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Navigating Feelings Around Coming Home For The Holidays

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As a kid, the holidays always felt magical, and everyone around me had a youthful spirit and abundant Christmas cheer. So, while I’m grateful for the memories I have of previous holiday gatherings and the traditions my family instilled in me over the years, I can’t help but feel like I’m romanticizing these memories when I go home for my fall and winter breaks. No matter how much I don’t want to face it, the holidays are different now that I’m older.

Leading up to my drive home for each holiday break, I’m always excited; I curate the perfect playlist, wrap all the gifts I have for my family, and stress over packing the right outfit for our Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. As I coast down I-64 East, my excitement builds as I pass each exit and get closer to home, but once I drive by childhood landmarks, a strange sadness builds in my stomach.

Seeing the new elementary school that replaced my old one is bittersweet; the weathered front steps that supported me through every holiday season from ages five through 10 are no longer there. Gone are the days I hustled down those stairs to meet my parents with my semi-ugly Christmas crafts and an end-of-the-quarter report card shoved in my JanSport backpack. So, while a new batch of kids gets to relive that memory for me, now I bypass the school and head for home, with the sadness continuing to build.

A half-mile from home is the location of my first job in high school: a frozen yogurt shop. Thoughts race through my head as I quickly turn my head to peek into the fishbowl windows of the store. Have the new employees lived up to my exceptional holiday decorating skills? I cringe thinking about the numerous winter nights I spent doing my APUSH homework through teary eyes and then putting on a smile when customers burst through the front door. My head snaps forward as I near the left turn for my grandmother’s retirement community. 

I call her to let her know I’m downstairs; even though my grandmother is still very mobile for her age, I notice that each holiday break, it takes her more and more time to come down. Her dazzling bunny teeth smile meets my eyes as the elevator doors open, and I feel like I might break her frail frame if I squish her too tight with my hug. I wonder if I’m getting taller or if she’s shrinking; the thought expands the pit in my stomach as I think about future holidays without her. 

We venture home to catch up, and my grandmother fills the air with a hundred questions about my life at college. She fears that I’m not eating enough or drinking enough water and asks the same questions about my roommate. Her questions continue as I unlock the door, and we’re met with my mom, my sister and our obnoxious yet lovable dog, Gabby. Even though I saw all three of them a few weeks ago, it feels like we’ve all aged and missed milestones. My heart races, and my head pounds as I think about how holidays will never feel the same. As long as I’m acutely aware of the aging process and how our family gatherings decrease yearly with everyone’s busy schedules, the holidays will always be different. 

Claudia Stewart is currently a junior at VCU, majoring in fashion merchandising with a minor in art history. She enjoys watching rom-coms, baking double chocolate chip cookies with her roommate, and finding the best spot for sushi in her free time. Stewart loves writing about pop culture, fashion, and beauty.