Going home to visit my family is always kind of a strange endeavor for me. I love seeing and spending time with my family, but there’s something about going home that makes me act like I did in high school. This would be acceptable if I weren’t such a petulant little whiner in high school, but as it is, I end up being less than fun to be around when I’m home.
There are a lot of factors for my behavior, one of the simplest is the fact that I don’t drive. Not driving is a perfectly acceptable adult thing to do in the cities I’ve chosen to live in (that is, cities with comprehensive public transit), but renders me completely helpless in the suburbs. This sudden helplessness decimates my autonomy, and makes me kind of a burden on my family. This may lead to a desire to duly assert my autonomy when I’m home, which is entirely frustrated by my parents tendency to treat me like I’m a kid. It’s always something small — telling me to finish my vegetables or to wash my hands before dinner — and always something I was going to do anyway. It’s stupid, but being told to do something automatically makes me not want to do it, even though I would and should do it otherwise. I end up rebelling in the exact same way I did in high school. At least, that’s how it has been.
This trip home has been blissfully free of that behavior, something I’m not entirely sure I can explain. My younger brother moved back in with my parents after he graduated college, something I think makes me look more mature both by association and comparison; as they come to see him as more mature, I also become more mature in their eyes. This may have something to do with it, but I suspect the change in the way I’m treated at home is more the result of my grandfather having moved in with my parents. They have someone new to take care of, effectively displacing their children from that role. This is good for me, but I think ends up being condescending to my grandfather in the same way I always objected to when I went home.
I know my parents love my grandfather, but it often seems like the realities for taking care of him make him a bit of a burden. Going out for a walk with him isn’t thought of as a pleasure, or even as a thing that would happen anyway, but is assigned as a chore. People smile and make polite conversation, but nobody really treats him like an adult human being. I’ve written here before how interesting I think my grandfather is, so I really resent it when he’s treated in this way.
My younger brother has been working at a very ritzy restaurant, and my family decided to go there on Friday both to see my brother and to treat ourselves in celebration of my mother’s birthday and my parents 30th wedding anniversary. I sat across from my grandfather, and was excited to hear some of his great stories. Unfortunately, a noisy restaurant is not the best place to engage my grandfather, who is both soft-spoken and hard-of-hearing.
[Side note: What kind of music would you expect to be played at a really upscale restaurant? Maybe some lounge jazz or some kind of inoffensive easy-listening? This place seemed to fall into the latter category, spinning a lot of the new Coldplay album, which is kind of hip (I guess), but certainly isn’t going to offend anyone. It made sense to me, but then they played Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So:
Um, what? I suppose the fact that it was being used as background music could kind of excuse that the lyrics are about an alcoholic father, but what about the loud parts with the screaming? And never mind that, why is this song, a single that peaked at number seven on the US Modern Rock charts (and never even charted on Billboard’s Hot 100) sixteen years ago, being played in a restaurant at all? Weird.]
My grandfather covered some really interesting stories, ranging from his times in Boston to his move to Detroit to determining what books the Detroit Library should and shouldn’t shelve, but I could only make out some of the details. This was frustrating for both of us, and made me wish my older brother would make good on his expressed interest in recording my grandfather’s stories. I don’t really know what the point of this is, other than that I kind of wonder if he would have just sat there in silence if I hadn’t been there. Being a little more social was kind of a goal for this trip, and while that was intended for high school friends, having a little face time with Grandpa doesn’t seem like the worst thing.
That night, I met up with a high school friend to catch a movie. This is one of the few people I see regularly when I’m home, so getting together with him now didn’t feel very far removed from our previous experiences. We’re both genuinely interested in what each other is doing, so just playing catch up is fun.
The next night, I went out with my older brother to hang out with his friends. I’ve done this a few times, most recently at my brother’s bachelor party, but I’ve always felt like kind of a tag-along. A four year age difference is pretty huge growing up, and always meant I was not in high school, college, or out of college when they were. I didn’t get that this time, and aside from the general awkwardness of hanging out with people you hardly know, it felt pretty good.
Last night, I met up with one of my oldest friends, a guy I met in second grade and from whom I was pretty inseparable throughout elementary school. He went to private school starting in junior high, which caused us to develop our own friend groups, but we still hung out pretty regularly throughout high school. Since leaving for college, I haven’t spent much time at home, and when we met last night, we guessed that the last time we had gotten together was the summer of 2009. I’m generally kind of apprehensive about meeting with old friends for fear of falling into the same traps I used to with my family, but there was nothing like that at all. I also sometimes worry that it will be more like meeting strangers than reconnecting, but there was none of that, either. Though we’ve both changed a lot through the years, the things that originally drew us together in the first place have remained the same. Moreover, there’s a sense of familiarity and affection there that is reserved for very old friends. It was good to see him, and the whole experience is making me reconsider the value of staying more in touch.
I don’t know if my experiences this visit home are the result of my own maturity or that of the people around me, but this trip has been categorically different from any previous ones. I’m feeling more like myself and less like the person I was in high-school, which is better for everyone. My apprehensions about coming home and seeing people have all been proven unfounded on this trip, and I look forward to coming home for Christmas. Growth (or, at least change) here is a great sign, and I’m excited at what it might mean for my poseurphobia in general. The time seems right to poke the bear.