On Going Home
My dad picks me up from the airport on Saturday evening. It’s pouring here in Northern California, so he concentrates on the road while I chatter about my classes and my friends and whatever else I can think to tell him during the hour-long drive home. When we arrive, my mom is waiting, eager to wrap me in a hug and stuff me full of food. It’s spring break, and while many of my friends from Kenyon are seeking summery adventures in Florida or staying on campus for athletic events, I’m going home to two weeks of no plans, no obligations and no schedules.
The first night home is always wonderful — eating dinner (usually takeout Chinese food) with my parents, snuggling up on the couch to watch whatever show they’re into at the moment, and falling asleep reading in bed, only to find the light turned off and blankets piled on when I wake up the next morning.
But I’ve noticed a pattern in my homecoming — or, rather, my mom has noticed it, serving as a prime example of how she sometimes knows me better than I know myself. The first full day I’m home, I’m always somewhat off, a little irritable, as if I can’t shake the feeling that something’s not quite right. The time change means I wake up early, and I spend the rest of the day wallowing around the house, not really knowing what to do with myself. I always have big ideas for what I’m going to do over school breaks — read all the books I’ve toted back with me from Ohio, spend a day getting through the errands on my to-do list, embrace the independence that comes with having a car at my disposal and visit my favorite nearby places, get a head start on my post-break schoolwork (okay, so that one’s pretty far-fetched). But the first day, it all falls to the wayside as I spend too many hours watching trashy TV with my mom (this break, it’s Say Yes to the Dress) and moping in my pajamas.
Today, my mom finally articulates what I’m feeling when I can’t understand that I’m feeling it: “You miss Kenyon.” The realization suddenly hits that what she’s said is true. I spend the week leading up to a break craving going home, but when I finally get here, I do miss Kenyon. I miss having a schedule — something that gets me out of bed in the morning and forces me to manage my time throughout the day. I miss meeting my friends for breakfast at Peirce. When I crawl into bed to watch trashy TV at Kenyon, it feels like a reward for getting through my work. At home, I just feel sluggish and lazy. Fortunately, the feeling usually only lasts for a day or two before some motivation returns and I’m tackling my pile of books, stocking up on toothpaste and vitamins at Target, and making plans to see friends from high school.
My room at my Kenyon home.
It always strikes me how easy it is to move around my house when I come home. I always expect that I’ll forget which way a faucet turns or where to find the baking soda. I never do. Even though I notice the slight changes, like the things my mom has moved around my room, which functions as her office when I’m at school, I still feel more comfortable in this house than almost anywhere else — except maybe Kenyon. After spending 18 years living here, I guess I’ll always be able to navigate it with my eyes closed no matter how long I’m away.
My room at home in California.
This house will always feel like home to me, but now that I’ve acquired another home in Ohio, I’m learning what it means to have two homes. I’m incredibly lucky to have two places where I feel so content, but that also means figuring out how to balance both. It means that sometimes, I find myself missing one. It means learning to navigate both contentment and disquiet at the same time. Most of all, it means being grateful that in less than two short years, Kenyon has become what my house in California has been for the last 20: home.