As I zipped up the firmly packed the forest green John Hart shave kit, I took one final glance in the mirror before leaving my apartment for the next few days. The man looking back at me was well rested, clean shaven, and eager to be throttled with inevitable surprises stacked upon my desk before my Thanksgiving holiday could begin. But behind the face, beaming with confidence and a glow provided by a full night’s sleep and an early morning workout, there was a subtle trepidation that could not be ignored.
Trips back home are few and far between these days. That’s part of the process. If you haven’t figured out by now that you have to eat shit to be shit, then you have a lot to learn. Sure, you’re going to take it on the chin for a few years, but it won’t be long before you become the seasoned office vet/asshole taking the entire week off. For the next few days, however, the process will have to wait.
I’m going home for Thanksgiving.
Last year can only be described as a disappointment. During the first five, maybe six, years out of college, you can count on the Wednesday through Saturday gauntlet with the guys who know you the best. The trips to bars you’re too old to even consider being at, and the late nights when your buddy’s old man who you haven’t seen in a few years breaks out the expensive stuff and talks shop with you. But like that hairline that seemingly disappeared overnight, it hits you hard and right in the nads when it’s over.
One year ago while desperately trying to make things happen, I sent a carefully crafted text to my elder group text. I’m normally not the social chair of the group, but I’ll occasionally swing the bat. But with the group text, the first response is key. One “can’t make it” response can sink your ship before it leaves the dock. That’s what happened last year. It was a vital member of our hometown friends’ first holiday with a girl he was beginning to become serious with. Six months in, if I remember correctly. Then the dominos fell. Left to my own devices, I navigated the dangerous waters of the holidays without the day ones.
This year, hopefully, the story will have a different ending.
While many dread the inevitable awkward dinners and long, silent pauses that occur after grandparents mute the television to avoid being inundated with commercials, my fear comes from a different place. Showing your face in the town that molded you is never as easy as it should be. From the moment your car, loaded down with golf clubs, a suitcase, a laptop bag, and shirts hanging in the back seat, exits from the highway that never seems to change, you start to remember.
You drive by the high school where you spent so much of your time not taking things seriously. You drive by the the Taco Bell parking lot that you spent more hours in than you’d like to admit waiting for something different to happen. You begin to drive down the road – the road where your dad was forced to pick you up because being 16, drunk, and raising hell was frowned upon – but you decide to go another way. Remembering the moment you first saw disappointment in your father’s eyes is too much to handle.
Facing those memories directly is part of the process. Understanding how you got here is just as important and contemplating where you’re going. However difficult it may be face the demons you maybe never completely laid to rest, the good times have a place in this equation too. The holidays are here, goddammit. You’re surrounded by the people who know you best and care for you the most. I hope you’re able to reconnect with that group of SOBs who you used to scavenge 30 packs of Keystone Light with every Friday and Saturday night. Or that guy who you haven’t talked to in years because of a petty fight over a girl who neither of you have talked to in years.
And it happened. I officially turned this into every shitty country song of the last decade.
I’m fine with it. My Thanksgiving think piece went off the rails a bit, but it’s honest. Preachy, hokey, but honest. So as I sit here with a car fully packed so I can hit the road as soon as humanly possible, I’d like to wish all of you who are heading back home for a few days godspeed. Give it hell out there. .
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