I fly tomorrow, back to San Francisco over the Great Lakes and frigid plains of the midwest.
This year, for the first time since my very inception, I spent the winter holiday not in Connecticut but in Vermont. Rather than the traditional exchange of gifts on Christmas morning, we did so the night before. We swapped morning sunshine for the soft glow of our tree, its lights throwing shapes off the ornaments onto the walls and ceiling. When my sister and I were young we’d have spent this time arranging cookies for Santa, penning a note.
“Santa, thank you for visiting and we hope you have a Merry Christmas. P.S. here are some carrots for your reindeer.”
This year, on the morning of the 25th, we woke early and drove five hours to southern Connecticut where we spent the day with our extended family. Rather than watching the cars stack one-by-one in the driveway and handing out hugs at the door, we were now on the arriving end. Delivering an armload of hors d’oeuvre and hanging our coats on the rack. We spent the night in an Airbnb nearby, possessing no desire to tack an additional five hours in the car onto the end of an already long day.
There is a weightiness to a new reality such as this. Traditions change, inevitably, but not always without sorrow, and especially after three decades in the making. In another time, say three hundred years ago, a tradition like this mightn’t have persisted for such a duration. I might have been half a decade into forming my own traditions, waking to a Christmas morning with children of my own, my partner and I placing under the tree presents wrapped in matte brown paper, tied with twine (or so I envision it).
What I find notable, however, is not the change of routine but more that I will henceforth rarely find myself in the state I’ve called home for most of my life. Connecticut, after all, is not a “destination” state. Connecticut is, save for its residents, largely a state you pass through on your way from one place to another. In conversations at work about upcoming time off, rarely would you hear titters of excitement over vacationing in Connecticut. Will I see my friends in Connecticut less? Will I start to forget the names of roads or the dead-end streets with gates to the hidden fields?
What I’m certain of, despite some of those lingering questions, is that this holiday was lovely. I saw friends, made new ones, spent fun nights with my family in a city I love. And I’m finally certain of the fact that “home” is not rooted in geography or tradition but people alone.