Home for Christmas
When I was very young, living in various places across the US Midwest, I knew one thing to be true: the real Christmas was in Chicago. Everywhere else just thought they knew what Christmas was. I, on the other hand, knew the truth. I knew the magic and wonder and love of Christmas was found on the gray and slushy south west shore of Lake Michigan. No matter where we were, we would pack the van, drive hours and hours, have breakfast at McDonald’s on the way, and finally get to a little white house on Hawthorne where my greatgrandmother, Nanny, lived.
This year, I didn’t get back to Chicago before Christmas. I just didn’t have time. A good part of me longs for the melodic chaos of State Street and Michigan Avenue. Even more than the windows at Marshall Fields or the tree outside the Daley Center, though, Christmas was about coming home to the people who made the rest of the days worth living. The people I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, who know every freckle on my nose and who have heard -or witnessed! – all my embarrassing stories.
One of the great things about being a grown-up, though, is that to an extent, you get to pick some of the people who fit into that category. There is no legal, genetic, or guilt-ridden obligation to choose them. They are merely gathered in and held onto, for all the perfect and imperfect reasons.
I got to go home for Christmas this year, but not to the house on Hawthorne. I got to go home to a few of those friends. Over chips and spinach dip at a TGIFridays in the suburbs, my heart was at home again with Jamie, Chrissy (who now prefers to be called Christine), and Brandon. We laughed and crossed every boundary on “TMI” map and made the waitstaff do more than a few double-takes as they walked past.
As I had expected, I didn’t want to leave them to head home, because as I get older, I realize more and more that my home has nothing to do with where I live. Home is with the people who hold all the little bits of my heart. The place where I feel the most at ease is not in my favorite chair in the basement, but in the company of those who ask nothing from me but authenticity. The home where I grew up is not just the brick rectangle with a single-car garage, but the stories of the people who grew up alongside me. Home, in part, is Jamie, Chrissy, and Brandon.