Coffee is just not doing it for you – Red Bull, no better. The caffeine won’t wake you; where has your energy gone? Battles ensue as your face portrays a civil war. Fight the urge. Eyes open. Mouth closed. Keep it closed. Closed. Closed. Fight it. Yes. Prevailing, you successfully swallow the yawn. “Hah. Sleep. The night is mine.” You would proclaim victory, but the towers of library books stacked on either side of your desk smack with reality. You feel a second attack advancing, and at 2 a.m., the war has only begun. You want to cry.

You are running on three hours of sleep. But it’s not really a nap that you need. You are tired – tired of making outlines, memorizing theories and defining terms; tired of waiting in line for breakfast, lunch, dinner, of fighting off 15 people to get the last bruise-free apple; tired of fire alarms in your stairwell, of your neighbor’s bass at 3 a.m. In a word, you are cranky, and what you really want is your mom. But mom is many miles and a few time zones away.

A good night’s rest is not going to solve the problem. Hours of pillow-hugging won’t be the cure. To deliver yourself from the subservience of the demanding fall semester, what you really need is home. It’s not that you aren’t living comfortably on campus. But, the bed is not really yours, the Easy Mac is not all that easy and the GUTS bus is not equipped with a sunroof. Winter break will offer a full recovery period, but a full recovery period is over a month away – a month away is not now. And thus, we, as college students, understand and share in the need for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving is strategically placed on the academic calendar. Just when you might feel yourself beginning to snap under the workload, when the pressure of final papers feels like more than the weight of eight to 10 pages, God, or John Q. Pierce, or whoever is the force behind the schedule of classes, calls time-out. Everything is put on pause, you are free to gather among loved ones, to relax for a few days, rejuvenate your body and gear up for finals. Essentially, it is the Pilgrims who will save your GPA.

Moms and dads across the nation will be anxiously waiting at airports and train stations. The date has been circled in red since you left last August. It’s always hard on them, those months when you are away. There were times when they wouldn’t remember – calling to an empty room for dinner, the echoes bouncing off shelves of high school trophies. Forgetting, they would sneak glances through the rear view mirror, looking for a car seat that has been retired to the attic for over 17 years.

Moving to the District, you’ve tested the limits of her umbilical connection. Your arrival brings Mom comfort. Dad’s hands will stretch out to you, flashes of your first steps, when your arms meet his hug. The drive home lulls you to sleep and the anxieties of school are forgotten; the heavy backpack, an afterthought, while dozing in the backseat.

When you open the door, you are immediately knocked to the ground by your dog. Jumping all over you, his frantic tail waves hello, welcoming your return. He looks at you, evidently wondering why you have been in the garage for so long. Puberty has replaced your little brother with an intruder, four inches taller and suddenly a man. He makes as if to hug you and instead digs a thumb into your ribcage. Still him. Grandpa asks you how the weather has been in Washington, D.C. He recounts last week’s five-day forecast, and tells you how cold it was in November 1982, when argaret Miller died. You never met Margaret. You have never heard of her, in fact. You missed your grandfather.

Thanksgiving dinner is a hit, as usual. Dad hums premature Christmas carols as he carves the turkey. Mom beams at everyone gathered around the table, happy to have outdone herself once again. She’s good, and she knows it. Grandpa tells stories about people no one knows. Your brother asks you to pass the potatoes in one long belch, apologizing quickly to avoid om’s glare. He considers himself a riot. You smile. You’re home.

The next few days revolve around eating Mom’s food, sleeping in your old room, lounging on the couch, watching Christmas classics and eating Mom’s food. Maybe you read a few pages in your Psych text. Maybe you don’t. At home, schoolwork doesn’t seem so impossible. You’ll get it done – nothing to worry about. When it’s time to head back to Washington, you feel recharged, raring to hit the library, to tear apart those impending finals. You are stronger now, and you scoff at fatigue. Bring it. You are more than ready, and you brought Mom’s leftovers.

Polly Burokas is a junior in the College and can be reached at FOCUS WITH BUROKASappears every other Tuesday.

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