I told my parents that I don’t think it makes sense financially for me to come home for Christmas when I plan on returning to Europe in the New Year. From a financial and practical viewpoint, it just doesn’t make sense. They seemed rather angry at me when I told them but I think it’s because they are hurt. I know I get angry when I’m hurt. My mom said I should have booked a round trip from the start and suggested I try to book a flight from a potentially less expensive airport, but pretty much every airport is expensive at that time of year, and I can’t push my end date any earlier in December.
After weeks and weeks of thinking about this decision, the idea isn’t as terrifying to me as it once was. It doesn’t sound as foreign to my ears anymore. It doesn’t sting my heart as much as it used to. But I understand that for them, the idea is still very fresh. They haven’t been thinking about it for weeks, and struggling to come to terms with it like I have. I don’t know how it feels to think your daughter is coming home for Christmas, only to have her suddenly tell you that she is not. If I ever have a daughter (or son) who did this to me, I would probably burst into tears.
I just hope they don’t think that it means I love them any less, or that I moved on from them, or that home doesn’t mean as much to me anymore, or that I’ve forgotten our simple, happy times. Because staying in Europe over Christmas doesn’t mean any of those things. It doesn’t mean that the world is a better place that offers me more happiness than home ever could. It doesn’t mean that I won’t miss my mom’s cookies, or my dad’s Christmas lights that get more and more extravagant every day. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss singing Christmas songs together, or being snuggled on the couch watching Christmas movies with my sisters, or opening up my Advent calendar to find the candies my mom placed inside. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss hearing my Omi tell me how she slaved away baking Stollen, or that I won’t miss setting up the manger my Opi made all those years ago.
I am not blind to the emptiness of my Opi’s chair last Christmas and the effect that my empty chair will have on my family. Two empty chairs. And what if one of us never makes it to next Christmas? What if something terrible happens and this is the last Christmas we’ll all be together? I don’t like to think about that. I don’t like to think that maybe I’m being selfish, and maybe staying in Europe is a bad idea, or that it makes me a bad daughter or a bad sister. Is it wrong of me to think like that? Is it selfish of me if I don’t think like that? I don’t know. I just keep hearing the sound of my mom’s voice angrily saying “Just stay in Europe then” echoing in my ear. Don’t they know how much I love them, how much I love home, how hard it was for me to leave? Don’t they know that my coming here, and leaving everything and everyone I loved behind, was so hard it nearly broke my heart?
I know I said that I don’t ‘miss’ home as much as I thought I would – and that sometimes there are days at a time where I don’t think about it at all – but just because it’s not constantly in my head, doesn’t mean that it isn’t constantly in my heart. It’s always there, and I pull out bits and pieces of it when I need a comforting thought or a little bit of extra love. It’s there when I see a man standing at the airport with his arms crossed, reminding me so much of my dad that I can’t help but smile. It’s there when I go on facebook and see the messages my little sister wrote on my wall years ago, making me feel all warm inside. Home is always in my heart. It’s in my heart when I’m in a situation and have to think back to everything home taught me about love, and morals, and kindness. It’s in my heart – not always making a loud noise, causing a commotion, or drawing attention to itself – but it’s there. I can feel it – it makes me happy and sad at the same time. And I think home will always be there, no matter where I go. Because it’s a part of me. And when something’s a part of you – part of your soul, part of your heart – it never leaves you.