by Sarah Swenson, editor-in-chief
About a month ago, I got glasses. This had been a long time coming, as any teacher who has had me and watched me squint at the board and run calculations with guessed numbers can attest to. Not only could I read the board in my classes, but I could also see the expressions of people on TV again, which made all those scenes where people were happy or sad or another emotion besides happy or sad, a lot more compelling.
One night, after watching an episode of “New Girl” with my family (and reveling in my ability to tell that Nick had definitely smiled when Jess stopped looking), I pulled off my glasses and clicked them closed, resting them on the table so I wouldn’t crush the arms as I settled further into the couch. And a burst of warmth bloomed in my chest. It was soft, and then almost immediately, sad. Bittersweet.
It sounds like the weirdest thing to make me emotional, but the soft, wiry click of closing glasses immediately sent me reeling in nostalgia. Memories of my parents—who have both worn glasses for as long as I can remember—clicking their own glasses closed after finishing a chapter, telling me it was time for bed now, bubbled up in my mind. To me, that noise is inherently connected to home, to the childhood comfort of being read to.
It made me sad because my next thought, following so quickly that I almost didn’t have time to sit in the happy nostalgia, was that I am leaving for college in six months. For a long time, I didn’t think I would miss Nantucket all that much. I would miss my family, and my dog, but I would be so excited to be learning, to be in college, that homesickness would be small and easily squashed with a reminder that I was finally doing what I have dreamt about since first grade. Now, I’m not so sure.
The closer I get to the day I will have to leave, the more I find a small panic growing. When nine months of the year are spent at college, is home really home anymore? All these things that I have grown to love will be a beachy backstory to everyone I meet there. How could I have wasted so much of high school just trying to get into college?
Sitting at a worn desk in my basement, hands wrapped around a mug of tea that is no longer really giving me any warmth, I think about all the things I’m going to miss.
I think about the whir and drip that wakes me up after I fall asleep doing homework on the couch, filling the air with the smell of coffee. I think about the way my shoes—so full of holes that when I pull my feet out of them at the end of the day, the sole separates from the ankle—sound on pitch forest floors blanketed in pine needles (I’ve decided I’m not taking these shoes to college; I made myself start wearing new ones a couple of months ago so that I have some memories of home worn into them by the time I head off-island).
I think about trails that I know so well that I can just start walking and let my feet, unassisted, carry me around and around and home again as I listen to music and think—about low-tide smell, and ridiculous circles of road (roundabouts or rotaries?) that everyone is sure to give you their opinion about. Uneven brick sidewalks. The honking of geese overhead. My friends.
Sitting in my basement, I cry.
My brother’s radio show is on, at four o’clock on a Saturday, and I listen. He has already left for college. The theme of the week is home, and he introduces the next song, explaining that his dad sang it to him when he was little. An acoustic guitar strums the opening notes to “The Eagle and the Hawk,” by John Denver, and a hot, painful lump grows in my throat. I remember our dad singing it to me, too, and once again find myself grappling with this ball of panic that arises whenever I remember I’m leaving for college soon and leaving everyone I know and love.
But this time, as the song fades out and my brother says that this song reminds him of home, I feel the ball in my chest loosen just a bit, instead of tightening. Going to college doesn’t mean abandoning your hometown forever. Nantucket doesn’t have to stop being home for me. I sincerely hope I don’t feel like I’m visiting someone else’s home for six months of the year when I unpack in my dorm room next fall, but I don’t think that home necessarily has to be one place.
Home can be all of the things that make us feel warm in our chests.
Home can be people you never talk to anymore, shoes you can no longer wear, songs you haven’t heard in years.
I spent so much time worrying about getting into college, and I don’t want to waste any of the time I have left here worrying about actually going, now that I have gotten in. I know that I am going to miss Nantucket, and more importantly, all of my friends and my family, but that is for September me to cry about. I don’t want to sit alone and cry about what-ifs now. I want to be home and just be home.
Leave a Reply