As everyone sat joyfully around the bare table waiting for Christmas pudding to finish boiling, it hit me. I was homesick. It was the first Christmas I was spending away from my entire family with my partner’s family. I didn’t expect to feel this way. I’d been part of a unhappily divorced family since I was an infant. I was used to splitting the holidays and having Christmas not feel like Christmas. Ever since my grandfather died when I was still very young, so did most of my Christmas spirit. Something I longed for every Christmas since then but never felt. It was the type of longing that made you try your very best to get an inkling of that type of happiness back. Whether it be listening to Christmas carols on repeat or organising Christmas parties. I tried everything to get that feeling back, but nothing worked. I had lost hope that Christmas would every feel happy again.
Then, last Christmas, I spent a couple of weeks in my mum and step-dad’s new house in Japan. They were both so incredibly happy with each other. I don’t recall ever seeing my mum that relaxed and happy my whole life. That in itself was a Christmas miracle.
My step-dad had really got into the Christmas spirit. Being Japanese, Christmas wasn’t a thing until he married into our western family. But after growing accustom to it, he loved it. And by this time, he was so excited for us to come over to Japan for Christmas that the house was lit up in lights. This is a strange sight in Japan, as it’s not the cultural norm but made the house very easy to find in the dark. He’d even gone out and bought a huge Christmas tree, with lights and everything. Just to make it all feel more like Christmas for all of us. With my sister, her boyfriend, my mum and my step-dad, it finally felt like Christmas again.
This Christmas I spent with my boyfriend’s family in Australia. The thought of which I had been excited about as it seemed like a very traditional and fun event from his retellings. I didn’t mind so much that I was away from my family when I made the decision to stay. My sister had made the same decision to stay with her boyfriend’s family. While I was constantly told by my family that I was welcome to spend Christmas with them, my plans were more long term than that. It doesn’t help that all of my family is more than a full day’s drive away. Making it impossible to see both families on Christmas like so many others would do. I wanted my boyfriend to have a good Christmas with his family, with me included. As any relationship grows, the family gets more involved. It seemed easier to include the closest family first before taking the leap to Japan.
In the morning, I received a tearful FaceTime call from my mum and step-dad. He had organised a getaway for them, as Christmas Eve is their wedding anniversary. Not only that, but I’m sure he was hoping to take her mind off the fact that she wouldn’t be spending Christmas with her children. It obviously didn’t work too well, as there was a full five minutes of trying to calm her down over the phone. I didn’t feel the way she felt by that point and wondered if I was just a little bit heartless. I also wondered that maybe it was because of my boyfriend being so persistent in keeping me happy over Christmas.
We arrived at my boyfriend’s grandparents place in Bungendore at around 2pm. It was just as he described. In a relaxed atmosphere, we sat outside in the summer heat and waited for a few more to arrive. Lunch was a buffet of meats and salads that were beyond delectable. All of which was served inside to avoid the Australian burden of flies. We ate outside on a row of oddly joined tables, sitting on the classic green plastic chairs. Crackers and party poppers were placed on the table which ended in a lot of streamers getting stuck in unfinished food. Everyone was full, happy and talkative. It felt to me like a ghost of what Christmas was like before my grandfather died.
It was either the site of their family being so happy with each other, with no chance of my family being there. Or it was the reminder of the old Christmases, which put me on the spiral to feeling homesick. I felt overly tired, which wasn’t hard to convince people was from eating too much as few had already fallen asleep. I even convinced myself that that’s what it was, even though I hadn’t eaten that much.
We sat around opening presents and I faked a lot of smiles. I had been happy a few minutes ago so I thought that my mood was simply caused by my tiredness. It wasn’t until we were back outside an hour later that I realised that I was severely homesick. As we waited for the Christmas pudding to finish boiling in the pot, I excused myself to the bathroom. As I switched the lock on the toilet door, I let a couple of tears escape. I knew that I couldn’t leave yet, after all it was my boyfriend’s Christmas, not mine. I quickly wiped away the couple of betraying tears and left the bathroom. I arrived back just in time for pudding and desserts. I happily took up a serving of pudding, Pavlova and trifle. It was a relief to have something to focus on instead of my homesick thoughts, even if I did end up stuffing my face.
We left at 7pm, which was a few hours after I started to feel homesick. Once we arrived back at my boyfriend’s house I didn’t want to tell him how bad I felt. I didn’t want to ruin his Christmas. We decided to take a nap as we were both exhausted and soon afterwards I was unwillingly balling my eyes out. My boyfriend, the saint that he is, attempted to console the inconsolable homesickness. He reminded me that we would be spending the next Christmas in Japan. Unfortunately, this only made my longing worse. I knew that I just needed time to cry. There was nothing else I could do about it and nothing I could do to stop it.
Part of growing up is spending Christmas away from your parents at times. It’s a hard thing to do and I don’t see how I will ever get used to it. No matter how much I’d been trained to grow accustomed to split holidays in the divorce, nothing prepared me for this. With the realisation of regaining my happiness last Christmas, it made it impossible. Still, I was happy that I got to not feel depressed like I usually do around Christmas. That was definitely thanks to the efforts put in by my boyfriend. Even if Christmas made me unbelievably homesick, I learnt how much I appreciated last Christmas. I also learnt how grateful I am for my family and my boyfriend for making the process as enjoyable as possible. As for now, I’m still homesick and I’m finding it difficult to shake off. But I honestly can’t wait until next Christmas in Japan, with mum, my step-dad and my boyfriend. I have a feeling it’ll be the best Christmas yet.