There’s a lot to do in Chicago when I visit my family, but I prefer spending most of my time there in the family home. The home is the only place where I can hang out with the oldest member of the family.
Biscuit, our family shih tzu, is 15 years old, or 105 “dog” years, according to everyone who pulls out his or her smartphone to do the math after hearing she is 15. We’ve seen her grow up from a little puppy in Florida who zipped around the home like a heated molecule and used the world as her bathroom to an adult dog who always greeted guests with a downward dog and a roll over requesting for a belly rub of approval. Those habits are now gone in her elderly age, but she still shares with us whatever we’re having for dinner, prefers to sit on our laps when we hold her, or lies down her head/paw/back on our laps when she lies down next to us on the couch. (And if Biscuit is lying down, she’s falling asleep, and you can’t move for at least a half hour while she’s napping.)
Outside of the six months I spent looking for my first job after graduating from college, I haven’t been an everyday presence at the family home since I left for college eight years ago. So all this time I’ve been away from my family for UF and now work, plus knowing that dogs have a shorter lifespan than people and the uncertainty of tomorrow in general, has helped me embrace being a homebody when I visit my family. I wish I had more of that growing up — or at least took a few more breaks from the extracurriculars of high school and homework headaches of college to be that homebody.
But now, even through I have to spend vacation days and pay for airfare and airport parking, I’m trying to make up for that lost time. I love the simplicity of sitting on the couch with Biscuit on my lap, watching a Blackhawks or Bulls game on TV (God, I love the easy access to Chicago sports that the locals have) with the family, and snacking. I’ve had a lot of great experiences from traveling around between Los Angeles and London, but seeing Biscuit’s tail wag and then getting licked in the face when I step back inside the house for my first night of a trip home will always be my favorite.
I can’t wait to fly back and celebrate Biscuit’s Sweet 16 later this year, the first birthday I’ll celebrate with her since I was in high school. The party will be lively and energetic, with time allotted for multiple hour-long naps for our shih tzu, watching TV with her on our laps when she happens to be awake, and petting her and fawning over her after she opens her birthday gift (a chew toy loosely covered by tissue paper). It should be the most exciting birthday a teenager could ask for.