I sit cross-legged on the floor of our bedroom. Empty boxes wait to be filled, and letters and cards from years past are strewn around me in a semi-circle. It’s the best and worst part of packing for our move. They beckon me to slow down from the rush of productive work and indulge myself on a stroll down memory lane. I linger longer while looking over old Christmas cards of friends and their families and marvel at the progression of families over time- couples becoming families, families becoming fuller. As if watching a short film of each of them, the memories behind their smiling faces flash through my mind- the moments of pure and profound joy and the aches that darkened days and months. We had loved, celebrated, grieved, and cherished one another, and I sigh with contentment and heartache as I put the cards into a box and tape it closed.
It’s been a year since that moment on the floor. I haven’t touched the boxes since putting them in storage, but with the holidays around the corner, I can feel the familiar ache coming back. It’s a deep, pressing pain in my gut for something that once was and something that isn’t yet, something I’ve gotten glimpses of but haven’t experienced the fullness of yet. It’s a longing for home.
To me home has been found in places around the world and in people in each of those places, but each time the feeling is brief. Most days, home seems nebulous and elusive. It’s a side effect of growing up overseas, of being more than one culture, of never fully belonging in one group or the other. I hoard letters and cards because they’re souvenirs to the moments when home felt solid and tangible. They’re a way of holding those very moments in my hands over and over again.
The ache comes back with the holidays because holidays are for gathering, for throwing parties, for opening our doors and arms wide for the lonely, the hungry, and the hurting. The holidays are for inviting them into our homes and being home to the ones who are far from theirs or who have never experienced its warmth before. The holidays are about love, about remembering, dreaming, longing, and about hope. The ache reminds me to pay attention. Each Christmas card, each gathering, meal, conversation, and act of kindness contain the potential to have home feel tangible once more.
Like a kid eagerly anticipating gifts under the tree, I can’t wait to hear the thud of envelopes being dropped into our mailbox in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to hold everyone’s beautiful cards and display them where I can see them throughout the day. When friends and family are scattered around the country and the world, being all together is impossible. But this time of the year is the one time they can all be here with me and my family and I with them- even if it’s just through a photo on a card.