I remember clearly the first time I didn’t make it “home” for Christmas. It was Christmas Eve, and it was snowing. Christmas snow is rare in Vancouver. I was happy, but my family was worried.
My uncle, a pilot, was set to take my cousins and I in his 6-seater twin engine plane, to the home on Vancouver Island where the rest of the family was gathering. All of us had divorced parents and had to split our Christmases between two or more families, which is why we would be the last to arrive and the first to leave. Everything had been sent ahead of us, including the presents.
The snow fell, piles and piles of it. I was happy, but my uncle was worried. “We won’t be able to fly if this keeps up,” he said.
“Christmas will be ruined!” My grandma exclaimed dramatically on the phone when he broke the news to her that we wouldn’t fly. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“I can’t make the snow stop falling, Mom,” he replied, exasperated. “I’m sorry.”
I have a secret. I pray for snow, even if it’s inconvenient. I celebrate snow, even when it ruins all the plans. I am an irrationally dedicated fan of snow, and I will take snow over anything. That night, secretly, deep in my heart, I decided that instead of being together with all the family, instead of sitting in front of a grand Christmas tree, instead of giving and opening loads of presents, I would rather it keep snowing.
And it did. My family was disappointed, but I was happy. My uncle, cousins and I went out for Chinese food, and went back to his un-decorated, Christmas tree-less, snow-covered log house in the forest. It was perfect.
I declared that we would have Christmas anyways, and set off in search of a Charlie Brown tree. There were plenty to choose from in my uncle’s backyard. I decorated the tree with random junk from my car – mardi gras beads, caution tape, miscellanous colourful nic-nacs. I found a gift for my uncle and each cousin to unwrap – who cares if it was a can of root beer, or a half-eaten box of cookies, or a dashboard decoration.
Gradually, my cousins cheered up. They thought it was silly, I think, but they made the best of it, and the snow continued to fall all night. Secretly, I celebrated this fortunate turn of events. And I learned for myself that the lack of presents, family gatherings, turkey, and being “home” doesn’t necessarily equate to a ruined Christmas.
This year, I won’t be home for Christmas. In fact, I haven’t been “home” for Christmas in years, and, as is a commonly discussed problem among perpetual travelers, I’m not even sure I know what “home” is anymore.
I don’t have a family “home” to return to. My mom’s house? I’d have to ask for directions to the bathroom. My dad’s house?” Beautiful, but I’ve never lived there either. The closest thing I have to “home” right now is the Japanese apartment I share with my husband and our 2-foot fake plastic Christmas tree. But we won’t be there for Christmas either.
As a traveler, I’ve learned to be content with “home base.” This Christmas, home base will be a hostel in Seoul, and while there will be no family (asides from my husband), no turkey (probably), and no presents (that I’m aware of), Christmas will still go on. And, if I get my wish, we might even see some snow.