At what point does home become your “parent’s house?” I wondered this as I tossed and turned on night three in the bedroom in the home my mom and stepdad reside in. The pillows here aren’t fluffy, the mattress is too firm, and my partner isn’t here to rub my back and ask about my day. I don’t recognize the feel of the showerhead as it rinses my hair; and unlike a hotel, I can’t seem to bring myself to put the clothing in drawers for my extended stay.
There’s something about long holiday visits that puts a pit in my stomach. My family is lovely and accommodating and I adore them every day. They still ask if I’m positive I don’t want chicken (because they know some vegetarians that eat it sometimes, you know), and they accompany me to church so I’m less afraid of being the only out lesbian; yet I still can’t quite put my finger on why I’m so uncomfortable.
It’s a feeling of loss. I don’t have my dog; I have my sister’s six pound terrier barking at me when I’m asleep. I don’t know the cabinets when I’m trying to make breakfast, and the measuring cups are in a completely nonsensical location. It’s supposed to be the most familiar place in the world, but I feel like I’m walking around a stranger’s house.
Why don’t I feel this way when I’m on vacation, or staying at a friend’s house? What’s the problem in trying to be normal in a place that should, in fact, feel normal? Keeping myself occupied and busy just ends up with spending money I don’t have and feeling exhausted for trying to occupy my brain.
When I close my eyes and try to make memories of holidays past, I find it harder and harder to do. What year did my oldest sibling spill the red wine by the fireplace? When did I win the family dice game and subsequent $33? Was it last year or two years before that my mom put too much peppermint schnapps in my coffee? When was the first year I saw my dad again? It’s all becoming a blur. But, if you were to ask me about the best pancake I’ve ever had, or maybe about when I ate at the PB&J food truck, I’d be able to tell you with a detailed description, even though it’s been months; years.
Am I replacing the memories of my blood family with the memories of the life I’m making now? I love my family – my parents, my many hilarious older siblings, even my mom’s super mean cat, so what gives? Is it because I’m finally making my own decisions thousands of miles away? Have I not forgiven my parents for not immediately accepting me when I came out? Am I too afraid to go out in public for fear of the judgment of my small town? I think it’s too much of an accumulation of all of it.
Home is where the heart is, or so the old adage says. I think my heart is back where I decided to finally leave it: with the friends that became my chosen family. And that doesn’t mean that my parents and siblings aren’t my family; rather, they’re the ones who helped me to spread my wings and find those that I surround myself with now.