We drove thirteen hours with three dogs to visit my folks. We, per usual, sopped up our two days of nothing at home prior to leaving, taking immense pride in the three quarters of a single task accomplished in the 48 hour span between last work event and next travel (it was sweeping. I swept two rooms. whatever your face is a broom). We flungs shit into suitcases and flung bags of dog food into the car and hit the road kind of belligerently, like maybe the 13hr drive was something that would just feel like All Part of the Schedule.
It didn’t. It was long and our backs made weird sounds and then we made weird sounds and so did the car because we are all fucking old now ok. At least two dogs farted and did not own up to it, despite our usual custom of celebrating farts. The drive was long and borderline treacherous.
We arrived and I immediately went to over-sensitized. Apparently 13hrs of solace on the road means four lines of spoken anything from anyone other than hubs will send me straight to nerve ending purgatory. I scuttled about my childhood home, kind of waiting for everything to disappear so I wouldn’t have to cope.
When we finally merged at the dining room table, wines poured, shit unpacked, I was vaguely less frantic about communication responsibilities. The wine helped, probably. Mom mentioned on the sly that some family friends were going to have brunch with us tomorrow. I nodded. Twenty minutes into the conversation, she mentions that different family friends were doing dinner with us on some other night. I nodded.
We’re chatting and social plans are being flung at me, and instead of reaching a squealing mental catastrophe in record time, I am grinning and cracking jokes and forgetting…my fatigue and my aching back and my daily shenanigans. We’re rehashing family stories that never grow old, cracking new plays off old jokes, and saying the blessings while lighting our Hanukah candles and pouring the wine, and I realize that my family is not just what is at that table; it’s the culture and community we have built around it.
It’s our family friends that I need to see, because family friends is just the formal name for family. It’s select traditions that mostly matter because we’re all together for a bit. It’s the nuance and history behind a single joke that isn’t even the same joke anymore, often within seconds.
It’s being immediately enveloped by an exclusive history that is automatic and unhesitating and unchanging and changing simultaneously.
You can make new homes wherever you go.
I believe that.
But there’s no such thing as instantaneous history. Culture isn’t immediate.
And some homes are lucky enough to have both.
And sometimes, I’m lucky enough to remember that.