That has always been the case for me. Last year was the first time I thought going home wouldn't be an option for me. I was living in Canyon, Texas, where I went to college. A blizzard hit the area a few days before Christmas and my boss at the local newspaper told me I should consider not risking driving home for Christmas. I was shocked at the idea.
Not go home for Christmas? It was a foreign concept to me. However, my dad came to the rescue and drove to Canyon to bring me home. By the time he arrived, the snow had melted away, but I enjoyed a few hours of conversation with my dad as we made our way to the Oklahoma Panhandle. It was Christmas as usual with my parents, younger brother and grandma.
This year I won't be going home for Christmas. My family and I have prepared for this holiday carefully in knowing that we won't all be together. I was worried about the upcoming holidays when I moved to Juneau in late September. I didn't know how I would handle being so far away from my family, who I've never lived away more than a few hundred miles.
My favorite Christmas in memory was when I was about 10 years old. My family went to my maternal grandparents' house in Texas. I was not overly happy because it was Christmas Eve and my immediate family usually opened gifts at home that night. My mom assured me that we would be home late Christmas Eve and could open presents on Christmas morning. I still wasn't convinced that this was a good plan. This was a special day though because my grandparents would be renewing their wedding vows on their 50th anniversary. My excitement came when my granny called me to ask if I would be her maid of honor. I naturally said yes with excitement, not knowing how I was picked out of my mom, aunts and female cousins. My uncle, the only son of my grandparents, was the best man. To this day I don't know why my granny asked me to participate in such an honor, but the love and excitement of that moment will stay with me forever. I remember proudly standing next to Granny in her living room as she and my grandpa renewed their vows and thinking that I was in an elite group at that moment.
More excitement came on the way home. Well, it might not have been exciting, but it was interesting. About 45 miles from home, our truck broke down. Fortunately we had made it to a small town. However, finding people was a challenge being that it was Christmas Eve in a town with a population of about 1,500. My dad was able to pull into a car parts store, knowing that we may not be able to get help until the morning. I just knew that we wouldn't make it home for Christmas. A man came to the door of the dark store and talked to my dad. He had been at the store putting together a Christmas gift for his grandchildren. He had the part we needed and in no time at all we were on our way home.
What I've found in Juneau is a sense of family. The people have been very welcoming, which has been comforting. I've had invitations for Christmas day from several people, some of whom I barely know. I won't be alone this Christmas. I'll be spending the day with friends, who have warmly welcomed me into their home.
I may not be able to travel home for Christmas this year, but my memories of my family at the holidays is so vivid and special that it's like reliving Christmas all over in my mind.
Amanda Gragert is the editor of Capital City Weekly.