Analysis & Comment

Opinion | An Adult Woman Goes Home for the Holidays

I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. I headed off to college and with each passing year, grew older, became more self-reliant and hit new adult milestones, just as my parents had before me. Sure, some people might compare my mid-to-late 20s with my parents’ and say to me, “At your age, your parents had two children, a retirement fund and owned a house” and “You live in a walk-in closet,” but I think we all know the old saying: If you can’t touch every wall of your room while lying down, you’re spending too much on rent! Who needs a 401(k) when you have a Fitbit. Health is wealth. My Fitbit is still in the box but next year … next year is definitely the year I open it.

Even if it has been a slow crawl toward adulthood, I can confidently say that for 364 days out of the year, I am an independent grown-up. However, there’s an exception. One day a year, when I go home to visit my Greek family on Christmas.

As soon as I knock at the front door and listen for the traditional “She’s heeahh!!!” greeting, I comfortably, effortlessly and automatically become a child again. It’s the magic ritual of the holidays.

The Entrance

We all hug and shriek until I am taken on an in-depth tour of the house (that I grew up in). While everything looks untouched from 1998, my mom clarifies that “this drawer is just for hand towels now” and “the chair was moved to make room for the tree.” We stare at the tree for 25 minutes. I bathe in the glory of the full fridge. My mom points to every dish and says, “I made that one the way you like it.” She asks if I’ve been to the dentist. I have. She schedules an appointment anyway.

The Gifts

We said we weren’t doing a lot of gifts. We do so many gifts. We’re all adults and no one has children, so of course there’s no — wait, yes, there’s a note from Santa and it rhymes. My mom slides me a candle she got from her co-worker to “give to your aunt later, as a gift.”

The Guest List

For dinner it’s just my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And for dessert? The neighbors, my ophthalmologist, the retired plumber, an exchange student from Sweden, “invite your dance friends!” (I haven’t danced in 13 years), two dog walkers, a woman named Carla who my mom swears I know, and the entire church parish. Our pastry spread has its own ZIP code. I dress myself every day, but it takes four rounds of outfit changes until we land on the same one I wore last year because it “Looks nice for ya grandparents.”

The Food

My mom panics that there isn’t enough food. The casserole-to-guest ratio is 1:1. My mom puts another ham in the oven, “for good measure.” Every meal for the next month will include ham. It’s 12 p.m. so it’s time to, for an unknown and unspoken reason, eat dinner. We all proclaim we are full. We bravely and mandatorily eat through it. Carla tells a story. I do not know Carla.

The Hang

After eating, the kids — all adults in their late 20s and 30s — go down to the basement to play Monopoly or Clue, depending on how much we want to fight. The parents stay upstairs and talk about the tree, the food we just had and why the neighbors didn’t put lights up this year. “Must be something going wrong in the family,” someone helpfully says out loud. Everyone leaves at 9 and we eat more ham. How? Why? Because we are trained warriors.

The Exit

It’s time to leave to catch a plane back to the city where I now live. If I leave now, I’ll have seven hours of wiggle room. Mom stuffs two pocket calendars in my suitcase, hands me a full pan of lasagna “double taped so it won’t spill on the plane” and presents a clean load of laundry. When did she do the laundry? A magician never shares her tricks. I insist on calling an Uber but I end up being taken to the airport by my entire family, sharing a seatbelt with my second cousin. Is she even blood-related? No one knows. Everyone waves until I am all the way through security.

And just like that, I am back to adult life, where I am the person who has to make (O.K., fine, buy) a pan of lasagna to have on hand, just in case 14 people show up hungry for no reason.

This year, for the first time in my life, I am not actually going home for Christmas — the most offensive phrase one could dare utter in my family. I live on the West Coast, they’re on the East Coast and I was just there for Thanksgiving. I am still full. Plus the outdoor malls in Los Angeles have fake snow and there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts downtown, so it’s basically like being in Massachusetts.

It will be hard, though, and I know it will be hard for my family, too. While I’m sad, I do feel incredibly comforted knowing that if I can’t be there, at least Carla will be.

Alyssa Limperis is a comedian and a writer.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Source: Read Full Article