You can't know the value of home until you've left it.

A few months ago when we were visiting at my parent's house, my younger brother said: "Stevie, I always thought that everyone (meaning the "kids") would live close by, but I think you're going to be the one who moves far away." And though he didn't mean to speak so poignantly to a conflicted heart, it stung a little bit. Because a part of me had thought that everything would go on as it always did. Part of me wanted everything to stay the same. And another, more vocal part of me screams, "chase something, even if it takes you away for a while!"

These days, with more than my own interests to think of, the battle between a love of home and a passion for adventure has become even more complex. In each passing year since I started college, homesickness becomes less present - as it should. But every once in a while, when I hear something that my Dad would find funny or see a group of sisters laughing, a hunger grows inside of me that no amount of phone discussion or email conversations can satisfy.

And then you get home and the hunger pangs are there again - not in the acute concentration of pain that is homesickness, but in a complete emptiness of expression for the beauty that surrounds you.

Friday afternoon I came home to a house of stillness, filled with the sounds of gentle music and familiar decor of Christmas. And when I tell you it was beautiful, I mean it took all capacities of composure to keep me from tearing up (I'm rather quickly moved to tears). Let me tell you about this farmhouse in beach-town, Connecticut that I so dearly love...

Growing up, there was always music in our home. Music from the piano played by my sister, from my violin, from my Dad's banjo or guitar, from Dan's year of saxophone and Christy's year of trumpet, from the country station on the radio, from the "Out of Africa" CD that became the soundtrack to my childhood - it was gloriously everywhere. This afternoon, the radio appropriately played "The Heart of Life" as I walked through the front door.

And the smells. Oh goodness the smells. My mother has emerged from my childhood days of Mac and Cheese from a box to a world of homemade wontons and biscotti. The woman is a marvel. Two nights ago the aromas of spaghetti and meatballs wafted up the stairs to find me in my room. And usually, it's not the smell of food-creating that gets to me - its the indescribable mix of scents that can only exist where all the experiences of home collide.

I know I've written about my home in the past, but its beauty is always rediscovered at Christmastime. And while this post may seem redundant, my struggle between home and adventure is best played out in writing, so I suppose you, my readers, must suffer the redundancy.

In other news, we went on a Christmas tree hunt yesterday with the Walker family - 4 of the 5 boys, a girlfriend, 2 parents and me. All with very different, very strong opinions. Each year after a few hours of standing in the freezing cold, listening to these opinions and feeling my Christmas spirit drain from my rapidly numbing fingertips, I tell myself "never again". Every year since I was fifteen. And yet, the following Christmas I find myself in the middle of a tree farm, surrounded by boys, warming my lifeless fingers and asking why. I'm starting to realize that I have a very selective memory. Also considering the whole migratory way of life. Florida sounds nice.

Stay warm!

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