There's No Place Like Home

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Fam•i•ly-noun- the spouse and children of one person; a true Webster’s definition. Although correct, when I look back at the people of 402 Aiden Road, I see that the relationships are what make us a family, not the DNA.

The brakes let out a resounding screech as the bright yellow school bus comes to a quick halt at the top of my death black driveway. I wish for the millionth time that he would stop bringing me here. It only reminds me of how much I wish I could go home; I know I can’t. Instead, I cross the lawn to the other side of the duplex. Amy is watching “General Hospital” just like she does every day. I can smell the sweet, tantalizing scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in the oven as I set down my backpack and take my usual place in front of the dollhouse. In about an hour, Zak and Justin will come barreling through the doorway; two bulls in a china shop. I hear the pitter-patter of little feet as Maddie comes running to see me. My mom finally comes home from work at 4:30; I go running to meet her. Waiting for her to come home is like waiting for rain in a 20 year drought- especially when she’s late. My honest opposition towards being here had nothing to do with Amy. Her motherly ways never ceased to amaze me. The routine of school days had become a warm fleece blanket protecting me from the cold, but I felt it was timefor me to go out and brave the storm. I was a prisoner and just outside the cold, black bars lay the effortless freedom of growing up. My mom and I walk over to Amy’s to thank her for watching us yet again. We’re invited to another bonfire that night- s’mores and all. I start to drift away like dandelion seeds in the gusty wind. I watch as the world around me begins to change, the warm familiarity of those elementary school escaping as if nothing but a fleeting moment.

I hear the shrill, squeaky voice of another airplane stewardess telling is that we will be landing in Rochester, NY at approximately 4:30 pm. A fleet of a thousand butterflies is a symphony in my stomach, the flutter of their wings a beating drum. The motion sickness soon has me drifting off to a deep sleep, but I will never forget that last inescapable, conscious thought. “I’m going home.”

The ride up the escalator is a million years as we await the arrival of our final destination. Although my grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles all live in New York, it’s our best friends waiting at the end of our gate. Heather has been a part of my life ever since I was little; I can still remember going to all of her family parties, making water balloons in her grandma’s backyard or burying the dead mouse with Aunt Laura. We were integrated in each other’s families- so much so that you could barely make out where one family started and the other one ended. The infectious giggle of two sisters echoes throughout the many walls of the airport as we the lost girls resume their role as friends once again.

We’re back at the pond. The pitch black cover of midnight darkness rests upon the yard as we tiptoe, step by careful step, to the edge of the water below. Containers in hand, we earnestly search for the net we know is in hibernation somewhere around here. The ribbet-ribbet of the pond-dwelling frogs displays a resounding trumpet in the constant shelter of the night. Locating the net, we spot the tiny orange glow of the goldfish swimming in endless rhythm beneath the rippling surface. Heather tries first. She dunks the net into the water, as if bobbing for apples, and comes up victorious! The cycle continues as we take turns dragging out the small, defenseless fish and dropping them into our tomato jars strategically filled with pond water. Our adventure continues as we creep to the edge of the rocks to peer into the depths of the cool, blue water. We feel the teeter-totter of the rocks and before we have time to mutter a word, we topple bottoms down into the water. The frigid water surrounds our body as we erupt into the same contagious giggles. Our laughter grows until we catch ourselves, hoping we didn’t wake Karen and Amy- the infamous Italian spy sisters as we liked to call them.

As we step out of that car after the everlasting plane ride, it was as if we’d never left. The crisp, green leaves of the oak tree outside of our old house still floated effortlessly to the ground. I was still surrounded by the delicious scent of ripe raspberries, blueberries, and the various other fruits in the garden. Maddie was a lot taller now, and Karen’s hair was turning gray, but as we sat in the glow of a familiar bonfire, surrounded by people who’s DNA we didn’t share, I realized that we might not be in the dictionary, but we are all family.





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