Thanksgiving. Just hearing the word makes my mouth salivate. It's a wonderful time, filled with good food and even better company, all in the comfort of your own home.

Well, usually.

This year, I will not sleep in my own bed after four months of abandonment. This year, I will not eat homemade honey glazed ham. This year, I will not be with my family.

I'm from California; Los Angeles, to be exact. Being 2,024 miles away from my hometown certainly has its advantages. I get to explore the beautiful cities of Chicago and Evanston, finding new niches and eateries. I have developed a sense of freedom and independence from what I thought defined me back home (namely, my friends and family). However, living so far comes at the inconvenience of flying back . Unfortunately, financial constraints prevent me from dropping $500 to stay with my family for 5 days, so alas, I'm here at Northwestern until winter break.

You know how they say, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder"? I thought it was a tired cliche. But, as I write this alone in my dorm room, I realize it rings some truth. 

I used to take family holidays for granted. They always stressed me out and irritated me. The day would proceed as follows:

I would wake up early to get ready to avoid my mother's incessant nagging. My father and brother would lag behind, so we would leave an hour later than what my mother planned. We would drive to my aunt's house 45 minutes away, which would turn into a 90 minute car ride due to the traffic. Upon arrival, my parents would mingle with our relatives while I sat on my phone, engaging in small talk but wishing I could be alone. I would eat too much food and have a stomachache, which put me in an even worse mood. Then, we would go home and I would sleep, relieved to be in my own bed.

How exhausting.

Now, I long for that stomachache, because I realize I took it all for granted.

Coming from a Filipino household, food is more than just for sustenance; food sustains relationships. It's the bond that glues loved ones together. Most parties center around delicacies such as lumpia (egg rolls), pancit canton (noodles), and of course,  honey-glazed ham, because all we need is good food and good company.

I won't have that this year.

I won't be surrounded by my over-zealous parents that keep trying to stuff me, even though I'm about to burst. I'll be in chilly Des Plaines with my aunt, who, don't get me wrong, I love, but it won't be the same as the warmth of Los Angeles.

Jeanne Paulino

Food, I now see, is an experience. Associated with a dish are memories of learning the recipe from your grandmother, of laughing at a joke your uncle said as you pass the dish around the table, of spending quality time with those you love. This year, I'll make new memories with my aunt and uncle, memories that are different but nonetheless cherished. I'll spend time with some of my friends here. One thing is  certain, though: it'll make my next Thanksgiving back home all the more valuable.

So, if you're going back home for Thanksgiving and you're dreading questions from your relatives like, "Did you gain weight from eating all that dining hall food?" or "Why haven't you touched the collard greens?" just remember to enjoy the food and the moment while it lasts. And, if you can, try to invite an 'orphaned' child to the dinner table. They'll surely appreciate it.