Returning home for the holidays


Graphic by Jamie Mere

Reading week consists of little reading and productivity. I can confidently say I haven’t even considered academia since early October. Who has time for studying when you’re shoveling turkey down your gullet anyways?

Reading week is a time to spend with family, a time to get just a little too drunk in front of your mother to the point of discomfort. Everyone needs a break so what better way of doing so than overeating and sleeping fifteen hours a day?

Maybe you’re a cynic, boycotting the festivities while you spend your entire week finishing the newest season of The Good Place. Maybe your grandmothers lost her prowess of the culinary arts and neglects the preparation of a turkey. You pick away at the few warm spots of the defrosted lasagna she’s undercooked as she explains her struggles and sufferings with eczema one last time.

Or maybe your Thanksgiving was somewhat like mine.

Maybe your mother picks you up from school. After an uncomfortable drive of her passively asking if you’ve contracted any STIs, you return to your childhood home.

Your room is never as you left it. While vacant, your room quickly turns into storage; now home to excess kitchen supplies, a handful of loose tools and puzzles no one intends to complete.

It’s evident the last person to sleep in this bed was not you. You don’t necessarily mind but wish someone would have taken it upon themselves to remove the Rorschach stains littering your bedspread.

Your brother takes it upon himself to inhabit your empty closet as his own personal vault. Since you’ve left home, your younger sibling has been forced to succumb to increased surveillance from your panopticon mother.

Upon returning home you discover the family has adopted a new dog. Other than his tendencies to nip at your dangling extremities, he’s tolerable. He lacks basic behaviour skills and has clearly been neglected basic training. It proves difficult to walk or communicate with the dog due to most of his primary commands being in German.

A simple stroll down the street becomes a self-inflicted bilingual exam. You discover he’s oblivious to the term ‘stop’ as he tugs his leash towards oncoming traffic. This dog, ignorant to your dialect, now relying on your ability to loosely translate canine jargon from German to keep him alive slightly terrifies you. “Halt”, you guess as the dog takes a seat on the lip of the curb.

Thanksgiving at your mother’s is brief and forced. You keep your mouth full at all times in an attempt to avoid conversing with your mother’s boyfriend. You ignore his infantile remarks denouncing homosexuality knowing that any objection is bound to lead to an argument.

He mutters slurs about the recent immigration policies of both Canada and Germany in his native tongue, broadening the dog’s vocabulary. He’s told you not to feed the dog which only ensures he’ll be feasting on turkey and stuffing between legs the entire meal.

Thanksgiving with your father’s family is a whole other ballgame. Instead of four people huddled around a bowl of untouched coleslaw making small talk, playing ignorant to the vulgar rantings of a German man, this is an army.

Or maybe your thanksgiving was nothing like mine. Maybe your returning home was amicable, full of nostalgia and welcoming hugs. Maybe your family shared stories of your youth, exchanging comforting sentiments of pride and affection.

Or maybe your family withholds backhanded passive-aggression, leaving genuine feelings up for interpretation. Maybe your family has snakes and toddlers leisurely coexisting in the same room. Maybe you got too drunk in front of your parents and told them about the time you lost your virginity.

Regardless of how you survive the holidays, you only get so many. You only spend so much time with these people. So, instead of wasting your time binge watching Grey’s Anatomy or scrolling through Tinder claiming you’re “only there for dog pics lol,” make an effort with your family. Prioritize the temporary.

Have a beer with your dad, watch that terrible Amy Schumer special with your mom. And excruciating as it may be, try and teach your dog some damn English.

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