First off, I hope the like five of you that stumble on this post are having a happy new year and have had a happy holiday season. Mine was pretty good, save for the intermittent bouts of homesickness due to that fact that this was the very first Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve that I spent away from my family.
I was telling a friend about the incredible sadness this brought me, especially on Christmas Eve morning, when I was driving back up to Austin to go to work that afternoon, and I spent the drive through Houston intermittently in tears. He made the comment that he “thought [I] liked the peace and quiet.” And that was when I realized that for me, peace doesn’t come from the silence necessarily. Peace comes from the chaos, the messy, the idea that I’m enveloped in the love of my family and friends.
Thankfully, my co-workers are not only amazing to work with but they are great people too, so when I requested to step out around midnight to call my family to speak to them while they opened presents, the charge nurse was cool with it. It was during that phone call that the aforementioned epiphany completely cemented itself. When my mom picked up the phone, she, my dad, and my brother all greeted me with this sense of warmth to the point that for a very brief moment, I felt as though, at least in my heart and mind, I was at home with them, sharing this night.
I came home after work that night, to the light of my Christmas tree and an empty (albeit cluttered) apartment. And a “silent night” it was. The next morning was no better, either. I went to a Christmas morning mass at St. Austin’s, and I made it about halfway through the first verse of O Come, All Ye Faithful (the entrance hymn), and I could already feel the tears welling up. And sitting in the back didn’t help because I had full view of all of the families – a painful reminder that I was isolated from my own. After all of that, I made the decision to make an impromptu trip home on my parent’s anniversary since I’d already missed Christmas and my dad’s birthday, without even telling them. And with that, I was recharged.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, and I’m out at a friend’s lakehouse to ring in the New Year, and I was having a great time and surrounded by some pretty awesome friends. But as midnight neared, my thoughts kept returning to the place I call home. How big was the roll of black cats my dad bought this year? How long was it going to take to pop them all? Who all was at the house? Were they all having fun? And the kicker…were they thinking of me as much as I was thinking of them?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I immensely enjoy the company of the friends I was with last night, and I consider some of them in my closest circle of friends. But I realized just how sacred I held not only the holidays themselves, but the idea of experiencing them with my own family…the ones that have been there my whole life (or his whole life in the case of my little brother), the ones that celebrate with me in my joys and have put up with 24 years’ worth of moodiness, dumb decisions, and the like. And again, these friends I was with have been just as accepting, but it was still different. I continued to have this emptiness in my heart that was only filled when I called my family at midnight again and I was greeted with that same sense of love that was able to transcend the distance even if I wasn’t able to myself.
In any case, that line from Bing Crosby’s song that goes “I’ll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams” has gained a whole new meaning for me. I may have been physically away from my family during the holidays. But regardless of the distance, my heart and my mind remained with them at my home three hours away.
But this is the life I chose. I entered a vocation in which hours are long and holidays are not guaranteed. These feelings are something that I’ll have to deal with because I’ll encounter them several times a year. But it’s a vocation, a lifestyle of service that I am proud to be a part of. And my workplace is filled with an incredible sense of support that (from what I hear) is rare. I am at least blessed with the idea that a relatively simple cure for my homesickness is available in the form of a three hour drive southeast. My prayers go out to those who also are not able to spend the holidays with their families, especially to those in the Armed Forces who don’t have the option to hop in their cars when they have some days off to go to the place they call home.