Home For The Holidays

I thought this would be a somber column, given what’s happening in our country and around the world. So this week, I’ll dwell on happier thoughts.

First on our family’s list: Our son is on his way home for the holidays. This is his first major trip on his own, so I’m a little nervous. But he’s traveled with us a lot.

What had us more than a little nervous is that my son has a visual impairment, which affects his ability to navigate a big and confusing airport, especially when he has to make a connecting flight within a narrow window of time.

But here’s encouraging news for those of you who have kids (or adult family members) with special needs: The airlines will help. I made the reservations over the phone, it was easy to request assistance, and the reservations gal made a note on the itinerary. The airline had people meet my son on the jetways to escort him to the gates for the connecting flights. Just knowing this service was available was a huge relief both for him and us.

Meanwhile, I’m still puttering around and getting the house ready for him. The poor kid will come back to find his room looking a little different. I’ve thrown out some stuff that defined the word “clutter,” but the essential things are still there.

He loves the traditions we’ve built over the years: the visit to our old friends’ home on Christmas Eve, the big family party on Christmas Day, the cookies (I bake, he eats), the oodles of lights and the sparkle of the tree. I want all of these things to be the same, even though everything else about our lives has changed.

When I went to West Virginia to visit him over Thanksgiving, I noticed some of those changes. He was relaxed, more self-assured, happy to be in school and happy to be mostly on his own. I was impressed, ecstatic and just a teeny bit sad. My baby really is growing up.

I wonder how our house will look to him when he steps in the door. Will it look small and confining to his newly independent eyes? I hope he sees it as I see it: a haven, a place of comfort. His home.

It’s a little harder this year. We can’t help but remember the families in Newtown, Conn., who have had their homes and hearts ripped to pieces during what should be a time of joy. My hope is that we will continue to keep a place for them in our hearts even as we push to make all homes and communities and our great country more safe and secure.

All across America families are reuniting. Our children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends are coming home for the holidays. Let us be grateful. Let us hug our children and feast and sing and make each other feel loved.