Four years ago, I was finishing the first term of my exchange year to England. While I loved England, by the end of November I was so so so homesick. I listened to "No Place Like Home" about a thousand and one times a day. I probably drove my flatmates crazy, but they were polite enough not to say anything.
That year, like this year, I will be heading to Florida for Christmas, where I will be staying at a resort with my entire extended family (all 19 grandchildren + 1 fiance, 6 daughters, 7 sons-in-law, and 2 grandparents). It's going to be crazy and awesome and so so much fun.
Last time, all of us remarked how strange it felt to be on the beach Christmas day, instead of sitting in front of a fire, watching the snow fall. It got me thinking about the places we call home, and whether they would have any meaning, were not for the people we share them with. I know that I am certainly attached to sleeping in my own bed and having my own bedroom, but the thing that really keeps me coming back to Ottawa (and the reason I am trying to find a full-time job here) is my family. I know that on Christmas morning, there will be no place I would rather be than on that beach in Florida.
(Okay, that sounds like just about the most obvious statement of life. But you know what I mean!)
Florida is home, in a way. I've been going there literally since I was in the womb. But more importantly, it's where my family goes, it's where they've always gone.
Even though my family can drive me crazy, being around them reminds me of a part of myself that sometimes gets lost in the hectic pace of my day-to-day life. While they aren't always up-to-date on what's going on in my life, they know me in a way that most people will never get a chance to. I feel more "me" around my family (I also feel more aggravated and insecure--but that's a whole other post!). My cousin remembers the time I fell out of bed for apparently no reason. My aunt remembers the phase I went through where I wore all black and was extremely sarcastic. Most importantly, they all have stories to tell about my mother, which I use to discover parts of her (and myself) I either haven't learned or never got the chance to discover. It's a wonderful way to discover the past, but I also know that in learning more about myself, about where I come from, I also am discovering the future, in a way--does that make any sense?
Sometimes I can feel so lost, like I don't even know who I am or what I want out of life. My family can't provide that answer for me, but they can remind me of who I will always be: a part of that family, and their crazy traditions and embarrassing sing-a-longs and an apparently genetic preference for luxury brands and anything in a little blue box. They are a part of me, and I am a part of them. That sense of belonging is so important to me, I don't think I could trade it for anything.
Four years ago on Christmas Eve, we were sitting in church, taking up about four whole pews. My Dad looked at me, then looked at my grandparents, and said: "Think about it. We're all here because of those two people right there. They've created a legacy."
It was a lovely way to describe exactly how I was feeling.