This time of year always brings with it a strange sort of time warp. In the last few years, more and more people have been moving away as life takes them down various paths. A new job here, a graduate degree there. Med school here, significant others there. Nearly every year now we lose someone, and as our group of regulars gets smaller, our phone bills get larger.
It's inevitable, I suppose, when your friendships begin in university. Nothing is permanent in university. You forge friendships, find kindred spirits, and spend an insane amount of time together as the years go by. It feels, while you're there, like nothing will ever change. It always does, though. Those who came from other places drifted back to their homes, leaving their university lives behind. My best friend and I have not lived in the same city now for nearly four years, and there are moments when I long for the days that we'd call each other up, just to chat, and hang out doing nothing without appreciating how easy it was. But we've found new ways to stay in touch, worked out different strategies. Our friendship has never floundered, but it's not the same any more. No more is Jana the one I call when I'm grouchy and need to get out of the house. Never again will I be able to just drop in on her without thinking about it. I'm used to it now, but I still hate it.
Even those who didn't come from elsewhere for university have drifted away. One, to do a doctorate in Vancouver, taking with her another friend, her boyfriend. Another to a job in Vancouver, taking with him his wife, another friend. My sister, too, has followed the trend to B.C., where her boyfriend does his doctorate and she lives out the dream to live by the ocean. Yet another, in med school in Ontario, along with her husband. Too many of my favourite people, not here any more.
But the good news about losing those who lived here as children is that they come back. Families, friends, lives wait for them here, and every Christmas nearly all of them return. And so, this time of year, things are as they used to be. We have parties, and there is laughter and some tears. The details of the last few years fade away and we return to our former selves. While I love my life now, and wouldn't go back to my university self without somebody paying me a lot of money to do so, at this time of year I have the best of both worlds. My friends are here, where they belong, and I try to get my fill of them. Packing in extra moments, staying up late, always wanting one day more. I know it will never be enough, and no matter how much time we spend together I will still miss them when they go. But for now, it is enough to be together without the struggles of distance. It's the best part of Christmas these days, having those who have left return to us. And the time warp it creates is what I look forward to every year.