Four months, two weeks, five days and then it was over—my first semester of college. But really. Who’s counting but me? I wondered at the changes that would occur at home in my absence. I knew I would miss sibling adventures, their sporting events, friends at the Hartland Diner, and of course catching up on the local news over a cup of Vermont Coffee. Rather I receiving these updates by telephone whenever I needed a study break or as a ten-minute stress relief before an exam. In my absence changes did occur, but it wasn’t my home. It was ME. Few comforts surpass the experience of knowing something or someone will remain the same and never change despite the worst or the best of circumstances. This consistency and reassuring stability I found in my home. I love many things about my home, and I found those things become all the more sentimental when distance interceeds. These places I love make me feel peace, comfort, and relive memories all of which foster our futures.
The night sky never seemed brighter or more spacious than when I first flung the car doors open four months, two weeks, and five days after leaving home for Hillsdale. Fourteen hours in a car has a way of accentuating the grandeur of open space and crisp air. Freedom demonstrated is arms wide, head back, body begging heaven to come down. Peace experienced is the brilliant constellations gazing down from light years away. Beauty observed is the handiwork of The Great Creator leaving his designs for mankind to enjoy. He cuts his diamonds and places them in the sky to glitter and sparkle from a black velvet showcase. My eyes turned from the vertical realm to the horizontal where they were met with the dazzle of white lights from the house windows, but the room I longed to see rested at the heart of my home where cooking, laughing, and mum’s humming buzzed from morning till evening. If a home had a spirit, our spirit dwelled in the kitchen. Our spirit was born from the pitter-patter of dusty bare feet running across the kitchen floor, the grubby outstretched arms straight from the dirt reaching into the cookie jar, and when it came to school, the hours spent dropping pencils instead of using them. From age eight to eighteen I hardly grew. My feet always just skimmed the cold tiles. I plunged into a chair now nineteen—a first-semester college student—and sat back. My feet barely swept the chilled, tiled-floor. Nothing changed.
Despite major renovations, the kitchen somehow remained the same cozy space. It still maintained the glow and echoed the laughter of life over the past thirty years. In that room, we shared our meals, read the Bible, and completed all schooling. During the morning school and work hours when my Mother multitasked herself with kitchen duties and grading, she always lost one item. Somewhere in that room between our books and her kitchen utensils, she set down her red pencil to stir her yogurt or knead dough. The red pencil corrected our work highlighting from beginning to end. When one of us held out our papers to her, she would reach for our books, falter, feel her head as if expecting her pencil to be hiding in her curls, and whirl around first in place and then around the room lifting calendars and kitchenware until she found her lost tool. She told us we would one day tease her for the frequency with which she had to ask herself, “now where did I put my red pen?” a question we as children secretly delighted to hear. Alas she always seemed to find it again with a grand “aha!” Whenever I pull a red pen out of my pencil satchel at school, I smile remembering her sometimes-unproductive multitasking. Ironically, by high school often I was the culprit for the disappearance of the red pen because at that point in my education I was grading my own work snatching it up from the table before she had the time to grade my younger siblings’ math work.
While I delighted in these happy memories, my weary mind and exhausted body begged for bed. These things motivated me to pick myself up and turn to my mattress. My bed soon dominated my thoughts, and so I left my ponderings to slumber. I think every college student resonates with the love for his or her bed at home. My expressed love for my cherry-framed bed sprung out of a deep passion for my mattress with the perfect firmness yet softness to support and caress.
The morning sun always rises opposite my window, so I can not tell the time by its location in the sky against the horizon. Despite this obstacle, I know the hour by the fading blue shadow that melts off our hill. That morning as the sun rose higher and higher so did my adventuresome spirit, and as the snow shadow melted, so did my desire to sleep. The sun revealed my playground, and as every child ought, I longed to play. No more books. No more papers. No more pens, papers, or *pruebas*! My playground is not built of metal frames and soft rubber for gentle falls. We learned how to fall softly from trees, rocks, and logs. God made our playground out of the baby maple trees and decaying flora. And as the sun continued to rise, I saw after four months, two weeks, and five days the beginning of our mountain, our swing, and the little mountain streams. Here I learned to play, and here I learned to train. I climbed, ran, walked, explored, blazed, and crawled over Vermont marble always seeking higher ground with a sibling ahead or behind to push the pace. Few things we did went unchallenged, so when I awoke to my senses, I of course did the most natural thing. I went sled racing.
I raced out of bed. Scrambled into my clothes, stuffed down scrambled eggs, and tripped out the door. Our “race” turned into one heaping sled full of friends wearing oversized hunting jackets alternating the front person who had the painful responsibility of blocking the others from the splashing, biting, powdery ice crystals. I fear I went soft in my time away because after sitting front twice and losing feeling in my face, I didn’t last long. Only the world’s best hot chocolate could unthaw the frost.
You may wonder what makes world famous cocoa. Of course, this cocoa requires one other thing of infinite value. Only north easterners understand the worth of what we call liquid gold known in laymen terms as maple syrup, but here the sap of maple trees is sacred. We add syrup to everything. The process of collecting it from trees during our “mud season” adds a sweet sparkle to the least loved season (in Vermont we have five seasons). After a batch of syrup, there is almost always enough for sugar on snow, and we hunted the property for a pile of clean snow, shoveled it into a large bowl, and raced back to the house for caramelized maple candy. Nothing tasted better and yet nothing did more damage to our braces. To see a whole gallon of liquid gold waiting for me in our fridge, caused delight beyond description.
Need I say more? I choose not to. And for that decision, I think you thank me.