Note: We’ve asked our three first-year writers to write brief reflections on what it was like to be home (sometimes for the first time since orientation) over Thanksgiving break. This is the first post in that series.
The first Thanksgiving at home from college is full of good food, awkward moments, endearing stories and tiring questions about college. A good strategy I developed to avoid the basic but popular question “so, how is college?” at Thanksgiving dinner was to simply stuff my face full of food and mumble an incoherent answer with a mouthful of mashed potato. This tactic is an excellent way to evade that ill-fated question, but the constant gobbling also leads to judgmental stares, pointed gazes down the table at my new dress and searches for telltale signs of the “freshman 15.”
Really, there is no good way to answer “so, how’s college?” without inviting intrusive and judgmental questions to follow it up. If you say “oh, it’s good,” they ask about your favorite parts, or if you respond with less enthusiasm, they assume something is terribly wrong and you’re lying and they need to pry it out of you at the table in front of everyone. If you say “oh man, it really sucks” they assume you are joking and laugh awkwardly; then, when they realize you are serious, they smother you with good intentions and hugs. It’s best to just stuff your face and say “mmhmmhm” and gesture at your exaggeratedly full mouth in response instead.
After successfully evading the relatives who want to analyze you and hear all about college, you will be faced with another challenge: the friends whom you haven’t seen since last summer and friends’ parents you haven’t seen since graduation. The parents can usually be satisfied by a “oh, yes, college is fine … I go to Kenyon; it’s in Ohio … yes, it’s pretty small … oh, you haven’t heard of it? That’s weird…” but friends want to share all their wild party stories. In my first interaction with a close friend who stayed with me over the break, I was only slightly startled by this opening line: “Yeah, I go out at least three nights a week, what about you? But man, it is sooo hard to find weed here. Like, I haven’t smoked in two whole weeks. You should be sooo proud of me. I’m like a totally different person in college.”
Another friend still in high school informed me that he was generally disappointed by my physical appearance and that “I thought you’d look different, now that you’re a college kid and whatever. But like, don’t be offended. You still look fine … just not college-y.” The college friends were full of crazy college stories and my friends still in high school were full of high school complaints and teen angst.
All in all, it was a fabulous break and the week didn’t seem long at all. In between Thanksgiving dinner food fun and enforced family game night fun there were the inevitable awkward college kid moments, such as forgetting every single one of my classes when asked what courses I was taking and the questions in front of my parents at the routine doctor’s appointment. (Doctor: “Do you drink alcohol?” Me: [awkward laugh] “Well, haha, um, I am in college, after all…” Doctor: [makes a note of it] Mother: [raises eyebrows]) I did notice things that I missed about Kenyon, such as my dorm room bed with its memory foam mattress topper and enough mattress space that my feet don’t hang off like on my bed at home (of course, that might be because of all the stuffed animals that I never gave away taking up half the bed), so it’s good to be back. Still, there’s no place like home. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And welcome back.