Spending yet another Easter abroad has got me thinking of home, and its relation to holidays.
Quite a few people I know make it a point to spend every Christmas and even Easter with their family. Even people who travel a lot or live abroad. And me – I usually spend holidays with their families, too, my adopted families. (It’s already happening in South Africa now, with my flatmates bringing me along.)
These are people with roots, with a nest they regularly return to, no matter how far they fly. Sometimes I envy them.
For I was raised a nomad.
My parents moved us out of my hometown (Rio) when I was 9 years old, and out of the country (Brazil) when I was 13. Before then, we’d moved several times already, to different neighborhoods. I learned to have to start all over again each time, from a very young age – a new school, new friends and bullies.
I mostly lost touch with my relatives other than my immediate family. Christmas and Easter were almost always without my grandma, aunts, uncles or cousins. My parents would typically invite their friends over, and I’d sit there, engaged and at the same time detached.
We never went to church as a family, although I was baptized Catholic, and educated on Catholic guilt. Other than weddings, I’ve only been to churches or religious gatherings when tagging along with other relatives, friends or boyfriends.
Holidays have had no spiritual importance for me (though I do like getting the gifts). But the thought of being alone during them does make me uncomfortable. Or even having no one wish me “Happy [Whatever].” I guess I haven’t been able to escape the social conditioning of needing company and special words those days.
Every year, I forget when Easter is. It would’ve stayed forgotten – along with my need to do something special with others – had not the people around me mentioned it and asked what my plans were.
Having no plans of my own, and with no one actually calling me, I felt lonely.
To be fair, I didn’t call anyone, either.
Out in the living room, a loud gathering was taking place with people I didn’t know and didn’t try to get to know. The neighborhood behind ours was having a 72-hour music party I wished I’d had the nerve to appear at uninvited.
All the noise made me feel more isolated in my borrowed room. Then I started writing and (kind of) got over it.
Unlike Easter, the dates for Christmas Eve and Christmas are etched into my brain. Still, it’s no longer a tradition for me to spend it at home with my immediate family. They’ve rarely demanded I do.
When the time came to move away from home, it didn’t ache that much (for me). I even chose to go to another state instead of staying in Florida. I guess I’d learned to suppress missing people I’ve had to leave far away, or behind altogether.
To be honest, the prospect of privacy and freedom was more exciting – even as I rightfully feared my parents were aging and there wouldn’t be dozens of visits left.
My first Christmas away from home, in Virginia, two of my bosses invited me to their respective homes. I didn’t feel out of place or depressed. I even watched Dancer in the Dark (probably the most depressing movie ever made), on Christmas morning, alone in my room.
It would take me a decade to spend my next Christmas at home. “Home” was becoming a fuzzy concept anyway. My parents had visited me on Christmas a couple times when I moved to North Carolina. But never on Easter, as far as I remember.
The Christmas before I moved to Denmark, I spent in Spain (where I’d return a few times). My Christmas Eve meal was airplane food, with the company of my travel buddy and an irritable airline crew wishing they were home for Christmas.
I don’t necessarily wish that I were home for Christmas, in any given year. Not because I’m a cold person, but because I get attached to different things in life – at least I think so. Chances are I won’t go to the US this December, since I went the past two and holiday travel is pricey and inconvenient. And I do make time to see my immediate family on other occasions.
But perhaps I do wish I were rooted somewhere.
I fear I’ll never be settled enough to raise my own family, or to have children who can feel they somehow belong, or host a proper holiday gathering myself. I feel I don’t have that special touch. I’ve been too busy always having to adapt, and it’s become my way of life: sort of a constant quest for other “homes.”