What does “Home for the Holidays” mean?

As I sit here on the floor of the Southwest Airline terminal waiting for my delayed flight, it’s hard not to think about the phrase “Home for the Holidays” and the multitude of meanings embedded in these four words. During a class lecture on immigration, transnationalism, and homeland right before the Thanksgiving, break, I asked my students what this phrase meant. Their answers reflected the myriad of possibilities –a specific geographic location (city/hometown), a place where you’re always welcome without question, a space where you’re loved, a place where the people and things you love are, the smell of a home cooked meal, or a place where you feel safe. In essence, these sentiments and spaces live in our memories and provide us with the important memories that sustain us, even in the most difficult of times.

Home, however, is also a privilege –one that we often fail to reflect on. Whenever I teach about home and homeland, I always remember the time I was giving the lecture on home & homeland to a group of foster youth. During our discussion, one young man who had been in the system for a few years said, “home is wherever my laptop is.” When I pressed him for more information, he said, “I get moved from place to place. Families sometimes keep me for a few weeks, a few months, if I’m lucky about a year. I move all my stuff all the time –so my computer is the one way I can stay connected to the people I care about. I can email them, facebook them, something –so they know I’m ok. Or if they’re moved, I know they’re ok. “ I realized in that moment that I had forgotten that there are people who don’t have a space to return to –and that technology remains a key tool in keeping the connected in a constantly changing world.

For others, home for the holidays is a dream, a wish, a hope. During my time working with the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista, San Diego –I’ve had the honor of meeting a number of really terrific elders. The center provides amazing elder wellness programs and provides services to homebound seniors. Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked with some of the seniors about their holiday plans. For some health, cost, or distance prevents them from being with loved ones for the holidays. My heart always hurts when I hear the tinge of sadness in their voice. It always makes me think that if I was in San Diego for the holidays that I’d want to host a big dinner for them. It does remind me though, that the feeling of home is sometimes just out of reach.

The point of this post was not to depress everyone. I just want all of us to remember that as we’re sitting in an airport or in traffic griping about the delays to our homecoming that there are others that would gladly take the two hour delay to have what we have. As I’ve typed this entry, I’ve watched countless travelers walk up to the Southwest gate agent and harass him about this weather delay –taking out their frustrations on someone who has zero control over what’s happening. Maybe this is a plea for perspective –-who knows.

What I do know is that I’m happy I’m heading back to my favorite city by the bay to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season.


Ps: this is a pic I took with my God Daughter Nadya.

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