I moved to California when I was 20. It was a big dream come true for me as I’d always wanted to live in the land of summer for as long as I could remember. Though when I actually got to the land of milk and honey I experienced some serious culture shock. Having grown up in the midwest I was a bit too much on the wholesome side to have taken easily to some of the things I saw in L.A.
Long story short, after a couple of years I pined for home and family and was terribly lonely. In a moment of insanity I agreed to come home at my mom’s behest. To my utter amazement, my view had changed without my noticing. Almost as soon as I got home my world became so small.
It was winter and the landscape I found depressing. Nothing had changed around the old neighborhood, as though it had frozen in time since I’d last seen it. Don’t get me wrong it was wonderful to see my family and old friends but I still felt like piece out of place. Like a new toy in a box of old favorites. People kept mentioning my California accent and how different I was. It was really quite surreal.
I think I lasted about 6 weeks before I was utterly miserable and wanted to go back to California. This did not go over well with Mom who really wanted me to stay for Christmas at least. I know I should have, I know that as a good daughter I should have let her have her way but there was something inside of me that just wouldn’t let me. I had to go back.
So, a couple of weeks before Christmas Mom and Dad took me to the airport so I could return to the land of summer and apparently my new ‘home’ in the universe. I remember Mom was so upset with me she could hardly speak to me and we all felt kind of sad. I kept telling my dad I was sorry but he just smiled and gave me a hug and said: “It’s okay Babe, you have to follow your dreams. You don’t have nothing without them.” (What a guy, eh?)
So back I went and Christmas was bleak to say the least. I’d given up my apartment and belongings, I literall had nothing but a few clothes and a lot of hope. A friend had offered to let me stay in his extra bedroom for a few weeks until I got re-settled. But he had plans for the holidays and so I was really left on my own.
It was pretty bleak. I think I had a bologna sandwich on Christmas Eve and watched old movies on tv by myself for the night. I was sad and depressed and so conflicted wondering if I’d made a mistake in coming back. I scolded myself for being so indecisive and loopy. That I could at that moment been with family, eating great food and unwrapping presents.
And then it was midnight and officially Christmas. I was alone in front of the tv and couldn’t sleep. A movie came on called “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d never seen it and since I wasn’t about to sleep, I decided I might as well watch it.
I know this may sound really stupid and silly but really that movie changed my life. It made me realize that everyone does indeed touch the lives of so many others and that we all have an important and special place in the world. And that Christmas isn’t always about getting your wishes but more about celebrating your life, no matter what it is and where it is. That life offers us choice and second chances continually, if only we keep our eyes and our hearts open.
And though there were no fancy parties, presents or even company for me that year – it was indeed a wonderful Christmas. Because I realized I had a wonderful life too.