Evidence of Christmas lingers here at home with stockings strung across the floor, stray bits of wrapping paper tucked here and there, and the pick, picking at left-overs from yesterday's feast.

What hasn't persisted is the nostalgia that expats tend to carry with them back to their hometowns. It was glorious while it lasted with our Kodak perfect smiles and inside family jokes that make you howl 'til your sides ache. Sentimentality is sweet and it's the thing that keeps you coming back, but it's only fleeting. Reality sets in after a while and you begin to be thankful that you booked your flight "return."

Don't get me wrong. Nothing beats mother's home-cooking or seeing your father's proud smile in person. And nothing compares with having six siblings who are duplicated and complex variations of yourself.

Just the other day my 16-year-old sister and myself were sitting quietly in the back seat of the car while the two up front were chatting away. The radio station that was on had been on a commercial break for what seemed like hours, and with eery synchronicity both me and my sister (who I may see two or three times a year since I've moved) anxiously asked for the channel to be turned to actual music. There was something quite comforting about it. Knowing I wasn't alone in my eccentricity and my shared disdain for obnoxious radio commercials, and that I shared that with my sister.

At home, you're among your people and for the first time in a long time you can just...breathe. You don't have to explain your dialect or justify eating grits or white gravy, or my all-time favorite--apologize for being American.

But with each visit, I come to the realization that as much as I belong, I have changed. I'm not better than my people, I've just outgrown them a little. Like your favorite pair of jeans that have been worn in with love and memories, but ya know ya need it's time to say 'goodbye' to.

I'll never say 'goodbye' to family. I love them. I need them. They are what defines me, keeps me, loves me unconditionally. But after the Christmas magic dust has settled, what you're often left with is unfinished business from the past. Hurt feelings, sibling rivalries, unspoken disappointments, and you remember why it is you hug nostalgia so tight. You can shake that snow globe as hard and as often as you want, but those little flecks of white always land resolutely at the bottom.

Going into 2011, I bring with it a new revelation that's taken over four and a half years to realize. I come home to Oklahoma to stay grounded. I live in Canada to fly.