You get off the airplane and into the backseat of your dad’s car and say to yourself, “Why the heck did I ever leave this place?”
Everything is exactly how you remember it.
Your childhood room is still stuffed with decorations from sophomore year of high school. A ratty desktop computer with dial up internet, a wall lined with Clay Aiken posters, Bop Bop a giraffe stuffed animal that looks like it’s been through a war. That shopping center down the street still has your favorite Italian restaurant, where the garlic rolls are served with steam sliding off the top. And any drive around town has you passing by spots where you spent late nights loitering with friends.
Or so you think.
By your fourth day home you start to wonder, “What the heck happened to this place!”
You notice parts of your room have been redecorated to make it look like something out of a Pottery Barn magazine. That shopping center is closing your favorite Italian restaurant to put in an organic juice bar in stead. And all your friends, the ones you could still count on to do goofy things with, have either decided not to come home or are married with kids.
If you find yourself jet setting home for the holidays, here are some of the things you can expect to see, and do, and feel.
It’ll be waiting for you. Drawers filled with ancient artifacts like protractors and floppy disks and tape recorders and hole punchers. Old love letters and report cards from the 5th grade and composition notebooks that are half scribbled and half empty and yearbooks from every single year you were in grade school.
You’ve been holding on to this stuff for a while, and every year around this time, you sort through it and throw one or two or three things out.
That Britney Spears perfume you still have on your bathroom vanity brings you back to 7th grade science class. The McDonalds on Glades and 441 brings back memories of when you and your friends would take over a 6-person table and hang out until 1am, because you were too young to drink and too old to be home on a Friday night watching Clarissa Explains it All.
Is that Marissa Scnieder from the 3rd grade? OMG it is.
You find yourself hiding behind a rack of sparkly dresses in Arden B or hiding behind your side-bangs or waving hello as you keep walking by at a very rapid pace.
Your parents are adults, the real kind of adults, who don’t think cereal and milk is an acceptable dinner four nights in a row. So, they have things like provolone cheese and two different flavors of hummus and kale chips in the fridge for you, whenever you want it.
The mall isn’t as large as you remembered. Your room isn’t as comfortable as you thought. When you look at yourself in your bathroom mirror, you notice things you never noticed before: acne scars, the fine lines of brand new wrinkles. Is that a GRAY HAIR?!
That store closed down? You don’t buy Arizona Iced Tea for the house anymore? That family with the cute white fluffy dog that used to live across the street moved?
By the end of your visit, you’re ready to leave but you wish you could stay and you notice you’ve grown out of this place but this place will never grow out of you and no matter how many miles you travel or states you hop or places you try to call home, this will be the place that welcomes you with loving arms and open-ended questions and faces, like ghosts, that will haunt you from your past.
No matter what, it’ll remind you how much you could love something as terribly beautiful and minuscule as an area code.