As any CSU student knows, one of the graduation requirements is to demonstrate your ability to draft a well-thought out essay, logically responding to any given prompt. To measure this, every student has to take the Graduate Writing Test, where they are given a (usually obscure) prompt to respond to. I’ve heard several examples of prompts that people have gotten, including having to assign a meaning to a key, what your favorite color is, and responding to a certain rule or law of your choosing. When I took this exam several years ago, the prompt I had to respond to was to write about my favorite season. I recently found my essay that I wrote, and I am here to share it with all of you.
It’s almost midnight as my dad and I pull into the driveway of an all too familiar house in a very suburban area located on the border of the cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove. I’m just waking up from my hour long nap that I took during the six hour trek from Glendora up to Northern California. I open the passenger door to be greeted by brisk weather, approximately at forty degrees – a dramatic change from the warm weather I had just gotten accustomed to in LA County. There aren’t any Christmas lights up yet, knowing all too well that the task of putting them up would be saved for me to do during my winter break. I grab my bags filled with my personal items to last me the entire three week break and entire time at the home in which I grew up. I say to myself again, “I’m home.”
When I think of the winter season, the feeling of home comes rushing back. Despite the less than ideal weather, especially in Sacramento, it remains to be my favorite time of the year. More specifically, the holiday season brings that familiar sense of home back to me. Growing up, I did not have the same appreciation for the holiday season, because at the time, all it meant to me was a break from homework, teachers, and everything else the world of academia had to bring. Everyday would bring the same humdrum routine – go to school, sit behind a desk, write copious amounts of facts and equations, maybe attend a club meeting, and come back home with a laundry list of assignments. The main point is the fact that I was always coming back to the same place everyday for almost twelve years. Sure, the familiarity was comforting, but the thing about familiarity is that it gets less exciting after awhile. Once I left for college, I grew to miss that routine, and I grew to miss that familiarity. I grew to miss home. Now, every year, when I walk through that front door for a quarter break, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have a place to come back to every few months and all it brings. Looking back, it was the holiday season that ultimately taught me that home is so much more than a place, but a feeling.
Just like for so many other people, the holiday season often means spending time with family. I have been lucky enough to spend the season not only with my immediate family, but also my vast extended family. My mom and her cousins, as well as two of her siblings, all moved to Sacramento county in the 1980’s, all of which just so happened to live within a ten minute drive of each other. Because of that tightly knit bond, my sister and I have gotten to know our cousins very well, and were never made to feel like strangers around them. This generational bond was brought about due to the tradition of spending the holidays at my aunt’s house, filled with all of our extended family. Although the younger generation is starting to spread throughout California, we can always trust that once the weather becomes cooler and the leaves start changing color, that means that it won’t be long until we get to see each other again.
The feeling of home is also brought about by just physically being in the same place you grew up in. Spending time with friends and family help with strengthening those bonds, but if done too often, going out on a daily basis can start to feel like an obligation. I need those days where I can appreciate being in my own house enjoying a mug of hot chocolate and watching shows on Netflix. I cherish the moments where I can sit in my bedroom and reflect on all that has happened the past several months that I wasn’t able to spend at home. The time that I spend putting up Christmas lights makes the feeling of the holiday season more real to me. Without these solitary moments of reflection and appreciation, the opportunity to truly enjoy the holiday season will have passed.
With New Year’s Day already in the not-too-distant past, I drive down my street and notice evergreen trees on the side of the road. Christmas lights still glisten, but I know they will be coming down within the next few weeks. The holiday season is over. I start packing for the long drive drive back to Pomona, where I will soon be greeted with assignments, professors, and everything else the world of academia has to offer. As my suitcase fills up, I look back at the time I shared with my friends and family the past few weeks – taking a day trip down to San Francisco with my cousins, looking at Christmas lights with my friends, spending an entire day watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” in my pajamas. I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia as I zip my suitcase closed. I walk out the door and look forward to the holiday season that will return in several months, and all the new adventures that will occur in the time between. When the leaves change color and the air becomes crisper, I will be home again.
Reading this back, it’s overwhelming to think about how much has changed, and where I came from in terms of where I’m at in my life now. Even though a lot has changed in the four years that has gone by since I wrote this, the holiday season still remains to be my favorite, just for different reasons. The longer I live away from Sacramento, the more deep rooted I feel where I currently live, and the harder it is to leave. It was around the time I wrote this essay that I associated the holiday season to the feeling of home and nostalgia. Though I feel a little more distant from Sacramento every year, nothing will quite take away the nostalgia I feel when the weather and the leaves change.