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She was a fortress the way she stood each day, as I returned from school, basking in the blood-red light of sundown. Her face was always turned toward me as she would let me in from the cold world, still keeping watch as I entered into her safety. She used to be a young protector. Now I wake up at night to hear her bones aching in the floorboards, and her body shaking in the window panes from the cold night winds. She will notice that I am awake and hush me back to bed. She is growing old, and I am noticing this each day.
She has watched me age year after year.
I have measured my height with pencil marks on her kitchen wall. I have played hide and seek in her boxwoods. I have looked out at the rising sun and moon with her each morning and night without saying a word. She wished me luck on my way to school each day and asked how it went when I came back. She always was the first to hear a poem of mine, a speech, an essay, silently nodding. She listened to me speak my mind, my memories of the congressional page program or my lines of Macbeth, and looked at my drawings and listened to my guitar playing. During winter nights, her fire would warm me, and during summer nights she would lull me to bed with the pitter-patter of rain on her roof, and now, 17 years later, she is still my protector, but slowly she is fading.
Her paint is falling from her body like leaves from a tree. Father paints her back to her white sheen again, but every time it takes more paint. Every time it takes more work. When Irene came, she leaned farther than she did when Katrina visited. She was ready for Katrina and faced her fearlessly, but Irene made her stumble a bit, and we noticed. Each year her problems grew. It was harder for her to keep us warm like she had in past winters. Cold winds blew more easily through her, and humid summer air was harder for her to dispel. The elements sensed her weakness and each night blew harder at her door.
More and more we see new fortresses sprout from the ground like weeds. They are younger than she is and stronger too. I am worried for her in this fast moving world. Soon she will lose me like she lost my sister. I have promised her that I will return, and that I will never give her up to someone else. I promise that I will become successful and bring her back to her prime. She smiles and hushes me to bed. Soon I will leave her, a symbol of my life thus far. But everything up to this point has been building to this moment, my departure from her, my home. She has been preparing me for this moment. Part of me says that this was bound to happen once I came of age and prepared to start my life on my own. In the end, she was a part of my life, a skin that I was going to shed. I understand now. Her responsibility was ending, and with that, she was too. I will be letting go, and while I will miss her once I am gone, it is what she wants for me. She raised me. With caring arms she held me tight the day I was born, rocking me in her cradle. I look to the coming years with hope that each time I see her again she will see the progress I have made and the man that I have become. As I pack my bags for the next phase of my life, she will be waiting for me to visit her every now and again.





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