Christmas Eve. This was an intense day to travel. I got stopped 4 times between checking my bag and the gate because of my hard drives and camera equipment and every time had to pack and repack to that sections’ supervisors liking.
I got to my connecting flight in Charlotte, wondering if I would see someone there. He was supposed to be on this trip with me, but things had changed since those flights were booked. Despite all logic telling me that he hadn’t shown up before, why would he suddenly show up now, I was hoping he would surprise me. I was hoping for some kind of Christmas miracle. But my expectations were accurate to be low, because I got on that plane alone.
My mother greeted me in Buffalo at the bag check with a blinking lights necklace she put around my neck, as if I was in the Hawaii of the northeast. After my bags were loaded they surprised me with a gathering at my aunts house not too far from the airport.
My cousin Rachel was there with her son whom I hadn’t met yet. She was 5 days older than me. We grew up together making sea shell pacts and chasing trains on the tracks saying we would always be connected. I remembered this as my uncle dressed as Santa came out to surprise the kids. As the only first cousin left unmarried and without kids, I asked her what it was like to be a mother, and she said sometimes it’s hard, but she couldn’t imagine him not being in her life.
Shortly after getting home to Syracuse, and after church, I got a text I wasn’t sure I would ever receive. I set it aside, and asked my father to continue our tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas. I thought about my sister and the bun in her oven, and thought about how my dad is going to make such an epic grandfather. I imagined a child resting in the nest of my knees as they listened attentively to his story-telling. I imagined that the person who was missing might think this was weird. Maybe he wouldn’t get it.
The next morning we toasted to my first Christmas at home in years. It was good to be home for the holidays. I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t get Dan Duggan to play on the stereo. Maybe I just missed my sister in that moment. Maybe it was part of me. I don’t know that he was the part that was missing, but I was missing him.
My parents’ dog Dundee and my cats must have sensed this, because for most of the rest of my time in Syracuse they were snuggling me on the couch as I wrote, as I fixed my computer, as I organized my thoughts and plans; and as I cried. I was embarrassed to tell my mother as she tried to console me that I missed someone I knew I shouldn’t be missing. That I was sad over something ending I should be grateful to be free from. That against all my knowing better, my heart just couldn’t compute.