I’m home for a moment. I step off the plane to wind and snow.
The city is as I remember it, but everyone here is another year older, and they look different than they did on Facebook. I hold my friend’s new baby, meet my friend’s new boyfriend, hear about new jobs and grad school. But we get drinks again at the same old places, and I still remember what I used to order.
I end up at my parents’ house wearing a borrowed scarf and sweater. I sleep in until eleven, use someone else’s toothpaste and shampoo. I drive around our small town looking for changes – that restaurant, right? – No, that’s been there. I’m imagining things, feeling like a year-and-a-half away would have changed this place more than it did.
I stayed in Honduras for the holidays last year. We waited until the stroke of midnight to light the person-shaped pichingo on fire and watch the sparks fly out of his head. Families took to the streets after dark and squealing little kids threw cohetes, fireworks made of twisted-up newspaper and gunpowder.
It was when the country still felt brand-new to me, the colors brighter, the streams of conversation more lively and animated. When I saw the colored lights in the sky and cheered the countdown with a hundred strangers I forgot my loneliness and thought it was such a wonderful thing to be alive.
It’s too cold here in Michigan for fireworks. We’ll play board games. They’re the same board games we’ve always played: the ones my brothers always win. We’re the same – we tell the same jokes. I thought a year-and-a-half away would have changed me more than it did.
The New Year doesn’t really feel any different. Like birthdays after twenty-one. You remember to scribble a new digit at the end of the number on forms, but the living, the being, hasn’t changed.
Secretly, one of my biggest fears is to slide through my experiences unmarked. To have experienced pichingos and cohetes and have nothing more at the end than a story, and not a very well-told one at that. When I come home, I want home to feel different because that would mean that I am different, that I have grown, just as my friends have grown their families, their careers, their bodies of work.
Maybe change happens more imperceptibly. My brothers are men now, my sister a confident young woman. My mom has a new job, my dad grew a beard, but I still know who they are. At the end of this old year, we cheer to each other. We cheer to acceptance. We cheer with something fizzy – we cheer to home.
Today is January 1st, again.
What a wonderful thing it is to be alive.