I used to see home as a stationary object — a house situated between the ocean and the bay in rural Northern California. Where redwood trees grew in saltwater clogged air and I knew everything, I grew up with it traced on the back of my hand. There was an ode of familiarity: our old parlor stove that spit up flames as we tossed in wood; the drawing I made in kindergarten that my mother refused to take down; my cat, who would be content sitting next to you until you tried to pet her; and the treadle sewing machine my dad brought home when I was eight.
I always knew college marked a time of limbo. We are in-between the stages of angsty rebellious teens and adults who know where their lives will take them. Everything is suspended in the current unknown, wherein we’re convinced that anything could happen. (Because anything can.)
I expected that for nine months out of the year we’d branch out. Explore a new place, learn things, gather all of these experiences which we’re told will define our life and then we go back home. Back to our roots, back to everything we knew from before. I forgot that our perspectives would shift.
On a cork-board in my childhood house, there is a pinned up flyer with a picture of campus that says, “HOME.” My mom put it there when it first came in the mail nearly two years ago and it has stayed there since then. When I went to Orientation and sat in the stands along with everyone else, students were counting how many times Ron Thom repeated the word. (I think it was 67, if memory serves correctly.)
Although I could tell you countless numbers of facts that I learned in my first year here, none of them are the most valuable thing I could say. Instead it’s that I’ve discovered home isn’t a stationary object: it is the way people make you feel. It’s the way I feel here.
It’s falling asleep at three a.m. with your friends talking and laughing around you. The morning the fountain froze, when we all gathered around it, taking pictures of the icicles hanging down. Making cookies on Pi Day and setting an alarm so you are eating them right at 3/14/15 9:26:53. Running in the rain. Being sung to by a barber shop quartet on a friendaversry. Racing to the bus stop and managing to get there right as it pulls up. Going to Oppenheimer Cafe in the rain, right before closing, when the lights shine just so. Spending hours helping a friend with an essay, for a class that you’re not even in. Tight hugs, long, slow smiles. Playing Justin Bieber’s acoustic album and Nickelback, just because we could. Sitting and starring at the stars. Grabbing a cardboard box filled with packing peanuts and commandeering it. Bringing it into your room. Convincing people to come and sit in The Box. Seeing someone on campus and taking a “SPOTTED” picture. Walking to the Met late at night for The Cookie, just for them all to be gone. Curling up in a blanket, drinking tea, while watching a movie. Hanging a stray sock on a command hook, to see how long it’ll take people to notice. (Sixteen hours.) Waking up early to meet people for breakfast, hours before your first class. And staying up with your friends, even though it’s three a.m. and laughing.
Home is all of the memories I’ve made here and all the memories to come.