Opinion: ‘Tis the season of change

It’s almost ironic that my favorite season is fall because I’ve always hated change. And yet, this past year has been full of it. 

My memories of the holidays last year are vivid: my grandpa sitting on the couch while my grandma ushered my great uncle and great grandmother in. I was adorned with whatever festive clothing I could dig out of my closet, standing in the kitchen while talking with my eldest sister. My twin and other sister were clear across the house as they tried to lure my cousin and her boyfriend into a falsely promised “short” round of Monopoly.

If I were to capture every holiday into one picture, the only growth you would see is everyone getting older. Every photo would have my family posed around our fireplace, all happier than any other day of the year. 

The Fleming family poses for its 2016 family photo at Woodhaven Stables. This ranch held a summer camp that I attended once, my twin Kayla attended for a period of time and my older sister Alli rides at currently.

This year, I can envision what the photo album will show: strangers with tired eyes. 

I’ve been close with my eldest sister, Audri, for as long as I can remember. We truly sought each other out my freshman year because it finally dawned on us that she’d be at college halfway across the country within just a few months. Quite frankly, I don’t know how my mom put up with any of us when we were together because some of my favorite memories are still her “flying squirreling” me as my screams got muffled by the pillow shoved in my face by my twin. 

We’ve always been a chaotic family, but now that Audri’s gone and I no longer share a room with my twin, it’s gotten so quiet. I barely know what’s going on in my family’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier that she’s having the time of her life at college or that my siblings are excelling in their own extra-curricular activities, but with everyone diving head first into their own thing, growing distracted from family makes for a lonely year.

Audri leaving had a huge impact on our family, but it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong since has. Within the last few months, my grandparents on my dad’s side have both been in the hospital, my parents have been stressed with their newly acquired business and my grandma on my mom’s side doesn’t ever seem to have a moment to breathe. 

Even some of the good stuff has made my family more chaotic than normal. My cousin, though she lived with us throughout her high school days so she’s more of a sister than anything, recently got engaged. While I could not be happier for her, hearing the drama that’s caused within parts of my extended family doesn’t fill me with the joy supposed to come with the holiday season. 

No matter what happened within the days or months prior to that time of year, the holidays have always been an escape. Some of the memories I hold most dear are those from the days leading up to Christmas. My mother, Audri and I would run frantically around the house and carry whatever treat we just made to the most available fridge while my cousin and twin cut up apples. Amongst the screams and Disney quotes, we’d be singing along to whatever Matthew West song our Alexa was playing, being more ourselves than any other day of the year.

Some days, I’d end up dog-piled on the couch. Other times, Audri would be sprawled on the floor with flour coating her “Drama Queen” apron. Regardless of our position, my twin would be chasing my father around after he stole her freshly peeled and cut apple pieces. 

No matter what happened in the days before — whatever sibling rivalry was brewing or grade I just got on my test — the holidays were my escape. It was a time where nothing else mattered but being with family, and the rest of the world and its worries simply drifted away. 

Now, as I anxiously await Christmas morning, I’m worried I can’t count on it as much as I used to. This past year has been full of so many trips to the hospital, long distance calls and stressed out family members, that I don’t know how much of a haven the holidays can be this year. 

So, this Christmas, I only have one wish: that things will stay the same for just one more day.

The Fleming children gather around a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, 2015. This photo was taken before Kayla and I went to acolyte at the 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Service.