The Eighth Page

A Holiday Tale: Jessica Schuster and the Fam

I was really, really, looking forward to winter vacation. Honestly, who wasn’t? Snow falling lightly, dorms brightly decorated…even Commons goes all out and adds a festive touch to the food (I mean, my chicken à la leftovers was really supposed to be red and green. Right?) By early December, we’ve had Thanksgiving vacation, and we want more. It’s great – with no papers, no tests, and no homework, it’s almost scary not having something to do (“Oh my God! Are you sure there isn’t some textbook I can read? Maybe do a problem set or two?”) I, personally, was celebrating. I was glad, relieved, thrilled even. So what happened? My family did not choose this vacation to embark upon a cruise to the Mediterranean, a safari to Africa or a ski trip to Colorado. Hell, we didn’t even get to New Jersey, where half the extended family lives. But who cared? This was a stay-at-home, make-like-a-couch-potato, go-into-hibernation kind of vacation. And, as I dumped my schoolbooks into my closet with barely-concealed glee, this was exactly what I prepared to do. Well, at least that’s how it was supposed to go. It was during dinner, when my parents decided to casually mention, “Oh yes, Jess, that’s right – we’re going to go to a few family gatherings. You understand, now’s a good time for everyone and it’s been a while…” I was a good sport. I smiled, nodded, did all the things a good daughter should do. The first couple visits weren’t so bad either. The first, we dropped by my cousin’s apartment in New York City. She has a nice place on the Upper East Side and the most adorable little girl named Rebecca, no contest. Rebecca and I managed to play a hot game of hide-and-seek, pull three hairs off the cat until it noticed (with a yowl that still echo in my eards), and play a full game of Spit (she beat me). As an added bonus, I found myself with some extra spending money as a holiday gift. I even began thinking that this little rendezvous–craze wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Oh, how wrong I was. Talk about a nightmare. I went from aunt to uncle to cousin. I was cheek-pinched, height-evaluated, smothered with hugs, and bored out of my mind. [Editor’s Note: Not to insinuate anything, but the Features page believes that this is illegal in some states.] I think there should be a law against allowing any sane person under twenty from remaining in a musty old house built in 1887 for more than two hours. I learned to steel myself for the inevitable, “So how is Andover? Your classes okay? Your grades okay? Your friends okay? Your life okay?” I smiled until my mouth cracked and until, one awfully humiliating gathering, I actually fell asleep while listening to a distant uncle describe to me his college days which must have been at least a hundred years ago. That night, I drew the line. The second we got home, I turned to my oh-so-pleased parents and declared (in a firm, yet gentle tone), “Mom, Dad, I’ve had enough. My vacation was supposed to be restful, and it hasn’t been. All these family gatherings are boring, dull, and a waste of time and I haven’t even gotten to visit my old friends or anyone yet. I’m worn out and I’m not even in school. I think I’m going to cry the next time someone comments on how mature I’ve gotten. I need a break.” Not quite the Gettysburg Address, but it did the trick. “Oh, Jessie,” my mother blurted sympathetically. “We just wanted for you to see the family, we thought you missed them so much…” Then Dad chimed in: “From now on, you can lounge around the house as you please.” Success, at last. Too bad it was January 2nd already. Two-and-a-half days to regain my strength and finally relax. I did my best. Fast-forward to today. Now, as I stroll about campus, new schedule in hand, breathing in the crisp wintery air, friends comment on how content and well-rested I look. They add, with a knowing smile, “Had a good vacation, huh?” I just smile back at them. I know it’s corny, I know it’s dumb, I know it’s flowery-syrupy-geeky, but that matters not to a simple girl like me. It’s good to be back. It’s good to shower in the tiny dorm shower stall, it’s good to have to walk a quarter of a mile for breakfast, it’s even good to be inside of a classroom again. Just don’t tell my teachers.