Cole Taylor is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing their story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and media writing major at Lasell College, they are studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Cole talks about what it's like to spent what are usually "family" holidays abroad.
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Family traditions are everything to me. There is something so nostalgic and warming about a tradition—there’s nothing like it. This year, I missed Easter with my family for the first time in my 22 years of life.
Inevitably, traditions change and become fine-tuned over time, but I was not fully prepared for the feeling of loneliness this Easter.
Every year for as long as I can remember, my immediate and extended family has gathered at my grandparents' house (Yah-Yah and Pops) for both Thanksgiving and Easter dinner. While Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday after Christmas, all holidays hold value in my heart because they are spent with family, under one roof, reassuring another year of health and love.
When leaving to go abroad, I knew I was going to miss Easter, along with other significant events including: my dad’s 50th birthday, my mom’s 51st birthday, my girlfriend’s college graduation, Valentine’s Day, etc. I knew it was not going to be easy to miss all those things, but I also knew I had my family’s full support in going abroad. Having that knowledge made the ‘move’ more bearable.
In early February, my roommates and I booked a flight to Paris for Easter weekend in order to have a special adventure as a roommate family. If you read my previous blog, you will know that Paris did not happen.
Normally, on Easter morning, we [mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, girlfriend] wake up around 8:30 or 9:00am and one of us makes a run to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. My dad is not usually that person because he is too busy making his famous deviled eggs. That person is also not my mom because she takes the longest to get ready. After morning coffee, we all take our showers and get ready for the day and head out of our house around 11:00am.
When we get to Yah-Yah and Pops’ house, we carry a bunch of stuff inside and say “Happy Easter” to everyone with hugs and kisses while Max, the little Chihuahua barks in the background. My younger cousins are usually in the basement watching TV and playing games. We snack on hors d'oeuvres: stuffed celery, deviled eggs, and fruit—we wash it down with beer and wine.
Everyone converses and updates one another on current events, issues, and stories. Eventually, the women start to prepare and heat dishes. Once the table is being set, my Papa carves the ham. Normally, I stand behind the sink and watch my grandmother, Bab and my grandfather Pops mash the potatoes.
The whole day is full of both conscious and subconscious traditions. My Yah-Yah is a professional painter and makes table placements every year, twice a year with our names on them. Bab makes several side dishes such as barley and mushroom casserole, sweet potato casserole, and gravy. She also makes the desserts each year: peanut butter pie, Oreo pie, pumpkin log, chocolate cream pie, cranberry cream pie, and sometimes a cherry ring (if it does not flop over). The more I think about it, the more I realize how many traditions we have as a family that mean so much to me.
Spending a holiday away from home can be tough. Like I said, traditions are nostalgic and warming. When I stopped and thought about it, a sadness came over me as I cooked homemade meatballs and penne in my little apartment kitchen in Dublin. I was alone on Easter as my friends had plans and I did not feel very good that morning. At first, it felt calming and peaceful, but it did not take long to feel somewhat lonely. Being five hours ahead of my family did not make it any easier, but with that in mind, technology has soared over the years and has helped me get through some of the hard times while abroad.
When my family was sitting down to Easter dinner this year, I FaceTimed in to say grace as it is tradition that I do. It was heart-warming to say grace and feel as though I was there with them.
Being abroad is an experience in itself and provides some unforgettable memories, and with that, you do miss out on some things at home. I try to tell myself this experience is worth missing a couple holidays and celebrations. If you are planning to go abroad whether it be fall or spring, you will miss certain events, but try not to let that influence your decision of going abroad because chances are, everyone will support you. On the flip side, when you go back home, you just might appreciate holidays even more.
Family is important because they are irreplaceable. Family means sticking together and loving one another through all things. Every family is different in ways that lead you to developing values. I value traditions and quality time with the ones I love. Some of my values have made appearances while abroad—3,000 miles from home, but nothing will ever replace the sound of my family’s laughter, the chaos in the kitchen, or a good Easter ham.
This year was definitely different, but I guess that is all part of life’s journey.
Cole's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.