Like many people, I travel home for the Holidays. Over the years I have grown accustomed to choosing Thanksgiving or Christmas. I rarely attend both Holidays simply due to so much travel within a short period of time has become hard on my body. Most often I drive so I can have the freedom of coming and going whenever I would like. It’s one way to maintain autonomy and not be held to any of my siblings’ schedules. Plus, my dog Gus is usually with me. This year was no different, but there was one pivotal exception. This year was the first time I stayed in an Airbnb.
Over the years I had often debated staying in a hotel when coming to visit, only to be met with disappointment or a sense of strangeness from my sister. She would usually respond, “No! That would be weird.” So I continued to stay at her place. A simple two-bedroom, cottage-like home. The home has maybe 900 square feet of living space. So you can only imagine how small it might feel when I come to visit along with my dog. For about 3 nights and 4 days her home houses 3 people, two dogs, and a guinea pig, not to mention the coming and goings of friends and other siblings, which is just part of my sister’s daily routine.
Perhaps it’s reminiscent of the way we grew up. I am the youngest of eight. The oldest four siblings were well into their adult years living on their own. The younger 4 grew up together. Sharing rooms and being in and out of each others space was common. There was rarely any personal privacy. Even in the bathroom, it was likely for someone to come to use the restroom while someone else was showering. As a courtesy, everyone knew to holler, “I am in here!” letting whoever was in the shower know the bathroom was occupied by a second person. When finished, you holler again, “Okay, I am out!” That was our way of being respectful of each other’s space and needs. You never knew how long someone would be in the shower. Frankly, when nature is calling there is only so long you can hold off the natural process of going to the bathroom.
I was around the age of 13 or so when I finally had my own room. Wow! What a luxury. SPACE. I got to decorate it, and had my own closet. The only downfall was it was off the main hallway and dining area. If people were up late, I would hear everything, but when tired enough, the sounds became a comforting noise that lulled me to sleep. What can I say, it’s the family noises of conversations, evening snacks, light music, laughter, and the dog walking up and down the hall checking on each room. It’s the comforting sounds of a home full of life. I imagine, similar to the comfort a mother has when she hears the sound of the final child coming through the door. All her babies are home safe. She can finally rest and go to sleep in comfort. It’s the keen hearing and sense only a mother has. It’s in the sounds, rhythms, and cycles of the home that bring discomfort and stress, just as much as they bring ease and a sense of comfort. All is well within the microcosm of the world we create together in our home.
Even as I sit here writing, I am filled with emotions. Tears running down my cheeks, so much so my nose has sniffles. I cry. Why am I crying, you may be wondering?
I miss the sounds of home. One that is full of life. While, I do have Gus. He is wonderful and greets me with such joy every time I walk through the door. My home is full of life. Yet, there is something just a little more magical, when I go visit family for the holidays.
The sounds of laughter, playing with my youngest niece, and to be reminded of where I come from. It’s a glimpse of my own past while being fully present with who I am today. It’s the comfortability of my siblings who tease me with sarcastic tones. I recognize that the teasing no longer bothers me like it once did. It’s the language of wit and sarcasm which used to pierce through me like the point of an arrow. Now it simply bounces off me with laughter. Internally, I recognize I have changed in so many ways. I sometimes wonder if they notice the way I have changed too. I embrace my experiences with them differently. More open, less defensive. I learned to play more and laugh. The smells of cooking and preparing for the holiday traditions we all grew up with and now are making them our own. Slightly changing recipes with an added spice or two, yet still traditional and true.
This year, it was a little bit different. I stayed in the Airbnb. Like many of you, I resisted this change. It meant I would not wake up in the morning to certain sounds of my family waking up or watching my niece sleep peacefully in her bed. These moments are so brief, she’s already 11-years-old. Soon visiting her will not be the same. It changes just like the seasons. They still happen, yet they feel different each time. Perhaps a little colder, or a litter hotter.
Maybe the leaves turned to their red, orange, and yellow colors a little later this year than the year before. It’s witnessing the last leaf holding on to the branch as it gives way to winter. The last leaf finally lets the wind guide it gently to the earth.
It’s the eternal cycle of growth and change. Sometimes I feel like I am the last leaf holding on to each moment just a little bit longer knowing this exact moment will never come again just in this way.
Watching my niece grow up and my siblings grow older is no different. We all have a little bit more silver in our hair, a little more morning aches, slower to move, needing a little more time to warm the body as the joints crack and pop. While my niece is a few inches taller, filled with the energy of youth. Signs of change, it happens right before our very own eyes unnoticed and noticed all at the same time. It’s only natural to ask, “Where does the time go?” It was not that long ago when I was that 11-year-old. While I am still excited for life, it’s now through the eyes of a 46-year-old. I listen to my thoughts. The sound of my parents’ voices are so clear, but wait it is my voice. I recognize that it’s happened. What my parents always used to say when my 11-year-old self would be irritated with them watching me. They would often say, “You will understand when you’re older.” I realize now they were just taking in the moment.
Time is so fleeting. It’s common to think we have so much time ahead of ourselves. I suspect there comes that moment for all of us when we realize that we have more time behind us than ahead of us. When choosing to live in the moment, the relationship and experience of time changes. Now, I feel it in my body, thoughts, and emotions, that my sense of time is not linear at all. All of my experiences exist in this internal moment of now. I just as easily can tap into my 11-year-old self, while living in my 46-year-old body. Truthfully, I am not much different than my niece who simply plays, has goals, and shares life with so many. I would like to think that I now live with a bit more wisdom and whimsy. I remain open as my niece shares her own wisdom and perspective on life. I can see her expression: her life is still lived from the depths of her heart and passion. When I visit, I have had to learn to step back just a little, and give her space too. So, I observe from a distance, while being very present. I am observing my niece transition from child to adolescence, while I transition from maiden to crone. We are both the tree and the leaves surrendering to the natural cycle of life. I suspect I might have a little bit more resistance, like the last leaf on the branch, eventually, I let go. Eventually we all let go.
BUT this year I stayed in an Airbnb. I thought about all the things I might miss. I surrendered to this change. Well, you know what? I LOVED IT! I realized I did not miss out on a thing. Gus and I settled into our own routine. I gained a peaceful night’s rest, and went on long walks in the foothills each morning. I walked over to my brother’s house for coffee and breakfast. Later I would head over to my sister’s home to hang out for the day and “help” with cooking. I really just watch now, and keep her company and do some yard work. My other brother would come over and turn on some music. We sang, “cooked” and got ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Really the moments leading up to dinner before heading over to our other brother’s home are the ones I enjoy the most. Natural and organic with some holiday traditions of baking pies and cooking the stuffing from scratch. There is one thing I still do. I eat the toasted buttered bread that’s used for the stuffing. My siblings and I laugh, because we can hear our mom still telling us, “Stop eating that, I only used one loaf this year!” Haha. Now we say it to each other. You know something, there is always enough stuffing.
Soon Thanksgiving dinner came and went. I had the luxury of returning to AirBnB which I resisted all these years. Only to discover, it gave me the space and peace so I can embrace my loud Italian family.
For now, I leave you with this. Welcome and embrace the change in your life. You never know what gifts it brings.