same prayers would be said, and the same scents of pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon, and pine would linger in the air. Home was a constant of family and faith.

As an adult, I see how beautiful and complex this idea is and how the definition of home has changed. The places are different, though the feelings we associate with them are not. In the past year, when the familiar became even more so and the appreciation for what we cherish seemed to multiply ten-fold, our homes became our refuge. And now, “home for the holidays” takes on an even deeper meaning as we realize it’s not only the most comforting place but perhaps the safest.

That reality has been tough to handle, breaking the traditions we all knew would evolve but couldn’t imagine being without. My husband and I took a walk around the neighborhood the other night, needing some fresh air as I was feeling a bit melancholy about my brother and his family not coming for Thanksgiving. Rounding the corner back onto our street, Patrick mentioned having to do something “when we got home.” I paused. Yes, when we got home. The structure was there, but more than that, the feeling was as well. Though I won’t be arriving in my parents’ living room with my husband and children decades after I danced there with my brothers, I can still play that same music – albeit digitally and not on vinyl, create those same scents, recite those same prayers, and see at least some of those same people (though virtually) in the place we have created as a constant for our own family.

It is a privilege to be home, and I am thankful for all the places that word has defined for me and for those with whom God has allowed me to share them. Though it may not be the occasion we expected, it still feels so good to say we’ll be home for the holidays.

By Emily Clark, in her column Collecting Moments