I made high plans for this vacation. I was going to get some research done, catch up with old friends, and go through the box in the storage room marked “R, High School.” But instead, this afternoon found Levi and I at the mall, wandering aimlessly from Sears to Old Navy to Orange Julius. (Did you know they still have those?)

Levi laughed at me the other day, pointing out that my whole body has sort of slouched since we’ve been here in Colorado. I’ve worn the same hoody, eaten a lot of non-food, and walked from room to room trying to convince myself to do something.  In other words, as is wont to happen when I show up on my parents’ doorstep, I’ve reverted to my seventeen-year old self.

My mother both indulges and punishes this tendency. She let’s me get away with falling asleep on the couch while my child runs around her house with a marker, but then, she also makes us go to Christmas parties thrown by her friends. People she swears “would love to see us.” Tomorrow night, we will put on our warmest clothes and go Christmas carrolling for all of the neighbors. We complain about this now as much as we complained about it then. We even try telling her that we’re adults now and she can’t make us, but a glimpse of her luandry room—stacks of our clothes and our neglect—and we know she has us.

It’s funny how we sort of fall into our old positions. I’ve been bossing my younger siblings around, dispensing advice and acting better than them, while secretly hoping that my older siblings will notice that I’M HERE and that I’M ACTUALLY COOL.

I think, for all the mess and all the noise, that my parents love that we’re here. After raising nine children, they’ve  become empty-nesters this past year and our arrival, bringing with it a sudden necessity to worry about there being enough food in the house and to get after Michael for failing to turn off the Christmas lights, lets them fall back into their old positions too. We all seem more comfortable this way. I found a poem tonight that my dad wrote about his kids coming home for Christmas. “We had you because we wanted you around,” he said to me.

It sort of broke my heart to hear him say that. Enough that now all I really want for Christmas is to sit on the stairs (youngest on the bottom, oldest on the top) in full anxiety, wondering why the youngest is taking so long. Then I want to try to act natural for the video camera, check out the corner the couch with my gifts on it, and try to be happy about the fact that yet again, my mother’s idea of Christmas giving includes adjectives like practical and even worse, meaningful.

And maybe I will. The prospect of sneaking off at the first available moment to take full, uninterrupted inventory of my gifts?

Merry Christmas Dad.