Perhaps this is lame of me to admit, but I’ve been playing Christmas songs since November. Alright, that’s a lie. I switched my Pandora station to Bing Crosby back in October. And right now, I’m typing this article to the rhythm of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” My holiday fervor is different this year, though. Like many other people, this is my first winter away from home. And honestly, being a college student and living away from home is pretty awesome about 95% of the time. I’m not a particularly sentimental person, but when those rare moments of homesickness catch me off-guard, it sucks.
Last Tuesday, I randomly called my mother. Usually, she calls me and I give her a brief update about my life. She’s busy and I’m busy, so the call doesn’t last long. But last Tuesday, I crept out of my bed at 1 in the morning to call my mother. When she picked up, I could hear water boiling in the background and the familiar howl of a Grinch. My mother was worried because I had called so late at night, but I assured her that I was fine. I just need to hear home for a while. At first, we talked about the same things we’ve always talked about. “Dad procrastinated on putting up the Christmas lights, Daniel forgot to take the noodles off of the stove again, and we keep on running out of wrapping paper…” As my mother spoke, I started to remember all the small, ordinary things. I wasn’t there to climb up the ladder and hang Christmas lights with my dad. I also wasn’t there to make fun of my brother for burning the noodles. And how I missed wrapping paper! My mother always refused to buy any materials that we already had, so sometimes we would use faded wrapping paper decorated with cartoon rabbits or “Happy Birthday!” logos. “We’re having a Christmas movie night with green tea and Chinese red bean pancakes tonight…” And suddenly, for the very first time, I was homesick. My mother asked me how my life was, and I told her the truth.
My life at Grinnell is different than what I thought it would be. Like any other overzealous first year, I came to college with a plan. I was going to finally crack down on my problem with procrastination, read every word of my assigned readings, and only watch Food Network and Psych reruns after I finished my homework. Well, three months later and nothing went according to plan. I still procrastinate, but I make sure to catch up on homework by studying with my friends the days after. During our study breaks, we eat Korean crackers and Babybel cheese at midnight and sing Michael Bublé songs. If I’m not able to read every word of my assigned readings, it’s okay. I tried my best, and I needed to practice my speed-reading anyway. If I feel uncertain about an assignment, I’ll talk to my professors. Food Network and Psych are still my go-to stress relievers on a weeknight. Life didn’t work out the way I planned, and I’m having so much fun. I’m in love with my friends and this place and Right Now.
On the other side of the phone, I can feel my mother smile. She’s happy for me. And while I can’t see her or hold her in that moment, she doesn’t seem as far away as before. We exchange goodnights and I eventually make my way back to my bed. For what seemed like a long time, I lay on my bed just thinking. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that homesickness is not sadness, but a different kind of happiness-in-waiting. Yes, there are Christmas traditions that I will miss this year, but there are others to be made. It’s just seven more dreams until then.