Written by: Sophia Eberhard 
Copyedited by: Marguerite Andrich

It’s 6AM when I roll my overstuffed suitcase down the sidewalk to my beat-up Toyota. Rays of sunlight are just starting to peak over the horizon. Half-asleep, I start fumbling through my pockets for my car keys. 

“It’s way too early for this,” I grumble to myself. 

I finally stop behind my car, pop the trunk, and wrestle my luggages into the way-too-small space. I slam the trunk closed and make my way over to the driver’s seat as my breath huffs out of my chest in sharp gasps. I really need to work out more. I sit down in the front seat and start adjusting for the long drive ahead of me. Glancing up to move my rearview mirror, I notice a bright yellow parking ticket sticking out from under the windshield wipers. 

“Seriously?!” I screech. I roll down the window and pluck the yellow slip out from the windshield. My eyes skim the fine print until they land on the total I was being charged. I close my eyes and take a few calming breaths. This feels like a bad omen. Maybe I shouldn’t be heading home so early for the holidays. 

I hesitate for a minute, but the guilt of being away from family for so long has me starting the car anyways. Thoughts of upcoming tests and projects dance through my mind, and the familiar flutter of anxiety builds in my chest. An hour into the drive I’m already regretting my decision. I should’ve stayed at school and gotten a head start on all those class readings. And what about my internship? They could’ve used my help in the office for a few extra days. I’m so lost in my thoughts I don’t notice my car slowing down until I hear the chorus of honks around me. I pull over off the side of the highway and step out of my car just to find that I have a flat tire. 

“Fantastic. This day just keeps getting better,” I say. 

After dealing with the tire, I get back on the road. Another several hours stuck in the car with only my thoughts for company has my body completely tense by the time I’m pulling up to my parents’ house. 

As soon as I step out of my car, the first flakes of snow begin falling from the sky. I take a minute to look across the front lawn. The great big tree off to the side of the house is wrapped in a string of twinkling lights. Little candy canes line the stone path leading to the bright red front door. A gentle breeze ruffles my hair and I’m reminded of all the Christmases spent in this house, all the snowball fights on the lawn, all the sniffly noses from spending hours in the cold, all the games of tag, all the snowmen, and all the snow angels. I take my time walking up the smooth stone path to the front door. I can hear the too-loud voices of friends and family laughing just beyond the door. The smell of roasted ham and potatoes wafts from the house. I take the last few steps and stop before the evergreen wreath mounted on the front door. For the first time in what feels like months, my shoulders relax and a gentle smile forms on my chapped lips. It’s good to be home.