Dear me at 17:
I’m going to give you a radical suggestion here:
That’s right. You heard me.
Stay home. Skip the party. Skip the movie. Skip the concert, or whatever else you had planned and stay home. Not because you’re grounded. Not because you’re being punished. But because this is the only time in your life where you will be able to do it.
In a few years you will get married. You will start a family. You will have a home of your own, decorated just the way you like. A place to put all your books. A place for your sweet little daughter to sleep. A place to snuggle with your husband.
Your parents’ home will become just that: theirs. It will not feel like yours anymore. And that’s okay. But there will always be a piece of you that longs for that very distinct feeling of being “at home”, at 17, in your parents’ house.
If you stay home tonight, you might spend some time with your brother. Your little brother, who is actually still “little”. He is still playing with Lego and wearing superhero pajamas. He is still small enough to look up to you in a way that he won’t for much longer. Very soon he too will be very busy and very important.
If you stay home tonight, your Mother might order big, cheesy Reuben sandwiches and french fries from The Pickle Barrel. Your Dad will undoubtedly order Lox and Cream Cheese on a bagel, and also undoubtedly share a large portion of it with you, even though you originally claimed that you wouldn’t want any.
If you stay home tonight, you might watch a movie with your whole family. All together. You might all decide on a Michael Douglas thriller, because your Mother loves them and everyone knows that she has ants in her pants and won’t sit through a movie unless she is 100% interested. At the most suspenseful parts, she will shout out her predictions for the plot, which are inevitably correct, and you will all groan and laugh at the predictability of it all.
The things that now seem mundane to you will be imbued with a certain nostalgic magic as you age.
You will remember the cozy feeling of lying on the couch in the living room, curled up under your favourite dark green velvet throw. Your mother interrupting whatever television show you’re watching to ask if she can bring you tea, or a snack, or to tell you some long-winded story about socks, or your brother’s socks, or your brother’s friend, or some other thing you think you don’t have time for.
It might seem like a bother now, to be interrupted. In a few years time, you will be the one in charge of taking care of everyone else. You will be the Mommy. It will be your job to interrupt the program to deliver tea or snacks. Although your tea will never be as good as when your Mother makes it. And you will often think how nice it would be, during your busiest Mommy moments, to have your Mother bring you a cup of tea. To have someone take care of you again for a couple of minutes.
You will remember the sound of the garage door opening as your Father returned from work. You will remember that no matter how old you got, you always had a surge of residual “Daddy’s Home!” excitement carried over from your childhood. You will remember the smell of his cologne mixed with the fresh, cold, winter air as he kissed you hello. You will remember how you spoke of these moments in the Eulogy you gave at his memorial service. You will be reminded how even the most simple moments with him, the ones you could never have appreciated at the time, are the ones you now long for the most.
So, go cancel your plans. Stay at home. Eat some smoked meat and watch Michael Douglas do his thing. At the end of the night, give everyone an extra cuddle. And when your head hits the pillow, take a moment to listen to the sounds of the house. Your Mother still milling about. Your father flipping through his book. Your little brother, fast asleep in his room. Take a moment to reflect on how safe you feel, tucked away in your bed, everyone together under one roof.
You can always see your friends tomorrow. But for tonight, just revel in the comfort of being at home.