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Coming Home This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Summerhad melted into fall, the husky hum of crickets fading in the lukewarm air, andthe wind just hinting at the cool breath of autumn. The fog hugged the groundthickly in spots, the last fireflies disappearing and reappearing in bursts ofbrilliance. Lazy flies buzzed into the screen window, trying to get into ourhouse. Stay out, I wanted to say. Stay out where the cool air is. The breezefiltered through the screen, chilling the sweat on my arms and pricking up goosebumps all over my skin. The whole earth seemed to be trying to hang onto thehoney-colored days of summer.

It was the last summer before I went tocollege. I was frightened, yet elated, at the prospect of being on my own.College. The word melted in my mouth, its fragrance dissolving like sugar on mytongue, diffusing into my head. College.

In one day's time, I would be ina dormitory, out on my own, a freshman vulnerable to the cruelest of pranks. Thatthought shot chills up my spine, shaking away whatever was left of mynerve.

I looked at the brochure in my hands, the well-worn pages openingsoftly; their texture felt almost like fabric now. I rubbed the college name withmy index finger, as I had so many times during high school, where I worked hardto pass the entrance exams. I thought of all the times the boys had made fun ofme, laughing at the stack of books I carried under my arm, the great care I tookto copy notes, the depth that I studied. It was with my Irish temper that Ipursued my dream, the one that my mother had wished for me. The words that hadlong seemed so lofty and far away, I could almost grasp in my hand now. It wasonly a matter of moments before my dream would be realized, the lifetime of workand exhaustion finally paying its dividends. The dream of college was as familiaras my cozy room that faced our pond and the mountains.

Our farm hunglazily in the balance of the seasons, never wanting to go anywhere, yet makingprogress as the days clung to us like sweat on our backs. Farm life had neversuited me well, even though I'd been a farm girl all my life. The early morningsand early nights always were a waste. I was never content with what the soilwould give me, leaving my future up to fate. I had gotten the idea that I wantedmore, and was the black sheep of my family, always in a rush, never letting thesteady stream of life envelop me.

My parents were hard-working stewards ofthe earth, a thankless job that only a few are able to do. But the farm was notonly my parents' lives, it was their religion. We never took vacations like otherfamilies, and there was never extra money; we scrimped and saved even to buy asecond-hand black and white TV. I can still hear the crackle of the static as wewatched the fuzzy image of Howdy Doody dance across the screen.

I wanted adifferent life for my children. There would not be a single patch on theirclothes, and I would never buy clothes two sizes too big so they could wear themfor years; I was certainly never going to darn socks. It wasn't that I was tooproud, or wasteful; it was that I was sick of the chores that had turned mymother prematurely gray, and creased my father's brow with wrinkles long beforethey were meant to be there. There was no way out except college.

I fellasleep that night clutching the brochure, my passport to paradise. My dreams werefilled with the images in the college pamphlet.

Moments before dawn, mymother woke me with a gentle shake and a whisper. Before I could say anything,she pressed a few dollar bills into my hands, softly saying words I couldn't makeout. My eyes clouded over, knowing that my mother had saved and saved for thesescraps of paper, counting them over and over, as she and Dad did every month whenbills were due, making sure that the amount could and would be paid exactly ontime, in the exact amount. I whispered my thanks, and though I'm sure she heard,she didn't acknowledge the words.

I rolled out of my bed for the last timefor a while, my feet swinging to the cold wood floor. I dressed quickly in mybest blouse and cardigan that were old but neat and clean.

Tears fell as Ithought of all the kindness in my home and the flourishing strength of love withwhich I had grown up. I wiped away the hot tears.

I wasn't hungry forbreakfast; my stomach was as heavy as cement. I gathered the suitcases around meas a mother hen does her chicks, counting, recounting, making sure I had notforgotten anything. My father wasn't able to drive me to the bus stop; the finalharvest was under way.

"Gotta make hay while the sun shines!"I can still hear him saying as he climbed into the tractor after we hugged andkissed and said our good-byes. If I close my eyes and think hard enough, thatmoment stays fresh in my mind ... I can smell the light perfume of sweat, oil,gasoline and new-mown hay that always seemed to hang around him no matter howhard he washed. The farm was always with him; it was part of him. It was in hisblood.

My mother drove me to the bus stop, her eyes misty and dark. Theydarted to me every few seconds to make sure I was still there, still breathing,still living, and still with her.

The car bounced over the potholes. Noteven the thickly padded seat could take the pain out of a country car ride. Wepassed places that I had passed for years but never really seen. It was with neweyes that I saw all the places I would now miss - my friends' houses, ponds, aforest, my school, even the dirt road on which we were driving. Sentimentalitycrept into my bones. Suddenly, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Suddenly, it seemedthat my place was here, right here where I'd lived for almost two decades, hereamong the rich soil and smelly cows, ramshackle wooden barns and brickbuildings.

I almost told my mother to turn around, but then we came insight of the Greyhound bus waiting at the bus stop. The car slowed to anarthritic stop. Now if only I had the will power to leave. I clutched my ticketin one hand, and with the other, hugged my mother. The luggage was heavy in myarms, but seemed lighter with every step toward the bus.

How could I havealmost turned back? My ticket to everything good in life was in my hand. I lookedback at my mother behind the windshield and wished that I had told her how much Iloved her more often, how much I really didn't despise our farm, and how much Iappreciated that she was letting me go.

Through eyes that werethreatening to spill over, I saw that she was smiling. She understood. She hadalways understood. And even though I was going away now, I had just come home.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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