37: Home

37: Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas


Christmas is, of course, the time to be home — in heart as well as body.

~Garry Moore

It was my first year away at college, and I had not planned on going home for the holidays. I wasn’t alone — I was actually staying with different friends on the East Coast. Home for me was Indiana, but instead I was jumping between New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Traveling over the holidays was actually quite nice. My friends were all warm and comforting. Their families also were immensely gracious, offering me kind hugs and genuine smiles as though I were of their own blood. However, the warmth I saw in these households made me miss my own mother even more. She was back in Indiana with my three younger brothers spending her first Christmas and New Year’s without her only daughter.

It was Christmas Day when I decided I would go back.

I purchased a round-trip ticket to Indianapolis, with a return to New York before my classes would start up again. My friend Casey and her father drove me to Westchester Airport a few days after Christmas.

On the way, Casey turned to look at me in the back seat and asked, “So, is your mom excited?”

“She doesn’t know I’m coming,” I said, feeling a tinge of excitement at the prospect of surprising her. I had missed my opportunity to do so on Christmas, but at least I would be able to surprise her for New Year’s.

Casey’s grin widened, clearly thrilled at the idea of my surprising my mother as well. “Oh my gosh, she’s going to love that!”

The flight to Indianapolis was fairly short, and I arrived in the evening. I collected my bag and went outside to wait for my ride. I had called a family friend, Sabrina, to pick me up. After explaining my intent to surprise everyone, she had been more than happy to help me by sneaking me into my house. Sabrina had spoken with my family earlier that day, so she knew my mother and brothers were out at the moment.

As we drove back, I answered Sabrina’s daughter Abby’s questions about what my life in New York was like. I stopped suddenly as I noticed a car driving behind us. We were about to pull into the driveway of my family’s house, and on impulse I ducked down. Sabrina looked at me confused.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m pretty sure it’s my mom and brothers driving behind us.”

“Oh dang,” she said, before turning back to Abby. “Abby, sweetie. When we get out we can’t say Layla’s here. Layla needs to be invisible.”

Abby nodded, eager to be a part of our “game.”

Before getting out, Sabrina glanced at me. “Wait here. I’ll text you when I’m inside and you can come in and surprise her.”

I remained hidden as Sabrina and Abby got out of the car. Outside, I could hear my mother and brothers greet them. It was only a moment before the voices faded and I knew they had all gone inside.

Five minutes later, Sabrina texted me that it was time. I felt a rush of adrenaline as I got out of the car and made my way to the front door. Quietly, I opened it, sneaking in and shutting the door as quietly as possible. I could hear voices in the kitchen as I crept to the doorway.

“Hello!” I exclaimed, my voice light and an octave higher than normal.

My mother gasped. As soon as she realized I was really there, her blue eyes got watery. She gave me a tight hug.

“Oh, Mom, don’t cry,” I said, not expecting the reaction I got.

But as my mom parted from me, I could hear the crack in her voice as she tried to speak. “I didn’t know you were coming home.”

I smiled, feeling a strange and almost overwhelming sense of emotion myself. “I wanted to surprise you.”

My mom, still almost sobbing, asked how I got there, and if anyone knew. Sabrina chimed in that no one else knew as she filmed the whole interaction with her phone. I had almost forgotten she was there.

The truth was, it hadn’t felt like the holidays until I went home. Now that I was there, I felt like I was starting Christmas all over again — my real Christmas.

~Layla Tavassoli

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