Redefining home for the holidays
After college, I was determined to strike out on my own and so I moved south to North Carolina. It’s one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made in my adult life, but there are days when I would do just about anything to be back home in Cuba. It’s just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town off of Interstate 86 in western New York.
I miss home the most this time of year. All the leaves have fallen off of the trees and the weather is turning cold. I miss the distinct stillness of all living things after a lake effect snowstorm. I miss waking up to the crunch and grind of the plow against heavy snow. I miss drinking hot chocolate and eating salt-rising toast at my parents’ table.Now that North Carolina is my home, I’m not able to spend the holidays with my parents and siblings. With work and the high cost of travel, I don’t visit home that often. I’ve kept some of our family holiday traditions for my own, carrying them out from six hundred miles away. I feel most at home here on days when I am doing something that my family has done for years and years, just in a different location.
I start to collect cookie recipes long before the holiday season, just like my Mom does. Her search for new recipes begins around Thanksgiving every year. By the time December comes around she has hoarded enough butter, flour, sugar and spices to bake for all of her loved ones. We are always searching for the ultimate recipe, the one that tops anything we’ve ever made before. We trade recipes over the phone and through e-mail. She gives me tips and hints on how to make the best cookies. Of course there are staple sweets that have to be made each Christmas like magic cookie bars, fudge, sugar cookies, and brown sugar pecan shortbread. I’ve tried making them myself, but nothing tastes as good as what Mom packs carefully and sends to me through the mail.
I live for the care packages she, my Dad, and my sister send to me. There are always random things in these package like an envelope full of fall leaves or notes written on the flap of an old cereal box. There are practical things too like toothpaste and deodorant and sometimes even a few dollars to spend just on me. Those boxes are like a window through which I can see home and my family’s love for me.
Last Christmas I carried on an odd tradition that my family started a few years ago. My mom is a cook by profession, and one of the few days a year that the restaurant she works at is closed is Christmas Day. On that day she goes on a cooking strike, so my Dad, brother, sister and I have only two choices: cook for ourselves or find a place to eat out at. We crossed cooking for ourselves straight off the list, as none of us is the best of cooks. In the tiny town of Cuba, everything shuts down on Christmas Day, with the exception of two things: the movie theater and the Chinese Buffet. So each year on Christmas Day my family heads to the movie theater, then to the Chinese Buffet for dinner. Instead of being stressed out with cooking and cleaning for company, the family enjoys spending time together. Last year on Christmas, I went to the movie theater but down here Waffle House is the only restaurant open on that day. And so my very own version of our tradition was born—a movie and waffles.
I’ve learned that as long as I don’t forget that the people I love are always in my heart and mind, it doesn’t matter how far away from them I am at this time of year. In the years that I have been out on my own I’ve also learned that home is a feeling not necessarily a physical place. Home is where I make it.
— By Erin Davis