It's the Christmas holidays, which means I've got five fun-filled weeks of learning to live with my parents again. It's hard to gauge how well they've coped with my absence – neurotic though mum is, she's always been good at keeping her angst from influencing mine, and dad is far too rational to worry about anything other than global economic collapse. Still, I've heard rumours that for a good week after I left for uni, mum wore sunglasses indoors and out to conceal a stream of tears. All this parental denture gnashing makes me feel strangely empowered: I've proven I can survive without them, but their constant phone calls, texts and occasional "funny" email show that they're having trouble surviving without me. Mum begs to differ. "We're just concerned how you're coping. We want to be supportive," she assures me. It's a theory, I suppose.
I am looking forward to a break. I'm going to miss the friends I've made, but I'm a complete sucker for sleeping in my own bed, having my laundry done and not needing to leave the house to get a hot breakfast. Loath as I am to admit it, I'm even looking forward to spending more time with my parents. I've loved the freedom that university's given me, but there's something strangely reassuring about having someone else be responsible for a bit. Part of the enjoyment of coming home is surrendering some of your independence for a little parental pampering.
Besides, coping with all the essays I'm supposed to write will be difficult enough without worrying about whether I've got enough clean underwear. Every one of my supervisors and lecturers seems to have a different idea about how much work I should do during the holidays, what sort of work it should be and when I ought to start, but the overall message is clear: term time or not, for the next three years, they own my soul.
My uni's not very good to us while we're away. Each term, we're made to clear out of our rooms so that they can be rented out. This even applies to my room, which I can't imagine being rented to anyone apart from the government as a temporary solution to prison overcrowding. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if the university wouldn't secretly prefer to forget students altogether and just rent out the colleges full time. At least they don't give us exams at the start of each term, a cruelty inflicted on a few unfortunate friends who are studying elsewhere.
I decide that I'll have a better holiday if I accentuate the positive. I can spend a week catching up on sleep before starting work again and, much as it pains me to say so, it is a little bit nice having parents who care enough to cling onto me with such comical excess. Even the new yellow patches on my bedroom carpet are just proof that my dog has missed me too. I'm perfectly happy until I have my first shower. After marvelling at the height of the showerhead (at uni it's about half a foot shorter than I am) and relishing the phenomenon of heat and pressure not being an either/or decision, I reach for my towel. But it's not there. It's somehow been replaced by a secondary hand towel. But how could that have happened? Whoever needed two hand towels? I dry off with it anyway and wonder what it means.