Home For The Holidays!
by: Dr. Boogie
When you're a kid, you've got all the freedom that adults wish they had, and none of the responsibilities. The catch, however, is that you've got to obey whatever rules your envious parents decide to lay out for you. Make my bed? Clean up after myself? And what's this about raking leaves? They need to remain on the ground so they can compost properly. Wouldn't it be easier to just move to some place where the trees don't shed their leaves every fall? Oh, it never ends. And so, you dream of how you're going to get a place of your own someday.
Fast forward a decade or two (or let's be honest, three) and you're finally in that place of your own. It's great, isn't it? You get to stay up as late as you want, go out for as long as you want, eat whatever food you want, and all you had to do was get a job and start shelling out your hard-earned cash to cover rent, utilities, food, gas, etc. You've been away from your family for quite a while, if you're lucky, and you're actually starting to miss them. As luck would have it, you've been working at your crappy job long enough to obtain a few vacation days, so you get the bright idea to use them to go visit your family for the holidays. Maybe a few years from now, you'll have saved up enough money to go somewhere nice, but for now, you'll have to settle for sleeping on the couch at your parents' place in the boonies. Sounds like fun, eh? Well here's what you can expect during your trip, Mr. Optimism:
At the Airport:
9/11 changed everything, people. Pre-9/11, you could actually follow a loved one onto the plane, wish them luck, and then take home an emergency slide as a souvenir. Nowadays, just to get on a plane, you need two forms of ID, plastic shoes, and a skin tone no darker than Bungalow Beige. Because of these new security procedures, you'll want to get to the airport nice and early. Consider camping out in front of the airport as though your trip were scheduled to begin on Black Friday. And by the way, make sure to check your boarding pass before you get to a security checkpoint. All it takes is a boarding pass with your name misspelled by one letter (i.e., Mr. John Smeth) and you can expect to be on the receiving end of a "random" inspection courtesy of the shaved gorillas of the TSA.
Ah, to be home again. The sights, the sounds, the familiarity, the closeness. Everything is just the way you remember it. Except it's not. In your mind's eye, you remember your hometown as being a place where everyone got along, where everyone pitched in for the common good, and where each neighborhood was really a tightly-knit community of folks sharing baked goods and recipe tips with one another. In reality, though, your parents were only friends with a handful of people, and most of the friends you made in town were just kids that you hung out with while your parents were out having real fun. And remember that old crank that lived down the street? The guy who never talked to anybody else and only set foot outside of his house to get the paper/mail/groceries/more cats? Well it turns out that he was a real trendsetter. Now, none of the neighbors talk to one another. Why? Simmering resentment over noisy kids, or a lawn that desperately needs mowing, perhaps. And they don't see you coming to see them, so why should they come to see you (and who goes to talk to complete strangers, anyway? What a bunch of weirdoes)? Oh, and your favorite places to eat all closed down. Welcome home.
Like your hometown, you remember your family fondly. You and your dad used to throw the ol' pigskin around the backyard for hours, and when you finished, your mom would make a hearty meal that everyone could enjoy. That's what we call "nostalgia". It's a fancy way of saying "forgetfulness". You fondly remember playing catch with your dad, but you glossed over the fact that your games were always cut short when he would have you give him a ride to his favorite bar for a "cigarette break". And your mom was a great cook, but whereas traditional cooks use raw ingredients and a range, your mom managed to do all that using only a minivan and the drive-thru at McDonald's. Mmm, them's good eats, and you can look forward to more of the same for the big holiday feast.
And then before you know it, your vacation is over. Your family gives you a ride to the airport, and you try not to bolt through airport security just to get away from those same people you were looking forward to seeing just a few days earlier. You realize just a little too late that a little bit of those people goes a long way, and now you remember why you moved away in the first place. You can't wait to get back to your dingy apartment back in the city. But alas, the cycle has already begun anew. You're reflecting on the good times you had with your family (seeing them again, exchanging stories, etc) and you've already started to forget about the bad times you had with them (the arguments, explaining how the VCR works to your dad, etc). You're probably already thinking about when you're going to come back for a visit. You're a sucker, you know that? Happy holidays.
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