the homecoming

i remember it hazier

My parents’ new computer puts mine to shame. It almost puts my work computer to shame. But their unlimited hours online puts my home internet provider to shame.


So it’s Christmas Eve. It’s cold outside, for the first Christmas Eve that I can remember in a long time. We don’t get too chilly here in Texas, but when I lived in Michigan or Virginia, we had some cold holiday times.

Dad drove me to Houston yesterday. The drive was quick and fun. We discussed whether Rocky was a show tune and if Egg Nog is indeed a mixed drink. We talked about my old boyfriends, and how obsessed I was when I was fifteen. We talked about work, and why I didn’t get the promotion. We talked about Christmas, and what everyone was getting. We talked about ballet, and why he hates it. We talked about the holidays. It was a good time.

There’s something about coming home that always tricks my head. Every year I see that Folger’s commercial where the eldest son returns from college and walks into the house with a bag of presents and (presumably) some laundry tucked under his arm for Mom to clean. His little sister wakes up and squeals to see him. He hushes her, and he asks about their parents. “Everyone’s asleep!” her crooked smile tells him.

“I know how to fix that,” he says.

Into the kitchen they go, and he brews a pot of Folgers. The smell instantly hits every room of their two story home, and in the tiny morning light of dawn, the parents walk down the stairs, wrapping their robes around them, wondering how little Sally made coffee. As they look down the stairs, little Peter– who is now big Peter, has coffee on a tray. He bends down to one knee and looks up to them humbly– the prodigal son returning. The mother whispers his name, just barely, and takes Peter into her arms lovingly. The father stands behind them, and pats Peter on the back, smiling. “He’s done good again,” he thinks.

And part of me thinks that every time I come home there will be that kind of celebration. As if we haven’t seen each other in months or years. There’s that kind of celebration when Eric goes home to see his family. They all hug. The family all goes to the airport. The friends all meet him at the bar. I tease him that women all around Pittsburgh wax their lips in anticipation of his arrival. (That joke has sort of lost it’s touch now that I’ve been to Pittsburgh and fell in love with the city… but for those of you who still have the same images in your head that I did about Pittsburgh– feel free to enjoy my old joke.) When Eric comes home, it is just like Peter’s arrival in those early coffee hours.

When I walked in the door yesterday afternoon, my parents began to talk about the new computer. It was time to set up the new computer. When will all the parts of the new computer be here? Where do you want to set up the new computer? What side of the desk should we put the new computer on? Is it bigger? Is it smaller? Will everything still work?

And I peeked around the hallway into the room where the new computer sat. And as I looked in, I swear I saw the computer kneel down with a tray of coffee in its hand.

So, maybe my homecoming isn’t the big ceremony my head creates. Maybe that’s a good thing. My family doesn’t feel removed from me. I always slide right back into my niche here at the house. Right now my mother is reading a book, my father is out buying pies and my sister has left to return gifts at the mall and go to work. The eighteen year old cat is by my feet, and the dog is panting in the next room. I am in the room that used to be my old bedroom. For five years I spent just about every waking minute at home in this room. I cried a lot in this room. I had my first real boyfriendy kiss in this room. I pined for years for my own phone line in this room, to no avail. I dressed every day in the dark of my closet that never came with a light fixture. I wrote pages and pages of love letters and stories in this room. I watched hundreds of movies. I sang thousands of songs.

And now, it is the room of the New Computer. It has it’s own phone line. And if you peek into the closet, you will see that they have now installed a light fixture. This computer looks at a CD holder, shelves full of books, and as of this afternoon– it’s new scanner.

And maybe the New Computer is smarter than me, so what if it is? This new computer can’t snuggle. It can’t tell jokes. It can’t sing all the songs to Grease… well, with a CD in it, I suppose it can–

I am willing to accept that the New Computer was the best thing to come home for Christmas. I don’t want to start this feud early on. I am showing my acceptance for this machine by writing on it right now. See? You can hardly tell that I’m gritting my teeth.

Every year on Christmas Eve we try and convince my mother to let us open one gift each. Every year she tells us no. Every year we beg, every year we get turned down. How much do you want to bet this New Computer gets to install its new scanner tonight, eh?

The New Computer never danced in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in the seventh grade.

The New Computer never played Fagin in Oliver!

The New Computer never learned Fingermath.

The New Computer never…

oh forget it.

I should just be happy with the arrival that I got. My mother hugged me. The dog brought me one of her toys. My father hugged me. My sister got home from work twelve hours later and told me a (surprisingly) funny Howie Mandel story.

And when we got into town, Dad took me to Starbucks.

So, I still got my coffee. All things considered, I’ll take a Mocha Latte over a pot of Folger’s any day.

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