It seems to me that every year the all-Christmas-music station will pick one particular earworm to play, over and over, as covered by different artists. This year, I feel the song I heard most often was “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” written by Al Stillman and Robert Allen and originally recorded in 1954 by Perry Como. You can go ahead and sing along:
Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home…
This is not my favorite Christmas song. Not even in the top ten. But I’ve heard it so many times in the car (and in elevators, in stores, etc.) I’ve started thinking about it more and more.
I came to a realization.
This is my thirty-seventh Christmas, and for the first time in my life I didn’t have to go anywhere to feel home for the holidays.
I grew up in Jacksonville, where both my grandmothers lived. The closest we got to “over the river and through the woods” was visiting my dad’s mom on the far shore of the mighty St. Johns, about a 20 minute drive.
My first Christmas away from home occurred in college, when I spent the holiday with a boyfriend’s family in Ohio. There was snow. It was weird. I missed “normal” Christmas – the eleven o’clock service at Riverside Presbyterian Church, good-natured whining about the 75 degree temperatures, and eating my grandmother’s tomato aspic off my family’s Christmas plates.
Even as I got older, and had homes of my own, I missed being home – on Sherwood Road – for the holidays.
Things have changed.
For example, Riverside no longer has an eleven o’clock Christmas Eve service.
My grandmothers – both the one over the river and the one who made aspic – are gone, along with my father. My parents’ home is basically empty.
So, many of the things that made “normal” Christmas normal no longer exist.
But some do. It was once again absurdly warm on Christmas Day, and the good-natured complaining ensued as it always has. As for the Christmas plates, I brought them over from my mom’s house just after Thanksgiving, so we were able to use them in our home. (There was no aspic. That’s one tradition I am happy to do without.)
That was really the last piece that brought Christmas to my home. Growing up, we used them every year, and my father would remind us children to orient the plates so that the star atop the Christmas tree was pointing up. Of course, this reminder came AFTER the plates were filled with food. But whatever.
The plates join pieces from my father’s Christmas village, my parents’ nativity set, and a Christmas tree skirt hand-beaded by my great-aunt. If I can’t have my whole family, at least I have some of the things that made the holiday special to them.
More importantly, over the last year I have made an effort to embrace Tallahassee as my tribe, my people. I have made more friends, and allowed my roots to sink into the sandy soil. For the first time, when I contemplated not being here for Christmas, I felt I would be missing something. Ten years after moving here, this is finally Home.