61: Coming Home

61: Coming Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Coming Home

Having a place to go — is a home. Having someone to love — is a family. Having both — is a blessing.

~Donna Hedges

A vibrant blaze of autumn colors swept by my window as we drove down the road. My grandpa, hands tight on the steering wheel, was telling me a story about his childhood. I smiled, but as hard as I tried to pay attention, my mind was on other things. This was my first trip home as a college freshman. My grandparents had made the two-hour drive to my school so that I could come home for fall break. I should have felt relaxed and free from my heavy class load, but instead I was weighed down by a different burden. What if home didn’t feel like home anymore? I had only been away for a couple of months, but my whole world had changed. Most of them were good changes, but I needed home to be somewhere familiar, a solid foundation to anchor myself. What if this part of my life had changed too?

“Are you okay, honey?” My grandma patted my arm. “You seem quiet.”

“I’m fine, just tired from late-night studying,” I said.

“Well you should get plenty of time to rest soon. We’re just about at your house,” she said.

We rounded the last corner and I could see our big house peeking around the maple tree in the front yard. Everything looked exactly as it should. The fence my dad and I had built wrapped around the lawn. I could see the worn picnic table and my childhood swing set in the yard. My brothers’ bikes were abandoned on the driveway. It all looked the same. It should have felt the same too. It didn’t.

For some reason I felt like I was looking at somebody else’s home. It seemed like the life I had lived in that house belonged to another person. Everything was so different now. How had that happened in such a short time?

Before the van was even in park, a jumble of blond heads raced across the driveway. I opened the car door and scooped up my two smallest brothers. We passed around hugs and smiles as my parents came out to join us.

“It’s good to see you,” my dad said as he laid his hand on my shoulder.

My mom had tears in her eyes. “We’re so happy that you’re back,” she said. “Let’s head inside. I have some homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.”

As we moved into the house I tried to shake off my unease. It was silly for me to feel this way. I didn’t want these doubts to ruin my time with my family, so I pushed them as far back in my mind as I could. We gathered around the dining room table. The boys hit me with a barrage of excited questions.

“What kind of food do you eat at college?”

“What does your dorm room look like?”

“Do you have to make your bed?”

I shot back answers to all of their questions, but I couldn’t help but feel strange about it. Like I was a visitor sharing about my life somewhere else. I felt even more disconnected when I heard about all of the things I had missed in the last two months. They talked about new family friends whom I hadn’t met and new activities they were involved in. Things I hadn’t heard in our phone calls and read in e-mails.

The afternoon slipped by as we swapped stories. When the darkness started to sneak in through the picture window my grandparents decided they should head home. We walked them to their car.

“It’s such a blessing to have you back for the weekend,” my mom shared quietly.

“I’m so glad to be here,” I replied. Silently, I wondered if my family saw me as a guest for the weekend. I just wanted this place to still be my home.

My mom had made my favorite dinner. We ate it together and then watched a movie in the living room. Then it was time to go to bed, and the lights flipped off one by one while I heard as many “goodnights” as John-Boy Walton.

I brushed my teeth and got a drink of water before I headed to my room. When I opened the door, I found everything where it should be. Which was weird. Because nothing was ever where it should be in my room. Tonight, it looked so nice and tidy. I knew right away that my mom had straightened up, and I was grateful. But it still felt like somebody else’s room. I walked over to my bed. The sheets were crisply folded and the comforter smooth. The kind of smooth that belonged in a movie or a magazine. Something else stood out as unusual. A simple brown envelope propped against my pillow. I carefully broke the seal and slid out a note that said:

Logan,

I’m so happy for where you’ve been, but I am so glad to have you home.

Love,

Mom

And suddenly, the doubt was gone. I knew I was home. It didn’t matter how much time I spent here. It didn’t matter what things I missed out on. As long as I was part of this family, I knew this house would be my home. No matter what had changed or would change in my life, this was a constant. Something that I could always count on. So, as I stood there in my room, holding that handwritten note, I let go of my fear and confusion. Then I mussed up my bed sheets just for good measure.

~Logan Eliasen

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