So, I’m sitting in the Standing Stone Coffee Company located less than a block away from my house in Pennsylvania. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since I got home on Saturday night, thinking about the nature of home. I get all nostalgic like this when my life has a major shift. I try to define my sense of ‘home.’
It’s especially vital right now, at this swing of epoch. With Christmas approaching and the new year after that, people around the world are making that trip back home to see the family. Our typical family tradition tends to include driving east to Camp Hill and Mechanicsburg for a couple of days, one of which is dedicated to the annual Harrisburg Mall trip with my grandmother (something we all secretly loathe, but she’s 84 years old, so we humor her). This is the unfailing day in which Grandma calls my one sister too skinny and my other sister too fat and insults my mother’s clothing tastes. She still has yet to understand why I instantly flee to Border’s and avoid Macy’s like the plague. Last year we had a breakthrough when my younger sister finally cured Grandma of her fear of Hot Topic. I found out two days ago that the mall trip is canceled this year, and Grandma is giving us money instead. Hopefully this stay of execution will be extended for next Christmas as well.
In spite of how much my sisters and I think our grandmother can be a pushy/batty old lady, there is still an overriding sense that this is our family; this is who we are–kooks and crazies all of us in our own way. Will it really be Christmas without the tedium of explaining that no, I do not like that bright pink sequin-encrusted handbag?
But this year is something different; something special. Something so phenomenally awesome that words don’t even describe my excitement. And no, this glee is not caused by the cancellation of Harrisburg Mall Day–that’s just an added bonus. This Christmas will be marked by seafood and ocean breezes, by the smell of chouriço and sardines, by kinder eggs and sumol. We are going to Portugal.
Let me explain that I love Portugal. I love everything about Portugal. I have been dying to go back to Portugal for five years now. It has been five years since the last time we were in that beautiful country by the ocean. If we weren’t going now, I might possibly explode.
The last time we were in Portugal was in March of 2006, and I was fifteen years old. I’m twenty now, and much has changed within me since we all cut school for two weeks during my freshman year of high school. We were dying to go back then; we are dying to go back now.
Portugal, as well as Portuguese culture, has had an integral role in the formation of my family since my parents first met–my mom the tourist on a cruise, my dad the sexy Portuguese waiter in the dining room on the boat. (Yes, my parents met on a cruise, in the Caribbean, and were married about a year later. Romance, people. It happens).
Especially the past year and a half I have put a lot of effort into language acquisition. I can honestly say that, though while I was a kid I had a much firmer grasp on that illustrious dark lady that is the Portuguese tongue, which I ostensibly lost control of as I entered my teen years. Though I was doing marvelously with Spanish thanks to living in Argentina for a year, my Portuguese skills continued to flounder in despair. I took two levels of Portuguese class at Adelphi, and it was one of the smartest things I ever did, closely following my decision to transfer (which I might not have done if AU offered higher level Portuguese classes). By the end of the spring semester I could hold down a conversation, read, and write passably well in the language of my infancy. If your parent(s) speak a language natively that you do not, you should learn it.
So I am super excited to go this time because I will actually be able to communicate with my relatives, which is not something that happened very well the last time we were there. I am also super excited because of the FOOD!!
Portuguese food is wonderful, and wonderfully unique. Most people instinctively lump Portuguese anything automatically with Spanish culture, but it is different in so many ways. Portuguese food relies heavily on fish and other seafood, as well as different breads and meats. I can hardly wait for the food.
So here are a couple more pictures from our last family trip to Portugal:
So here’s the major question I’m asking myself: Will I feel at home for the holidays? In so many ways, we are going home to visit our family, just like every other person mulling about the international airports all over the world. But at the same time, we are forgoing our usual family traditions. Will it feel like home? Will it feel like Christmas? Does it even matter, so long as we are with the ones we love?
So tell me–are you going home for the holidays, or are you, like me, as of yet unsure