Home is…

After the Knight took me on one of our first serious dates, I already knew my mother didn't like her oldest daughter seeing an even older man.So I called her the next day as I walked to the drugstore, breathless and giddy, and told her about my magical evening. Told her about the yet-unnamed Gunther and, as I recounted the date, realized I was steadily, happily approaching the Point of No Return with the Knight. But as I told her all this, about the flowers and the barbecue and the walk along the lakefront, I left out those crucial little details — to her, anyway: his age, occupation, past marital status. And, you know. His name. Until the end of our phone conversation, that is. Until my "gotcha" moment: when I finally revealed to her that the man she'd chimed in with me to swoon about was, in fact, the same one who had inspired such suspicion so early on. Ha! Take that.

As her synapses of realization fired, painfully, one by one, I could all but hear her eyes narrow back into suspicious slits, feel the corners of her girlish smile curling downward into that dour, disapproving motherly scowl. "Oh." That's all I could get out of her. She had been duped for a moment, but once she made the connection, none of what I had just told her even mattered. So I changed the subject and hung up the phone, flipping through my little yellow folder of four-by-sixes from Paris and staring at the pigeons pecking at crumbs on the warm pavement.

And that was the beginning of our Summer of Silence. What could have been the happiest three months of my life — I was falling in love, possibly for the first time, for God's sake — was soured by this bitter, unspoken feud between my mother and me, two obstinate women refusing to budge and totally unwilling to talk about it. It didn't end when summer cooled to autumn. It only got worse, actually, and the situation hit rock bottom when I told her I'd decided not to come home for Christmas this year. For a lot of reasons, most of them logistical (because that's the kind of girl I am).

But Christmas is my mother's favorite holiday. Yet Christmas also has made me utterly miserable for the past four years. This is no secret. As a sort of trade-off, I offered to spend almost a full week at home for Thanksgiving. Which is one of my favorite holidays. Because it involves food. Lots of it. And I like that (because that's the kind of girl I am). And family is always happier when food and drink are plentiful. And Thanksgiving doesn’t involve gifts. So there's no self-inflicted poverty, no buyer's remorse, no recipient's guilt.

So. No place like home for the holidays, right?

…Eh.

This is the first time in my entire life, I think, that I haven't squealed with delight at the prospect of returning to the roost. To laughably oversimplify, the Summer of Silence and all the circumstances surrounding it are to blame. And it would seem no one was squealing with delight to have me back, either. I arrived at the airport in the middle of the day. There was no fanfare, no leaping, licking dogs when I trudged in the front door and lugged my 50-pound suitcase up the stairs to my room.

Still, here I am. At home. "Home," where I have a bedroom, with crisp, unfamiliar sheets and not-quite-right pillows. Where knickknacks are always dusted and you're not actually supposed to use those hand towels. Where my sister sleeps in the next room. Where the dogs slide on the meticulously Swiffered floors when the carrier drops our mail with a clank of the brass door on the slot.

But if home is where the heart is…oh, changes. What happened to the girl who clamored for the comfort of her childhood? The taste of her mother's food, the quiet warmth of the suburbs? It's as if I've suddenly reached another Point of No Return, completely unrelated to the Gunther, the Knight or his Shining Camry. The point where my heart has finally decided it's worth it to follow me somewhere. After all my running around, after all the pain and exhaustion, home is Chicago. Where my heart is. Joining me in my dusty little one-bedroom apartment at long last. Thanks for making the trip.

I'm 26 years old, and I'm finally growing up. Growing out.

You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone… You feel like you can never get it back. It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist…I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place. — Garden State