It’s at this time of the year that I think most of home. My dad making chocolate chip cookies on Christmas Eve, my mother getting festively drunk, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, et al singing about holly and snow and sleigh rides and Santa and whatnot over the record player. Picking up my aunt from the Metro-North train station, the car tires spinning on black snow-bank droppings in the parking lot. The Christmas lights decorating corner bars as we drove through the city of Poughkeepsie. My dog, too many presents around the tree.
I miss home. Quite literally. Technically, I’m homeless. I have no apartment, I have no house, I have no place that’s mine. I lost my apartment almost three years ago. I rent a room in my ex-husband’s house, the house we bought together when we were still married. I have a room, like a teenager, across the hall from my daughter. And while this period has been difficult–having no financial security, getting no responses or negative responses from jobs to which I apply, waiting, waiting, for some glimmer of hope that I’m not actually almost 41 years old and have absolutely no retirement fund, no financial independence, waiting and wondering at when the next period of my life will begin–while this period has been somewhat excruciating, the missing of my childhood home contradicts the pain.
This time of year makes me want to feel sorry for myself, but it also comforts me and reminds me of how much fortune I have, and have had. How much fortune my daughter has. And of course when I compare my circumstances to that of, say, Syrian refugees, I realize I’m living in paradise. So I do actually tell the self-pity to go and fuck itself because it’s not helpful and I really have no right at all to feel that way.
But I do wish I had my photo albums of my childhood to look through–the ones that got sold in public auction last year (the second worst year of my life). Perhaps it’s better to have only the photos in my mind though. The images in my memory that I can recall this Saturday night when I cook enchiladas for the three of us and on Sunday morning when Maya’s opening her pile of presents (including the awesome half-life-size skeleton I got her (shhhh don’t tell her!)), the images that make up now. Because focusing on the distant past is pretty useless. Now is what matters, even if it feels a little skimpy.
When Maya grows up, she’ll remember her dog, the tree, the presents, her mother drinking wine and cooking and smiling, her father playing video games with her, putting together her small-scale anatomy model that he’s getting her (she’s really into biology right now), building legos, eating cookies, watching Home Alone. The three of us together celebrating the most important holiday of the year. Come what may, these ways in which we make Maya’s home, even as a broken family, will be her memories. We’re together and we have this luxury of Christmas and food and festivities. And all of it will form her memory of home.
As for me, I’ve had comforts throughout my life, I have this roof over my head, I get to be with my daughter every day, and her father and I can celebrate Christmas together with the best thing we made together–our daughter. What right do I have to expect any more.