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Home again for the holidays

Sometime early in the morning I awake to the banging of doors, the muffled tones of the morning news and the clanging of dishes. My eyes adjust to the glaring red numbers perched atop my bed-stand: 6:30am.

Who on earth is moving around at this hour?

I soon realize the voices don’t belong to my hallmates and my big, soft bed is definitely not the glorified cot I sleep in at school. Now I remember–I’m home for the holidays.

Long after the house has emptied, I emerge from my sea of blankets and stumble to the kitchen for some breakfast. A quick glance into the cupboards confirms what I should have already known; it looks like Mom hasn’t gone grocery shopping since the last time I was home.

I’ll just have to settle for the same oat bran that my brothers and I have been rejecting since I was in high school. Fortunately, they left me with enough milk for half a bowl.

For a fleeting moment, the make-your-own waffles and unlimited supply of milk at Sodexho become more appealing, but I’m determined to enjoy my time away from college. Then I see it: my home-for-the-holidays worst nightmare-the note.

The note begins innocently enough, a small slip of white paper casually resting on the counter. But closer inspection reveals that this note’s placement was anything but offhand. One glance at that white square tells me my day is over.

My eyes run over the familiar list:

“Janine, hope you slept well last night. Would you please vacuum the entire downstairs sometime today? Don’t forget to move the furniture. Also, could you pick up 8 oz. of cream cheese (it can’t be light or the sauce won’t set right) and two 12 oz. packages of frozen green beans (French cut, NOT CANNED)?

“I’m staying late tonight for a meeting so you’re in charge of dinner. I’m not sure what we have in the house, so you may need to pick something up while you’re at the store. And your dad has all the cash so if you could use your money I’ll pay you back when he gets home.

“Don’t forget we have church tonight, and you’re in charge of watching the kids. Thanks, have a great day!

“P.S.-Could you work on your bathroom when you get a chance?”

No matter how many years I’ve been in college and moved back home for break, I still experience this “home shock.”

I’ll never forget the first time I came home and saw the looks on my parents’ faces when I pulled into the driveway after midnight. It had always been the rule that you call if you’re going to be home late.

Or the saga of laundry. Living on campus does little to prepare me for a “one washing machine per household” reality. It seems that every time I want to wash clothes at home, someone has been there before me and forgotten to finish. It never fails that I have to finish off the two loads that were already there before I can begin to think about mine.

My personal favorite “shock” is the extra-curricular activities I’m expected to participate in. The church meetings, my little brother’s soccer games, my grandma’s choir concerts, lunch dates with high school friends and all the doctor’s appointments I have to catch up on.

Ironically, my “breaks” turn out to be just as stressful as the semester.

My mom’s car pulls into the driveway. Somehow I’ve managed to vacuum the house, get the groceries, eat lunch with my friends, go to the dentist and get a frozen pizza in the oven.

The bathroom will just have to wait until tonight, which isn’t a huge problem considering I’m the only one still awake after 10:00 P.M., and there’s no one in the house to talk to.

My brother gets home from practice, and we all sit down to eat. After a quick round of who-sits-where, the peacefulness that’s inherent in the presence of family soon settles upon the table and I realize how much I have truly missed these moments, and how grateful I am to be home for the holidays.

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