For those University students who don’t live within an hour’s drive of Ann Arbor, you’re missing out on a summertime ritual that college students have practiced for centuries: coming home for vacation. Happily, the semi-annual practice of returning to the bosom of whatever burg you fled in favor of the glittering metropolis on the Huron we all love so well coincides with two of the best holidays for partying and drinking — Christmas and Independence Day — thereby easing the transition from being an independent, consenting adult to being a member of a family that will inevitably be crazier than you remember.
Even those of us who have scored a bitchin’ internship or planned a trip to an exotic, non-Anglophonic locale for fun/study abroad/volunteer work usually have to spend a week or two, if not longer, in the presence of our parents and siblings. These family members typically still inhabit the homes and towns in which we “grew up” — that is, endured the four-year-long microcosmic hell that is high school, learned how to bullshit those saps at the Admissions Office and began experimenting with the various illicit practices and substances we’ve become very well acquainted with now that there’s no one to use the “not while you’re under my roof” line.
I’m pleased to inform you that I’m typing these words from my old bedroom — which my parents, typical empty-nesters that they are, have converted into an office — in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m the sort of person who ran like hell from her hometown after graduating high school, keeping in touch with two or three close friends and telling everyone else to fuck off — let’s just say I don’t make it back here too often, so it always takes a little getting used to when I do. I’d rather not spend the last week of my break from Ann Arbor reading hate e-mail, so here’s a relatively innocuous list of ways to maximize freedom and minimize trauma on your visits back home.
– Spend some quality time with your family. Yeah, I know — I just said “minimize trauma.” Trust me, I spent most of my formative years avoiding QT with the fam, mostly because my mom’s idea of fun includes playing board games from the ’80s or going to church. But if you’re only around them for a few days, your family can actually seem sort of … pleasant. The best way to show them you care? Make them a really nice dinner. Chances are they’re too busy to cook extravagant meals for themselves very often, and as an added bonus, it’ll make you look like a responsible individual. In my case, it’s the only way I can get my family to eat vegetarian dishes.
– Stop by your old haunts. I’m sure that a lot of you will be carousing with your old group of friends when you visit home, so, uh, have fun with that. My friends were all smart enough to get out of the South, so there’s seldom a time we’re all within driving distance of each other. Even if you can’t get your old crew together to drink Boone’s Farm and swipe neighborhood lawn ornaments in the dead of night (or whatever you used to do), you can revisit some of the places you’d always hang out to get that warm, fuzzy, tenth-grade feeling. For instance, I went to the thrift store, the library (where I spent many a Friday night), the thrift store, the art museum, the flea market and, uh, that other thrift store. Good times, great oldies.
– Do something you were never able to do back in high school. For most of us, this pretty much means buying booze. Uh, legally.
– Relax. It’s a vacation, after all.
The way I see it, if you’re gonna be home, you might as well take advantage of all the perks that living at home, even temporarily, can offer. Think back to a time before the thought of grad school — or college, for that matter — loomed in the not-too-distant future, to a time when school was easy (worksheets!) and weekends were reserved for doing whatever the hell you wanted. I’d roll out of bed long after the rest of my time zone had eaten lunch. That’s one aspect of being home that I can more than tolerate.
Jones is a Daily fall/winter associate arts editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.