In The Middle Place (you’ve read it, right?), Kelly Corrigan talks about how when she learned of her breast cancer diagnosis (as a young mother of two living in San Francisco), she wanted to race across the country to the house where she was raised, climb into her father’s lap and curl up. I remember feeling exactly the same way when I was first diagnosed. Whether because of my strong relationship with my parents or the remembered childhood comfort associated with the house my family still lives in, there was something visceral about my need to be protected that obliterated my (healthy) marriage, responsibility to my children, or my established life in Massachusetts. I wanted to hop on a plane, leap in my car, lasso a camel, whatever, to get home as quickly as possible and retreat to the insulated cocoon of peace and security that my parents’ house had become in my mind.
To this day, I still hold trips home in a special place, maybe more than your average grown-up-who-lives-elsewhere looks forward to holiday visits. There’s something so familiar (I originally typed “familial” – unintentional but appropriate substitution) about the house, neighborhood, people, stores, that fit neatly in my subconscious in a way that needs no thought… I can get places in my car without thinking about the route; finish or restart old conversations without losing track of the topic; pick paperbacks out of my bookcase and remember having read them years ago.
Of course, there are always the annoyances that I tend to gloss over in my rose-colored haze, the lack of closet space, the same arguments, same family dynamics. Some of this stuff has been going on for so long that I might feel uncomfortable if there were resolutions at this point – how would we know where to seat people if no one were arguing anymore?
So as you sit down with your families this season, take a moment to think about where you’d go, where you would really want to find yourself, in a moment of crisis. Then take your favorite people and go there. Give them each a hug, eat a big meal, and sleep soundly.