The first time I flew home for the holidays was the first year of my PhD program, as previously I'd always lived either two hours from my home or overseas, in which case I flew home, but on odd dates. The year before I had acquired quite the airline mileage, and so I achieved some sort of special status that automatically upgraded me to first class, where I got free drinks. This was quite exciting until I started listening to the conversations of the other passengers ordering free drinks:
"Make it a double. I'm headed to the family."
"I think three's the charm. That's just what I need to deal with Aunt Lucy."
"Jack Daniels? Are you preparing to see the family as well?"
Now, I know that plenty of people have unpleasant family experiences. But all of my fellow passengers? I was in shock. The thing is that I love visiting my family for the holidays. We have tasty food, and interesting conversation (we are divided politically, but respectfully), and it's a wonderful break from my normal life. As I sipped my free Jack and Ginger, I wondered am I the only person excited to see my family? The only one who's been waiting all week to get on this plane for what will be an all-too-short visit? My grad school is supposed to be in a "family-friendly" area, shouldn't liking your family be included in that?
Perhaps this was simply an aberrance (although it happened again the next year), but it made me appreciate my family that much more. My husband and I are flying from baladelba7th early tomorrow morning to see them for Christmas (I was also clever enough to marry a non-Christian, which means that we always get to go to my family's house for Christmas). I'm a bit worried about the weather for some of our connections, but am looking forward to my favorite traditions of family dinners, hanging cookies on the Christmas tree, sitting by the fire with a novel, and pie for breakfast. Most of all, I'm excited to see my family, hear their opinions, argue with them, learn from them and revel in amazement that I'll be drinking eggnog because it's delicious, not because it's necessary to deal with my family.