I am home now, in this tiny town covered in snow and slush and rain and fog. I have returned, for the holidays, to spend nearly two weeks with family and friends, good food and longs naps, bookstore visits and trips to the movies.
At this time, a year ago, I was saying my goodbyes. Now that I am back, I am saying my hellos. I dance with delight every time I see a familiar face, I am eating too many meals out, and not caring that I haven't gone to the gym (it's the holidays after all). I am marveling at how much has changed, and how little. They have changed the streets - I found myself redirected from a path I once drove daily into a curvier, more logical route, but different and foreign. My dear friend's daughter, who was but a head-bobbling infant when I left, is now walking and talking and smiling at me melting my heart.
My mother is the same, the face, always grinning at me, the soft hug, always embracing and soaking up and draining out all confusion, fear, sadness, and doubt. The holiday traffic is the same - the temper-raising snail's pace of cars snaking their way into the mall to dump their savings and increase their credit card debt. There are still only a handful of bars and restaurants to visit. My grandfather is still tall and strong. My grandmother is still here, with her silver hair and eye-crinkle smile.
And being away, from family especially, you realize just how significant it is to a relationship to be near someone, to have daily communication, to see their face and read their bodies and hear their voices. And it's important for them to get the same from you. Because when you don't, when you're reduced to texts and a random phone call - things change, people change, sometimes without even noticing until it is too late, until you can't go back and find the path that led them there, that led you there supposing things about them that might not have ever been true and certainly are not true now. For my assumptions, I would like to extend my sincerest apology. You know who you are.
Everyday, I am asked how I have been, what have I done, who have I met, where have I gone. Most of my journey, if you have been reading, you already know this year has been a rocky one - full of growing pains, disappointment, change and a constant re-calibrating of expectations. But there have been the good days too. There have been small victories.
And as this year closes, as I return to my new southern home before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, I will consider this year a good one. I will consider myself changed, not perfect, perhaps not even better, but more aware. I now know what has not worked, what I want to make work, and how to maneuver my way through rush hour traffic - by avoiding it at all costs. I have a great many resolutions, too many to list, and they should be saved for my New Year's post anyhow.
Homecomings are hard - they are joyous - but they are hard. They force you to look back, reexamine where you have been and what you have done with your time, and most importantly, who you have spent that time with. Next year, I hope to spend more time with better people - not only those that I hope to meet, but those that I hope to create and develop here, on this screen.
Farewell for now, and hello.