Home. As defined by my computer dictionary, “the place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household; a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.”
At the end of last week, a beautiful thing happened.
I got to go home.
As my sister and I sped down I-94, the horizon smoothed, the sky stretched, and the darkness spread thick and black. We (or mostly I) rambled, tumbling over boys and school and self-esteem. We listened to Scotty McCreery and Michael Buble. We avoided beet trucks and dirt clumps littering the roads.
And finally, after six hours, we rattled down the gravel road to the cozy beacon of our house, where my best cookie-baking brother had saved us cookie dough and where we stayed up until 3:00 a.m.
The weekend was full of the best kind of ordinary. My dad and sister Facetimed each other from across the living room. We drove an hour to scope out the sales at a mall big enough for Gap but too small for Forever 21. I ate excessive amounts of peanut butter and chocolate. We talked with kind, funny, wonderful friends. I got less sleep than I do at college. My parents and I braved the blustery north wind and threatening snow to hike 3 miles to my grandparents’ house.
Some days, nostalgia twinges, making me long for more of these moments. I fondly reminisce over the cozy, sunny snapshots from back in the day: homework on the couch while avoiding dishes duty, family dinners that evolved from “mad, sad, glad” daily recaps to randomness, drives home from basketball practice dissecting upcoming games with Dad.
Some days, I’ll admit that I want it back.
At home, there was comfort and stability. I knew the middle names of most of my classmates (Briana Lynn, Austin Earl, Shannon Kay). I knew – or thought I knew – what everyone thought of me (the smart, good kid who was mostly tolerable when she wasn’t being a know-it-all). I knew exactly how long it would take to get to school (16 minutes if we were late for stage band and speeding). I knew the answers on tests (except for sometimes in Calculus and Physics). I knew that I was not responsible for everything, that if we ran out of bread or the laundry piled up, I did not have to fix it. I knew that I was always safe, always cared for, always loved.
Some days, I miss that.
More than ever before, I see instability, change, the rocking of the world I thought I knew. I watch kids I used to babysit become babysitters themselves. I stroll through senior hall, surprised that the young guys of my day are ruling the school and that my own basketball and backpack are not stashed in one of the lockers. I watch myself take stuttering steps towards independence, learning to check tire pressure and cook more than mac and cheese. I learn that I definitely don’t know everything. Some days it’s overwhelming. I want someone else to buy milk, someone else to worry about the blinking check engine light, someone else to get my sense of humor, someone else to remind me that it’s all going to be okay.
In spite of this, I admit that going back would feel too easy, too stifling. When I moved to college I was ready, feeling the craving for independence, the crying of my spirit for something that was new and challenging and not the same as what I had known for eighteen years. Freshman year was a bit of a shock, a harsher transition than I expected. Since then, I’ve come so far, stretched so much. I love this season of life, with all of its learning and busyness and teetering towards adulthood. I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I mostly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
So I keep moving, step by step, because there’s really nothing else I can – or should – do. I keep making my own way, my own life, my own corner in the universe. Some days it’s rough. Some days it feels like I’m getting it.
But some days, no matter how mature and independent I feel, I still really want to go home.
Especially when I’m welcomed by cookies and late-night chats and sweet people.
Good thing another break is coming soon.