The Thing About Home

February 17, 2017
By marykate BRONZE, Grafton, Massachusetts
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marykate BRONZE, Grafton, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Thomas swung slowly back and forth on his swing in his favorite tree in his favorite part of the yard in his favorite part of the world. Home. He ripped a dandelion from the ground and slowly picked the small, rough yellow leaves off, one at a time. He watched as his family brought out the contents of his house; pots, pans, suitcases filled with clothes. It was not a good day. It was the worst kind of day. Today was the day that his family and a bunch of other families from their town moved across the country in small covered wagons to Oregon.

“Thomas! We’re ready to leave.”
His father called from inside the wagon. Thomas didn’t reply or even look up.
He gave his house one last glance, and looked away. He stood up from his swing and slowly trudged one step at a time to the wagon. He held out his hand and Elizabeth, his older sister, pulled him up into the wagon.
It was only a week ago that his parents told him that they were traveling west for free land to start a farm. They told him that he would make new friends in Oregon. Oregon seemed distant and terrible. He didn’t want new friends or a new school or a new home. He liked where he lived.
Thomas had his own small room in the attic. It was cold in the winter and he would watch the snow fall, then draw pictures in the small foggy window. Every morning he awoke to the smell of pancakes and heard the faint sound of his mother and father talking. He would quickly get dressed and race down the stairs as to not be late and his mother would remind him to bring his lunch pail or to wear his mittens. He would meet his friend Caleb next door and walk to school, while Elizabeth and her friends slowly trailed behind.
He might wake up to the smell of pancakes in Oregon, but he wouldn’t have his own little room in the attic and he wouldn’t have Caleb to play with. Everything would be different, and probably worse.
He walked through the wagon, stuffed with the remains of his household items, to the end and looked out the back. He heard his father shout and the horses started. He swayed as the wagon moved along the narrow bumpy path.
Thomas watched as his house became smaller and smaller, farther and farther, until he lost sight of it. He reached his head far out of the wagon as they turned a corner and then it was gone. Everything was gone. His life, his friends! He frantically raised his head farther out the open circle in the back to find his home.
But it was gone.
・   ・   ・
One morning, Thomas was running alongside the wagon with a couple other kids from their wagon train. They started to gain speed, and realized they were far in front of the wagons. Thomas flopped down onto the field and laughed. They stood up to wait for everyone else to catch up and started spinning in circles next to each other and laughing.
Then Thomas stopped spinning and squinted his eyes, as if he was looking for something far off in the distance. One girl asked,
“I just realized something,”
He sat down in the grass.
“I had a home in Missouri, and I’ll have a home in Oregon, but for the first time...What I mean is... I don’t really have a home right now. ”
Most of the the other kids stopped and looked at him. He couldn’t tell if they were thinking about what he had said or if they thought he was just plain crazy, but he didn’t like the silence. He shrugged his shoulders and started picking at the grass.
Then the one girl who was first talking to him smiled and said, “Well, we have the wagons, and we have each other. Isn’t that your home?”
Maybe Oregon wouldn’t be that bad after all, he thought.
During the next few weeks, Thomas and Elizabeth sat in their wagon practicing letters and numbers. Reading was boring, and he wished he could run alongside his other friends but his mother insisted they do their schoolwork. When she wasn’t looking, Thomas and Elizabeth would play tic-tac-toe. He started to notice that his meals became slightly smaller each day. He was too tired to run or spin in circles in the fields. He was thirsty a lot of the time, but didn’t complain. He knew there was nothing anyone could do.
“One more week, and we’ll arrive at the lake,” his parents kept saying. Then there would be water to drink.
“One more day, and we’ll be at the lake,” Elizabeth told him.
“Only a couple days until the lake,” everyone told Thomas, but it never seemed to come.
・   ・   ・
They stopped that afternoon at a small trading shop. Their parents went in with animal fur and one of his mother’s quilts. He and Elizabeth were alone, sitting next to the horses in the front of the wagon.
“Want to play a game?” Thomas asked.
“No. You don’t get it, do you?”
“What’s there to get? I just want to play a game.”
“Sometimes there’s bigger things going on. More important things than games. We don’t know if we’ll have food for dinner today, or tomorrow, or the next. And sometimes there’s just too much to think about to play a game.”
“Oh, okay.”
And no one said anything for a while. Their parents came out with a large bag of salted bacon, and smaller ones labeled sugar, dried beans, and rice. The family settled into the wagon and started out on the trail again.
There wasn’t much to do in the wagon. Thomas would look for other travelers, or count gophers in the fields. Since he was so tired, he would sleep at night, and took two or three naps during the day. He always looked forward to hearing his father’s stories after dinner.
He sat on the tongue of the wagon next to Elizabeth, and his parents sat inside on the front seat. Thomas slowly sipped his cold water. They were camping that night near a stream, and Thomas had watched his mother boil the water in a pot, and place it sealed in jar back into the stream to cool it. He sat around a campfire with twelve other kids also stopped one day’s travel outside of a fort in Wyoming for travelers on the Oregon Trail. He gently placed his cup on the ground, as to not spill the rest of the clean water, and scraped the last remains of rice and wild turkey onto his fork. He was still hungry. Elizabeth asked,
“Do you have a story tonight?”
The father placed his cup on the seat next to him.
“I heard this story from a man at the trading post today. Have you heard the story of the Spider And The Sun?”
They shook their heads. All the kids huddled on the ground in a quilt blanket around the fire. He put his plate on the seat next to him, exhaled, and settled into the story.
“In the beginning there was only darkness and people kept bumping into each other. Fox said that people on the other side of the world had plenty of light but were too greedy to share it. Possum went over there to steal a little piece of the light. He found the Sun hanging in a tree, lighting everything up. He took a tiny piece of the Sun and hid it in the fur of his tail. The heat burned the fur off his tail. That is why possums have bald tails. Buzzard tried next. He tried to hide a piece in the feathers of his head. That is why buzzards have bald heads.”
He made hand motions of the characters as he told the story.
“Grandmother Spider tried next. She made a clay bowl. Then she spun a web across the sky reaching to the other side of the world. That became the Milky Way. She snatched up the whole sun in the clay bowl and took it back home to our side of the world.”
Thomas’ father crossed his arms and looked to the sky.
“Do you see that funny spoon shape?”
He pointed to the small cluster of stars. Thomas looked and nodded.
“That’s the little dipper. A constellation.”
Thomas didn’t want to ever leave the night sky. Not for his old home, not for his friends, or for his little room in the attic or anything at all. There was silence, and Thomas wished for nothing more. He was happy.
Thomas didn’t know when he would find his new home. But he was hopeful, and he was happy, and one day, just maybe, he would be home.

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This book has 1 comment.

on Mar. 22 2017 at 11:53 am
kathrynr BRONZE, Boston, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
this is so good!


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