It’s been three years since I have been home for Christmas. The last time was in 2013, the year I graduated college and decided to go to Costa Rica to get my TEFL certification. At the time I thought I’d do it for a year and then move onto something else; I never imagined that I would still be doing it four years later.
There’s no time like Christmas especially when you’re spending it with your family in the United States. In Spain, all the cities and towns decorate their centers with displays of Christmas lights, and while it’s beautiful and evokes a sense of Christmas it’s not the same as Christmas in the U.S: the houses that are each uniquely and individually decorated; the smell of a balsam fir tree throughout the house, evoking the nostalgia of past Christmases; the frosty chill and the smell of wood being burned in the air. While this year I wouldn’t be decorating the tree or the house I would be spending it all with my family and friends.
I arrived to NY on the 22nd, but because of customs, I didn’t make it out of the airport for about 2 and a half hours. If you can avoid flying into terminal 7 at JFK, do it. It has to be the worst. First, the line for citizens was three times longer than that of non-citizens (which shouldn’t be). They had about half as many people working in the citizen line and as a whole they had the bare minimum employees. On Christmas weekend they had more than 20 empty custom booths. On top of this, they hardly had any of those machines where you need to print out a ticket before going to the booth and about half of them weren’t working; then once you got your paper if you happen to have an X on it, which I did, you had to wait on another inexplicably slow line, while those without the X got to basically walk out. After finally getting out of the worst airport terminal in the U.S, I was surprised when Allie and Jaclyn popped out of the trunk while I was hurrying to put my suitcase in. From that moment for the next week, the three of us were almost inseparable. I think I saw them more during that week than the whole summer.
The following day Jaclyn, Allie and I made a gingerbread house and later I saw Rogue One with my friends (Richie, Tonno, Ian), which we didn’t particularly like and then we went into the city to meet Dave and have dinner. I wanted to do some touristy stuff like see the tree at Rockefeller Center and St.Patricks Cathedral so my friends thankfully humored me. We had dinner at a German restaurant in the ABC area of the city and while not expensive by city standards ($72 per person), it is maybe three or four times more than I would spend at the nicest restaurant in Jerez. After dinner we went out to a divey, college-bar-like place called whiskey town (suggested by Ian) and then went back to RVC and stopped by a bar in town, where I ran into some people I used to lifeguard with.
On Christmas Eve, we celebrated the typical Italian seven fish dinner at our house with my Dads side of the family. My grandma, who usually does the cooking for the main course was unable to cook this year because she was recovering from bronchitis, so we ordered from a friend of hers who owns an Italian restaurant; while it wasn’t grandma’s cooking it was pretty close. After dinner we started sampling all the whiskys my dad had, which got us all significantly buzzed and tired for midnight mass. Staying awake through mass was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, filled with whisky and still jet lagged, my head was like a lure bobbing in the water; Allie and my mom struggled more than me as they feel asleep on each other and had to be woken up by Jaclyn. Hopefully god understood.
Last year I was in a hostel in Rome watching my family open presents on Christmas day, this year it was nice to be there with them. After opening presents, we went to my cousins house in NJ to spend the day with the same family. We passed the time exchanging presents and playing games until a delicious dinner was served and then after played some more games until we eventually went home. The next day my family did an escape the room. We had one hour to try to find our way out of the apartment, but in the end we came up short. We made it more difficult on ourselves by missing things in places we had already looked through three or four times. I think we all enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would and we were all sour about not getting out. It was a fun family bonding experience that we’ll have to duplicate again, except next time we’ll have to get out. As, I’m writing this, I just remembered that last night I had a dream I was doing an escape the room. I guess I have yet to get over not escaping.
The next three days we spent visiting my Moms side of the family upstate. It was great seeing everybody under better circumstances, the last time was for my grandmas funeral. Even though it’s been three years since I’ve last been up there for Christmas, it didn’t feel like it; everything was almost like how it used to be, except my younger cousins [who I still imagine as little] seem to have magically matured overnight, and there are now many new little adorable additions. The hardest part about being away from home is not being around and because I’m not around I’m like a stranger to the little ones. At least the ones who could talk knew my name and playing with them was one of my favorite things I did during the break. While up there, we also took a ride to Oswego because both of my parents studied there and for years my dad has been talking about going to a diner they used to go to when in school. Wade’s is the name and they have great cinnamon raisin toast. We also toured Oswego’s campus, stood at the bank of lake Ontarion, which you would think was an ocean and I got to see snow! One of the things I was hoping for.
At this point I’d only been home for a week, but it felt like a lot longer. When we got back to Long Island, I saw my friend Ian who was leaving to go back to D.C. Jaclyn, Allie, Sean and Me went to the New Museum in Brooklyn and saw a few really cool installations and went out to eat at this Indian restaurant unlike any other. It was small, about the size of a bus and every inch was covered in colored lights. It was awesome! and the food was good too. Also, I shouldn’t say it’s like no other because there are actually three copy restaurants right next to it. However, they aren’t as good, don’t have nearly as many lights and aren’t the original. I forget the name, but if you didn’t know it was the top left one, you’d be easily tricked.
For New Year’s Eve I went into the city with Christine to a party at Jaclyn and Sean’s friends house. It was awesome spending it with her. From the time I arrived to NY to saying goodbye at the end of the night it felt as if a second didn’t go by without seeing her. From the 2nd to the 3rd of January, Christine and I drove to Delaware to see my old roommate Alex, who I hadn’t seen since September of 2013. We were surprised by my friend Kendall who came up from D.C. Alex gave us a tour of the new additions around the campus and then we bar hopped the old spots. One of our favorite spots was the duck game at Grottos; a claw game that we spent about an hour at and 16 dollars attempting to rescue them from their prison. After much maneuvering and rescued ducks, I was able to save one dressed as Uncle Sam. The perfect companion for my trip back to Spain. The trip to Delaware was a short one, but well worth it. It worked out perfectly.
The last couple of days of my vacation passed by tranquillo. I went to my first ever college basketball game/basketball game at St. Johns with Richie and Tonno. Another day, I caught the last hour and a half of the Goblet of Fire which made me want to watch the next one; this in turn prompted Allie to watch all the Harry Potter’s in order because she’d never seen them before. We watched the last two together. In three days she’d watched all 8, an impressive feat considering they come out to 19 hours and 39 minutes. Last, but not least, I can’t forgot the hours I spent snuggling Pal, the cutest dog in the world.
In the end, it was sad to leave. Normally when I come home during the summer I’m home for two months, so it was weird to be leaving after only two weeks. The next time I’ll see them it will be in Spain!