Holiday homecoming

Having a loved one walk through the door is the most joyful part of the season


The holiday season and homecomings go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re coming from school, another city or another country, who of us hasn’t experienced travelling home for the holidays?

Perhaps you’ve been the one waiting for a loved one to return. It’s ever been the case that meals have been put on hold until you—or the awaited family member or friend—has finally appeared at the door to exclamations of joy and relief. Now things can finally get underway because everyone is in their place—at home to celebrate together.

“The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” from the Waltons’ TV repertoire certainly comes to mind as the classic tale of oldest son John Boy going to look for his dad, whose arrival is threatened by a nasty snowstorm, which leaves the family wondering how this sudden turn of events will end. Luckily, both return unharmed further amplifying the happiness of the entire family at this special time of year. 

My brother worked overseas for several years. There were times he couldn’t get home for the holidays, but I do remember one year that he did. Like the Waltons, we were caught up in a snowstorm and anxiously awaiting Chris’s arrival. He was flying into Montreal, then taking the train to Kingston where my parents lived at the time. 

As in most Eastern European traditions, we celebrated on Christmas Eve, gathering together for a specially prepared meatless dinner called Wigilia preceded by the Polish ritual of a wafer-breaking exchange among family members before sitting down to eat. Sharing the wafer—oplatek—is a wonderfully intimate tradition. You break off part of your wafer and pass it to the person with whom you are paired. They do the same for you. Once the wafer pieces are eaten, you exchange words of love and good cheer, then move on to the next person until the exchange is completed with everyone. Honestly, this may be the only time in the entire year that such tender thoughts and wishes are spoken face-to-face. We certainly didn’t want Chris excluded from this special family moment so we waited, and waited, and waited. 

Mom was fretting. “Why isn’t he here yet?” “Is he coming?” Not permitting herself to think further, she busied herself by playing carols on the piano—not perfectly but purposefully. Our stomachs grumbled and our thoughts wandered but we held them at bay…

“Hey, do you hear something? A car in the driveway…?” Dad went to the front door and pulled it open, saying, “No nareszcie! At last!” And Chris tumbled in, awkward baggage in tow and covered in snow with the few steps taken from taxi to the door. We were overjoyed to see him. As we hugged, the kids saw the wrapped gifts in his duffle bag. Yes, all was right with the world; all was good on this Christmas Eve.