Home for Christmas

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Every time I told someone I was going to school in Florida, they would always joke, “you chose it for the weather didn’t you!” The sunshine state’s reputation was impossible to ignore. Florida has always been seen as an “escape”, or a sanctified hero in the bleakest part of winter. I knew many friends who were escaping from cold Chicago for a few winters in warm spots around the country, and many of my parent’s friends who had come to the point in their lives where they frequently vacationed in Florida as an escape: a proper stereotype. But I seemed to be the one exception.

I chose my college for the classes, for the liberal arts education, for the area, for the town, even for the campus’ spanish architecture. The very last thing in the world I chose it for was weather. In fact, the only thing missing from my incredible school is the cold. I miss it every November morning I wake up and put shorts on, I miss it every time I crave Hot Chocolate but my body positively cannot handle that much heat (chocolate milk is just not the same), and I miss it most when Christmas decorations start coming up around town.

A lot of you readers are probably huddled in layers of blankets, snowed in or trapped in a stiffly heated house while the Chicago temperatures drop below 20 degrees, thinking me an ungrateful Floridian who’s forgotten what “cold” actually is like. Truly, I will never forget the dry skin or gloomy afternoons but I miss winter and I miss the snow.

I’ve always been so in love with Christmas, I actually got the reputation as that girl. The one who wears Christmas sweaters to school, plays Christmas music long before Thanksgiving, and has a borderline panic attack when Starbucks starts selling their Christmas drinks. I suppose it’s because of my family’s traditions we’ve had since I was little. My parents always made Christmas magical for my siblings and I, year after year. Snow is a tangible representation of the Fairy Tale I was raised to love. It sounds like a cliché Holiday Rom-Com but I believe a street covered in snow is the stillest, most romantic spectacle in the world.

I guess my love for snow started almost thirteen years ago when my family was moving from our home in Ohio that I had been born in, to a much bigger city that we were told was Chicago. I had known nothing except for this home in Ohio, nothing except my cousins and aunts and grandma who lived minutes away, the short walk to the town’s gazebo, the way I knew every one in the first grade and the house that they lived in.

On our last Christmas at our Ohio house, we spent Christmas Eve with our entire family. My mom and aunts cooked as me and my cousins whispered about the much-anticipated possibilities of what Santa would bring us in the morning. The only thing missing was snow; it was 55 degrees and drizzling. But even as a seven year old I had known that the next year, I’d be missing much more than snow. Still, how nice it would’ve been to have snow instead of drizzle as a final farewell to the house I had been born in, had my first Christmas in, decorated with nutcrackers and tinsel and holly year after year after year. My siblings and I fell asleep in my sister’s bed like we do every year, listening for any possible sounds on the roof that just might be a dozen reindeer’s hooves and bells on a sleigh.

In the morning we woke up to a different sound. It wasn’t reindeer’s hooves or jingle bells: it was even more beautiful. My mother was exclaiming an Emmanuel  Choir of “Oh, my gosh!”s from downstairs in the living room, giddy like she was my age. “It’s a Christmas Miracle!”

We rushed downstairs and there, out the French doors my mother had so carefully planned to benefit the three little children who loved to play outside, a world of snow surrounded every corner of the yard. You could barely see the swing my Dad had tied to a branch, the little house my Grandparents had given me for my birthday, or the play set where I became a grownup the day I helped my baby brother down the slide. It was covered in snow. Beautiful, incredible, miraculous Christmas snow that I was sure was sent just for us, from some higher miracle. Just for my sister who was leaving her friends, just for my mother who was leaving her family, just for my Dad who could create Christmas miracles with his bare hands, just for my brother, who was too young to remember much of our magical house in Ohio. And maybe, just maybe, it snowed for me too.

As you might be able to tell from my previous articles, Ohio was only the beginning of the magic, and Chicago became home instantaneously. It is my favorite place in the world, where the city is bright and my house is home and Christmas is just as magical at nineteen as it was as an eight year old, peeking out on the snow covered streets at 6am on Christmas morning.

But I chose to find adventure elsewhere, and with that came the consequence of a different “holiday season”; one where people tanned instead of sledded, sipped on iced tea instead of hot chocolate. I’ve missed Christmas as I know and love more than I could possibly explain. It doesn’t feel like the holiday season in the Florida anymore than it feels like 4th of July season in Antarctica.

But I’ve learned all too much from that little girl who cared more about her mother’s response to the snow more than the snow itself on the very last Christmas in Ohio. Maybe it’s not the heat that prevents the holiday season, maybe it’s the lack of my family. It’s the lack of my mom decorating the house or my brother getting angry as I played Christmas music before Thanksgiving or the sight of my Dad coming home from work bundled up in his old coat, or my sister and I dancing with tree branches as the rest of the family takes cutting-down-the-tree very seriously.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if the season extends the month that I was used to or starts on December 12th when I return home to the frozen city and the family that’s waited for this since I left in the summer. I will certainly be home Christmas. No way I would ever miss it, snow or sun.

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