A Home I Have Loved This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     As I leave this place I remember how the mud reminded me of toffee fudge ice-cream on the day I walked the quarter of a mile down the wooden pontoon toward what was to be our new home, a huge rusting old tugboat. Unlike a street where all the houses look the same, a boatyard is a patchwork quilt made from a variety of boats, sewn together with peoples' hopes and dreams.

Life on a boat is organized and measured by the seasons. Boat people often say, "We suffer for nine months for those three glorious summer months." But I feel that every season has its beauty.

Autumn on a boat is batten-down-the-hatches time. Wooden decks need to be sealed since they always leak (especially over the bed); ropes need to be checked and replaced; fuel needs to be stockpiled and firewood collected. My first autumn was also my first experience of a community working together and I began to realize that I didn't want to live any other way. The community was preparing to hibernate.

Winter is the hardest time. One moment of carelessness can plunge us into the icy water from which we have two minutes to escape safely. People mumble to each other under heavy coats and shuffle past as wind screams through the rigging. The ducks and swans appear to stiffen as they beg for food. Houses begin to look inviting but never enough to give up the boat life.

Spring is led in by the ducklings, followed closely by the yachties wearing captains' hats, much to the amusement of real boat people. Too sensible to live on their boats all year long, the yacht people announce the beginning of the time that makes the hardships fade. The seaweed, like mermaids' hair, floats in the tepid water, reminding us of what's to come.

Summer is counted in by the loss of the ducklings. She parades them in and out and all around the boats, almost unaware, as one by one they disappear into independence. Summer warms the mud, changing the color and smell. We sit on the decks at night, watching lights across the river, like candles in the distance. Ladders and ropes are tied to boats as people enjoy a swim in their river. This is what we wait for. This is why we stay.

Seasons will blend one into the next in Florida, with only TV to tell us they have changed. We will have all the luxuries of a big house and no real elements to battle.

The community and secure feeling we have lived with for the past six years will disappear and we will be alone and vulnerable. We will have to learn to socialize with Americans and join their community life. It will all be so different.

I thought that I would live here forever, that things would never change. But the plans mumbled through walls became real and the life that I have learned to love fades into the distance, like the boats I watched along my river.

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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