To most people, home consists of family, a house that you regularly go back to for the holidays, usually personalized with a scent that only other people can smell because you've grown so used to it. But you know you've been away from home for too long when you notice the smell of your home once you step through the door. Warm, baked cinnamon apple candles and a hint of a crackling fire––I started identifying this scent as home in middle school, when my friends would come over and gush over how my home always smelled like my mom constantly kept a pie in the oven.
Now it's the holidays, and people are going home, but what is home, really? Is it where your family is, where you grew up, where that familiar scent lingers, or where you spend the majority of your time? For college students living in dormitories, school becomes a "second home," but why?
I've traveled and moved a lot, so sometimes I struggle to answer the question "Are you going home for Christmas?" I don't know how to answer this question because I don't really know where home is anymore. It's not because I have nowhere to go, nothing like that––I just feel like so many places in my life could qualify as a home.
In 8th grade, my mom moved to Southern California for her job, and because I didn't want to move in the middle of the year, my best friend's family (I'll call her Zia) offered their home to me. At the time, I struggled with some losses, but this family changed my life. They welcomed me into their family. Their home smells like apple cinnamon candles, too, with a hint of dog. I still go to their house every Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, my stomach always rejoices from their divine cooking. Anyway, I guess this is home because even when Zia and I got into fights, we got through it; even though I moved away eventually, I could always go back.
When I was in 9th grade, a freshman in high school, I studied abroad for a year in France. I didn't go back to the USA for the holidays, but the Pfisters included me in their secret Santa gift exchange. I was surprised that 20-year-old Matthieu knew what mascara even was when I opened my gift.
I remember feeling alone. I remember staying in my room a lot for a while, but I also remember the times Christel or Judith would knock on my door and invite me to cook or go out with them. I remember the surprise birthday party that Judith threw for me with all my friends from school, and I think it's the sweetest thing anyone's every done for me, and if she's reading this–-thank you, again.
I cried in my room, alone, cold, in the middle of winter. Christel came into my room and hugged me and treated me as her own daughter; she became a second mom, and Vincent a second father. Sorry, I'm getting sappy here. Let's move onto the next.
I starting attending Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, CA, a boarding/day school, my sophomore year of high school. I moved in the summer of 2012, and I can't say that I could've predicted all the friendships I would make there. The first friend I would meet there was Krisi. A few students were giving me a tour of the school on orientation day, and Krisi was one of them, and we instantly clicked––talked for hours. Now, she's still one of my best friends; we just talked on the phone yesterday, actually, even though we go to colleges in different states. Then there was Robert, a boy from Congo who could sort of speak English, but with a heavy accent that I had to really listen to understand. (He can speak perfect English now though––in fact, I can't remember the exact moment that Robert started speaking so well, it just kind of happened, but let's just say he was good enough to get into MIT). And let's not forget Denny. I'll be honest, there were times were Denny annoyed the heck out of me, like that pesty brother that always snoops into your business when you just want to be alone, but he's also one of the most loyal friends a person could have. If you say you need to talk, he'll reply as soon as possible. Robert, Denny, and I became family. We are family; our relationship is the typical, immature, brother-sister relationship. I swear to god we were really blood-related in another life. Later, I would meet Noriko and Paola, my sisters from around the world. Anyway, what was my point? Oh, yeah. Villanova became my home, too. I still talk to some of my teachers.
Now I'm in college. I've made new friends that will become family, too. So, I guess home is wherever your family is, which could be anywhere. A lot of people associate home with a place, but really, to quote a cliché, home is where the heart is.
So if you're missing "home," as in the place you grew up, I hope you realize that wherever you are, you do have a home if you have people that mean something to you. It's funny how we think a certain place will make us happy, but really, it's the people that make the experience worthwhile. I hated California, but I don't ever regret staying there because, I mean, how could I ever live without my family? I can't bring myself to regret the decision to stay at Villanova. I can't bring myself to regret the decision to study abroad in France, even though it was a challenge. I can't regret any of it, because I always have a home.
I hope you have a home, too. I hope you always have a home. If you don't, I hope you find one. I hope you make one, because you can, you always can. You just have to open up your heart to people, which, yeah, I know that's hard. I know people suck, trust me. But some people don't suck. Some people are actually pretty cool. Those people change your life.
If you're unsure about where your home really is, then close your eyes and breathe.
What do you see?
What do you smell?
What do you hear?
Now, if you feel the warmth build up in your chest and the excitement flutter your lips upward as this image appears in your mind, this is your home you can always go back to. So go back to it, because home misses you, too.
Go home for the holidays, wherever your heart tells you that is, because you don't want to miss these moments alone.