The Door Only Swings One Way– But It’s Always Open

I never expected to move back home after college. I never thought I’d be allowed back. I used to quote my parents saying, “the door only swings one way.” Lucky for me, that door swung back open after I graduated.

It took two cars to bring home the belongings I hadn’t sold. I claimed a bed, a dresser, and a room. And I found myself settling back into the old routine. But one thing was different–both my brother and sister went away to school this time.

Being the oldest, it had been easy for me to leave home and go to college. At eighteen, I was the typical high school senior who is very ready to go away. I left my younger siblings and embarked on the new life that is college. I came home for holidays and summers; and whenever I came back we were all together again. I never saw a void because it was filled with classes and swimming and new friends and jobs.

But this year, it’s the middle children who are at school, leaving my brother and me here to fight over the cereal and shower time. I didn’t know the house could even get this quiet–until both my parents are working and Josh is at school. I didn’t realize that the dog actually rotates through every couch and every bed in the house when she thinks no one is home, but the second she hears the garage  door open she’s on the floor. I didn’t realize that with multiple vehicles, figuring out where to park, or who is parked in, would be a challenge. I didn’t realize that so many shows could be recorded on a DVR. And I didn’t realize how much my little brother had grown up without me.

We have this little unspoken ritual, Josh and I. Or maybe we have many, but it’s hard to notice all of them. He is tall, so he points the shower head out farther when he takes his showers at 6:30AM. I am short(er) so every day  at 8AM I have to point the shower head back down or it will leak all over the floor. The next morning, he points it back up. He uses his sink on his side of the bathroom. I use mine. If it wasn’t my mess, it was his. It may seem silly but it’s simple, consistent.

How easy it would have been, to only have one sibling, to be a family of four. That’s what I’m thinking until Thanksgiving break rolls around and the doorbell rings and my long-lost brother and sister are back. Lindsay’s clothes are all over the floor of my room, the music on Andy’s computer is blaring, and all is now right with the world.

I hadn’t seen the void when I was at school because it was filled with so many other things. Now that I’m home, I haven’t seen the void because it’s so big I can’t even see the edges. Family is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Family is loud and annoying and messy. There’s toothpaste all over the sink and my favorite cereal is gone the day after I open it. There is never enough gas in the tanks and every mile must be accounted for so that the right person can pay their share. My favorite socks look extremely similar to someone else’s socks so that I never have the truly correct match. Someone wants to watch one show on TV but someone else is recording something and someone else wants to watch this movie and despite the fact that there is more than one TV in the house, we all want to be in the same room. If someone is saving something in the fridge for later and there isn’t a note reading “Do Not Eat” on that container of leftovers, it will be eaten. And even if there is a note, there will probably be a few bites out of it anyway. If I want to go to bed at ten I can expect to be woken up when someone gets in at 2AM. If I want to sleep in, I should be prepared to be woken at dawn. We don’t sit down for dinner all at the same time. This is family and family is messy.

But this crazy family is back together for Thanksgiving and I suddenly remember what I’ve missed. My sister’s clothes scattered on my floor remind me that we can still share some shirts, even though she’s a few inches taller. The laundry was sorted wrong because all of the kids are home and my mom isn’t sure who has what anymore. My cereal gets eaten before I get any but at least it’s not getting stale. There are too many shows that we want to watch, but at least we can all fit together on the couches. We eat someone’s leftovers and when they’re mad, at least they’re there to get mad. And when we finally all sit down together for dinner, we notice. And we love it.

This is what Thanksgiving is for–for being together and giving thanks. For realizing that you already have everything you need. I would venture to guess that the number one thing people say they are thankful for is family. Easy to say, more difficult to explain.

My little brother is growing up and I’m grateful that I moved back home to be part of that. My family has always been important, but sometimes it takes seeing the void to realize the true value.

I am still very ready to move out and live on my own. I am ready for my own independence and I would be perfectly happy doing my own laundry and eating my own leftovers. But I’m thankful for my messy family and I’m glad this door is always open.

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