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Home for the Holidays

One of the reasons I moved back home was to be near my family. After 17 years away, I was sick of literally phoning in my participation for every Rosh Hashanah, every Chanukah, every Thanksgiving, every Passover, and every birthday. And once my nieces and nephews came along, I was really sick of blindly (and probably often badly) shopping for kids I didn’t really know.

Now that I have racked up a decent number of years back, all of this has resolved itself. I don’t take these holidays for granted, but I don’t walk around thinking “I’m here! I’m really here!” with the sense of surprise I did the first few times. I now host or help cook for most holidays, I’ve helped to re-structure some holidays (like making Passover more kid-friendly), and I’ve figured out the family routines for others. And thankfully, I feel much less lost when it comes time to shop.

This year at Chanukah everything came together the best yet, and the night even managed to surprise me a bit, as I felt I bridged time as well as distance. The present I got my brother Steve, for example, was a gentle tease. He howled and loved it, but were I not back in town, I would never have been able to tread the line between gentle tease and mean one.

Then came the phone cord duet. At one point, my brother Steve had to get on the phone, and the phone he got on is the one that has hung on the wall by the kitchen for 47 years. For many years it was the only phone in the house, and its long cord enabled the pacing into the kitchen, halfway down the hall, into the living room, and to the threshold of the family room that is core to my brother’s telephone experience (and, to a lesser extent, mine). Thus, all members of the Goldstein family learned how to climb over and around and limbo under the phone cord while carrying all manner of items. When I caught myself unthinkingly lifting and/or crawling over the cord to take things to people, I realized I was exercising a long-dormant part of my muscle memory.

But the time traveling pinnacle of the evening came when folks were beginning to leave and my niece Maddie rushed breathlessly into the house from outside. “Has anyone seen my dad’s keys?” she asked.

At that point, my mom, my brother Perry, and I all burst into simultaneous gales of laughter that Maddie did not understand. And how could she understand that her bubbie, aunt, and uncle spent years in constant search for her Dad’s keys? She hasn’t been around long enough.

It’s these moments—the times when I am thrust back into my original immediate family—that make the holidays such a hoot.

One Response to “Home for the Holidays”

  1. blg says:

    What a lovely evocative post, Jessica. Thank you for skillfully articulating a part of what it means to be home.

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