There's a saying in Italian, "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi." It means: "Christmas with your family, Easter with who ever you want"...which is why I am in Vancouver.
Being home after a year away - probably more like four years away, if I count all my experiences abroad, is a surreal experience. Nothing and everything has changed. On the one hand time has passed, parents age, hearing gets impaired, hair gets grey, childhood friends get married (ack!), children grow, people move, and buildings go up where there were no buildings before. On the one hand people expect that you are exactly as you were when you left... but living on one's own, fending for one's self in the big city, working in one's chosen profession, acts like water rushing over the rocks at the bottom of a river. It's still the same rock, but subtly changed, the rough edges are smoothed out, and shape subtly changed. It's challenging to realize that no matter where I've lived and what I've done, once the plane touches the runway at YVR I am still someone's child, someone's niece, someone's little cousin, someone's big cousin, or "that kid who used to...". At the same time though, it's like slipping on a favourite fuzzy sweater. In that fuzzy sweater time stands still... or at least, doesn't matter quite so much, the hassles of everyday life, deadlines, work projects, life worries, are suspended, defenses drop, and rest happens. Reconnecting with old friends gives me the sensation of being in a safe haven, and making new ones at the same time reminds me that one should never allow oneself to stagnate. The unique sensation of time being suspended gives me the sensation that anything is possible -- that magic can happen. And indeed, magic does happen... with time and everyday life suspended I feel like I'm getting a chance to enter into the hush that surrounds Christmas, that speaks more than any Christmas carols or TV specials, or even any homily. Not to mention, it's a good chance to take a more objective look than usual at all the different elements that have come together over the years to make me who I am today... and figure out if any of those need some work.
Being home in Vancouver also reminds me that I'm spoiled, and not just with attention from loving family members. I was born and grew up in a city that is so naturally, spectacularly beautiful, nothing else will ever quite compare. Being home for the holidays reminds me that although you can't go back in time, you can always go home again.