I Am Home
On growing up and letting go
I am 17. I stand on the other side of the kitchen counter and stare at him defiantly. Dad doesn’t break his gaze.
I am more like him than I realize in this moment — stubborn, sure, unafraid of confrontation.
These standoffs are not uncommon.
I look forward to college and being on my own — away from parents and babysitting younger siblings and 11:55 p.m. curfews (because early is on time and on time is late). Adulthood is on the horizon. I move towards it without hesitation.
I walk through the door of our house for the first time since leaving for college. Two months earlier, my parents hugged me, said their good-byes, and left me sitting on the bed in my dorm room. I was surprised at the loneliness I felt as I stood by the window in my room and watched the old, green van pull away from the curb.
College is not what I expected. I’m surrounded by people, but most of them are strangers. I’m busy with papers and reading assignments and exams, but the quiet of my room is unsettling. I miss my family.
As I drove away from campus this morning, I felt lighter. I put my bag down by the door and glance in the kitchen. It’s empty, but muffled sounds come from the far end of the house. I walk into the hallway just as my baby brother comes down the stairs. He sees me and his face lights up.
“There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
He says this with such sincerity, as if he saw me only yesterday. He crawls down the last step and his little legs carry him as quickly as they can to my side. I kneel down and wrap my arms around him.
I am home.
The kids are in bed. My parents head to the family room. Earlier this evening, all seven of us sat down together for dinner.
I didn’t realize how much I would miss them — their conversations, the constant flurry of activity, the banter and arguments, the knowledge that at least one person I loved was always near. I stand in the kitchen for a minute, hearing my parents’ voices in the next room as they talk about their day.
The nostalgia is sharp and sudden. I feel homesick even though I’m standing in the middle of my home.
There are few places I can be alone in this house. The laundry room is one of them. I close the door behind me and slide down to sit on the floor, back against the dryer and head resting on my knees that are pulled into my chest. I start to cry.
The door opens and I look up, wiping the tears away with the back of my hand. My dad sees me sitting on the floor and turns to pull the door shut. He walks over to me, eases himself down, and sits next to me.
He puts his hand on my knee and gives it a light squeeze. I tilt my head and rest it on his shoulder. It’s solid and warm — both familiar and comforting. We sit quietly until the tears stop.
“I miss you guys so much.”
“I know.” He pats my knee, then reaches up and puts his hand on my shoulder. The weight is reassuring — the sadness begins to lift.
“So, what are you going to do while you are home?”
I take a breath. “Um, I was thinking about going to a movie with some friends tonight. I’m not sure. What time do I need to be home?” I prepare to negotiate with him.
He looks at me. “That’s up to you.”
“You mean, I don’t have a curfew?”
“You’re an adult now. You make your own decisions.” He pauses for a moment. Then he adds,
Make good ones.
I smile, oddly comforted by this. I nod once, then turn and wrap my arms around his neck.
“Thanks, Dad. For everything.”