Homecoming. That fabled time where after our journey into the wide world we all dream of or dread for our own reasons. Maybe we left because it was our time to grow up and join the world or perhaps we just needed to get away from someone or something. The reasons matter only to us, and they usually shape our lives for good and bad. Eventually, we all go home for the first time. From that moment on, home is never the same.
Thanksgiving is the end all be all family holidays of the years, isn’t it? The time where we all gather around and remember what and who we are thankful for. It doesn’t have the stress of gift giving that Christmas does and there’s no church involved like Easter Sunday. Everyone shows up at the agreed upon home, eats, drinks, catches up and then passes out on the couch before the sun sets. This is of course ideal as more families than not usually have their own traditions with the occasional fight in between. When we first return home from a long journey or after having left for the first time, it’s usually this day that calls us back to be surprised at how things change and stay the same all at once.
You don’t notice it all at once. It usually starts with the little things. The first night back in your room you feel how small it was compared to how it felt before you left. Maybe you notice how thin the walls are or there are sounds outside at night that you had forgotten about. Then like a flash you can see it all now. There’s more traffic on the roads, construction is going on everywhere, people you’ve never seen before are popping in and out of your neighborhood. Home is quickly becoming a memory.
Then as you sit around the dinner table and start to talk with those you haven’t seen in many long months or years, you finally see the last change at home. Those that you love and have missed seemed to change to. Some very subtly some quite noticeably. They’ve lost hair or gained weight. They’ve gotten taller or shrunk in their old ages. Little by little they aren’t quite as you remember them. Then they crack a joke or tell a story you haven’t heard in a long while, and you start to smile or let out a hearty laugh. You never knew how much you missed it or how funny they could be.
It doesn’t matter if you’re returning after having had grand adventures or endured misadventures. Whether the year has brought you good luck or nearly broken you with bad luck. Going home is something we all dream of in one way or another. We dream of our family that was or the family that we wish we had and long to feel that special warmth and closeness we have missed or never known. It is in our nature as a human being to want to belong and to be happy. The hard truth of life is that once we’ve left for the first time, it’s never the same no matter how often we go back. The world changes us all in one way or another. So we can’t ever really go back to the way things were, but we can make things how we wish them to be. All we have to do, is make our own homes and fill them with our own new families.
Going home is not necessarily a wonderful experience. It always comes with a sense of loss and makes you so conscious of the inexorable passage of time.
– W.G. Sebald