I’m on my way back to you now. Logistically, I’m in the air, somewhere between Baltimore and Houston, bound for the 361, but I like the ambiguity of this beginning, that it could be read by anyone, going anywhere, and still resonate.
I wasn’t sure who to address this letter to. Do I write it to the home I’m leaving, to the city that gets dark at 5 o’clock, maybe with a list of instructions like ‘be sure to water the plants’ and also ‘keep an eye for Kevin, make sure he eats some vegetables’? Or is it to the home I’m going back to, the one that sometimes doesn’t feel like home but other times I miss so much my chest hurts? Is it to Texas, in general, which, these days, feels like it represents a state of existence just as much as it does a state of the union? Or is to Victoria, specifically, the hometown I’ve visited fewer times in 2017 than I have my dentist? (That’s an unfair comparison; I had a bunch of dental work done in the early months of 2017) So we’re going with the generic ‘Home,’ gender neutral and non-conforming.
I’m a little nervous. I’ll be home for just about two weeks, an amount of time that’s become somewhat of a tradition. Every year, I try and prepare my parents for the reality that not every working adult gets a full week off between Christmas and New Year’s and the option to work remote the rest of the time. Every year, I try and plan for a shorter trip so I can get back to D.C. and make it to the Demarees annual New Year’s Day brunch and have a few days to unpack and sort out my life before jumping back into work. Every year, I say “this is the last year I’m doing this.” And every year, I book my flights and find that I’ll be home for nearly two weeks.
To start with, there’s the logistics. Its like one of those math riddles you had to solve in school that you never thought would apply to real life. If Madelyne will be gone for 16 days and has two free checked bags for flying Southwest, how much can she pack? She’ll need clothes for working out, going out, dining out with friends and family, random coffee meet ups, Christmas Eve and Sunday masses (of the two dresses I packed, I’m just now realizing that the short one with the over-the-knee boots might not be appropriate church wear), and daily wear even though she’ll probably spend her entire trip in the same t-shirt and leggings. She’ll also need enough space to bring back any number and size of Christmas presents. She hates packing and is allergic to cats. She also refuses to just buy the toiletries she’ll need from H-E-B once she arrives.
There’s also the fact that, every year, defining home gets a little more complicated. Another year and one less person is living at home. Now it’s just Mom, Dad, and the cat. I have a D.C. driver’s license. I’m baffled that there’s only one Starbucks for the whole town and I have to go for long walks to keep my leg muscles from atrophying.
This will be the first Christmas without Momo. For years, I’ve been tacking on extra days on visits to Texas to spend a few days in Victoria at Mom’s warning that this might be the last time I see my grandmother. When I got back from Spain, Momo clutched my hand dramatically and said, “Ah, I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again!”
My first thought when I got the call earlier this spring was surprise. I think, somewhere along the way, I stopped taking the warning seriously, figuring that “this may be your last chance to see Momo” was just one of those Thibodeaux family saying like “offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory” or “you might be allergic to crawfish.” I honestly thought she was going to outlast us all.
For me, home is a slippery thing. I’ve had homes in College Station, in Montana, in Spain, in San Francisco, in the hill country at camp and in Aunt Mary’s guest room in Dallas. Despite my very best efforts, I find myself putting down the tiniest slivers of roots in D.C. I (mostly) know my way around the city (with the exception of Dupont; I’m always afraid that I’m going to get trapped in the innermost lane of the circle and never be able to get out, and I never pick the right Connecticut) and the people at the coffee shop across from my building know my order.
I think this is just another one of those phases of growing up. I don’t like growing up.
I also think home, like family, is one of those things you can choose. Every year it’s different–there’s not nearly as many Sonics as when I was in high school–and so am I–I did not realize how much coffee I drank until I had to drive to the northside of town for a skim latte–but I’m glad that, for at least one more year, this is the home I choose to come back to.
See you soon,