Like most Hopkins freshmen who just recently learned how to survive the stress of finals week(s), I have developed a shameful, yet entirely incurable, dependency on lists.

Shh. I’m going somewhere with this.

Though I looked to them mostly for an amusing means of not doing anything the least bit productive, I was (and still am) often struck by the flashes of insight and real truth these lists are able to capture, you know, when they aren’t teaching you the best ways to incorporate mason jars into your daily life or showing you adorably distracting pictures of baby hedgehogs. I mean, those little cuties are worth photographing. I digress. One of the more recent, and more personally relevant, posts was a list entitled “19 Things Every College Kid Wants For Christmas This Year.” I was immediately taken in by number one: “unlimited napping privileges.” And I certainly wouldn’t object to “an outlaw on all alarm clocks within a 5-mile radius.” But there was one figurative gift in particular that stood out to me in a very one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other fashion: “a ban on relatives asking ‘How’s school going?’”

Call me the most freshman-y freshman who has ever lived, but I love that question. Truly, I do. As I geared up for the family-centric festivities that dominated my Christmas, I couldn’t help but be excited to share the highs and lows of the past semester with the people I love the most. I savored the chance to finally show them the life I’m building on the Hopkins campus.

I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in two very close-knit families. There is my dad’s side, ultra-Italian and the source of my love of music, and my mom’s side, chock full of nerds just like me, who have undoubtedly passed down my passion for writing. The members of these two families have been the real constants of my life before Hopkins; they’ve attended every musical, every high school function, no matter how small. Where some of my friends were lucky to see their families more than once or twice a year, I saw them multiple times a month, even going so far as to spend weeks out of the summer at my grandparents’ house. We’re all closer than close. And I’ve always felt like no one could ever know me better than these people who have been with me forever.

My fabulous GrandClaire reppin' the Hop.

My fabulous GrandClaire reppin’ the Hop.

But I’m a different person than I was a semester ago. Good old personal transformation is just an unavoidable part of the college experience, I suppose. I have a new life in a new place that I’m sharing with new people, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating, but up until now it’s felt hard to bring that life home with me. Despite the short distance, Hopkins and home have seemed worlds apart. My family has seemed far away. And though I know that’s all just what it means to grow up, I definitely felt their absence throughout these past months.

But being able to sit down with them over the holidays and answer the simple question condemned by buzzfeed has helped me bridge the gap. I could talk with my Pops about how one semester of Italian has me so enthralled that I’m rethinking my majors. I could share the beauty of Writing Seminars with my cousin Sam, who started his first year in the literary program of an arts high school. I got to rehash every detail of the past three months with my cousin-but-basically-sister Carly, a Salisbury University freshman, and tell her how much it means to have her go through this change as well. And no one can fully understand a college student’s commitment to the library like my GrandClaire. Slowly but surely, I’m learning how to bring Hopkins and home closer together.

Pops killin' it in his new favorite pullover.

Pops killin’ it in his new favorite pullover.

This Christmas, I’ve managed to pop my own personal version of the Hopkins bubble. Hopkins is no longer the mysterious place that keeps me from attending impromptu family waffle nights; it’s now a piece of my life that I’ve successfully shared through countless stories of classes, one-acts, and movie nights. I finally feel like my family is right back where it belongs: on this incredible journey with me. And, after listening to multiple threats of crashing one of my campus tours, I suspect some of them will take that position very literally come spring semester.  Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In a time that was designed to induce warm and fuzzy feelings, nothing makes me warmer or fuzzier than good food and good times with good people. Because even though it has often felt like everything is changing around me, Christmas with my family will always stay the same. Have a wonderful start to 2014, and enjoy the rest of winter break! Spend it with those you love.

Happy Holidays from the Comotto household! Featuring Christmas jammies.